Big Weekend Series & DFTU

Hello again everybody...

Welcome to the end of another week. Another blissful weekend is on tap... for some of you. For me? I'm on the go all day Saturday and then out at the State Fair on Sunday. And I can't wait (insert massive amounts of sarcasm here).

But that's okay, the summer weekends are quickly dwindling, so we ought to be out there taking advantage of them before our dear friend Old Man Winter bears down on us right? Right?!

Oof. But I digress...

Today I'm going to give you a quick thumbnail sketch of several big series occurring this weekend in the world of Baseball, and why you should peek at the outcomes. Then it's this week's version of everybody's favorite segment, the DFTU! So let us away...

My pessimism extends to the point of even suspecting the sincerity of the pessimists.
- Jean Rostand (1894 - 1977), French biologist and philosopher

(Wow, and some if you think *I'm* cynical!)

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There are about 5 weeks left in the baseball regular season. That means if your club isn't right around 5 games away from a playoff berth, you might want to start making some golf reservations. That being said there are 4 series this weekend that are seriously important in further defining the playoff picture:

L.A. Dodgers @ Philadelphia Phillies - The Dodgers are locked in a tight race with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Currently the boys in blue trail by 2 games. And all of L.A.'s energy is focused on the NL West title since they're too far out of the Wild Card picture. The Phillies are currently 2.5 games behind the Mets. And while they're closer in the Wild Card race, their best bet is to catch New York and win the East. The best match-up of the weekend is probably tonight when Greg Maddux makes his debut for the Dodgers as he takes on Kyle Kendrick of the Phillies.

Florida Marlins @ Arizona Diamondbacks - As previously mentioned, the D'backs are trying to fend off those pesky fellas from Chavez Ravine. So far, so good. But it's a big series this weekend as they host the Marlins. Arizona has a significant stretch of home games in the offing, and it's important to take advantage as the Dodgers have a tough road stretch. The Marlins are in serious danger of falling out of the NL East race. They're currently 6 games behind the Mets. And if you're looking for reasons why, look no further than 2B Dan Uggla who's hitting around the Mendoza line since his awful outing in the All Star Game. And now superstar SS Hanley Ramirez has a bum thumb. Not good. The best match-up of the weekend is Sundays tilt when Florida's Ricky Nolasco takes on Arizona's Doug Davis.

Chicago White Sox @ Tampa Bay Rays - The White Sox are locked in an epic struggle with the Twins for AL Central superiority while the Rays are the story of the 2008 season. The Whities maintain a slim 1/2-game lead on the Twins as they head down to the Trop. Chicago's been on a massive offensive roll lately scoring 13 or more runs in 3 of their last 4 games with 14 home runs in that stretch. They'll need to keep that hitting going as they take on a tough young staff in Tampa. The Rays enjoy a 4.5 game lead over the Red Sox (whom I hate). Carried by their pitching, they'll be severely tested by Chicago's hot bats. The best match-up of the weekend is Saturday as Javier Vasquez hurls for Chicago against Tampa's Scott Kazmir.

Minnesota Twins @ Los Angeles Angels - This 4-game series actually began last night, but continues throughout the weekend. The Angels have the AL West all but in the bag, but are still vying with the Rays for the best record in the AL and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. L.A. has stumbled a bit of late, losing 3 of 4 in Tampa before dropping the first game of this series last night. Still, they have a ton of talent and will provide a stern test for the Twins. Minnesota's win last night moved them within a half-game of the White Sox for the division lead. They're one game into their 14 game road trip that will take them up the West Coast and into Canada before they return to the friendly confines of the Metrodome. The best match-up of the weekend comes Sunday as Minnesota's Kevin Slowey deals against L.A.'s Ervin Santana.

Plenty of these games will be available both on local and national TV, so catch what you can!

Finally today, it's time for this week's edition of Dan's Favorite Teams Update!

Minnesota Twins: The Twins are 73-54, in second place in the AL Central and a 1/2-game behind the White Sox.

What can I say about what a huge win last night was for the Twins? Their MVP candidate Justin Morneau has been scuffling lately, and yet this team is still winning. I really don't know that I can tell you how either.

Look at the 11th inning last night. The Twins have runners on 1st and 2nd with 1 out and are facing LHP Darren Oliver on the mound. Left-handed hitting 3B Brian Buscher is due up, which screams "find a right-handed pinch hitter". So who does Ron Gardenhire come up with? That's right. Randy Ruiz.

How in the world can a team keep winning like this, when in a critical situation, the best option they have is a 9-year career minor-leaguer?! I think if you're Ron Gardenhire, and you look down the bench and your best option is Ruiz, you're allowed to openly weep. No matter what Jimmy Dugan said about "no crying in baseball".

In any case, the Twins small-balled their way to a 2-1 win in 12 and are 1-0 on the road trip. If you could promise me 7-7 on this road trip, I might take it right now. There's certainly an opportunity to clean up in Oakland and Seattle, but Twins fans remember what happened the last time the boys visited the Emerald City. So there are no guarantees.

As mentioned, the Twins finish this weekend with 3 against the Angels before travelling to Seattle for 3 days of saying, "Wow, Ichiro is good!"

Arizona Diamondbacks: The D'backs are 67-60, in first place in the NL West and 2 games ahead of the L.A. Dodgers.

Finally... Some breathing room! Yes, it could disappear in the blink of an eye, but this is as comfortable as Snakes fans have been in a while.

A big part of the reason for that comfort has been the addition of Adam Dunn. I'm not going to argue that Dunn cancels out the Dodgers' addition of Manny Ramirez, but he certainly mitigates it somewhat. Dunn's hitting .296 with 2 home runs and 8 RBI in 9 games since joining Arizona. None of those numbers leap off the screen, true. But how about these: in those same 9 games, Dunn's walked 14 times while striking out only 7. 14 walks, are you serious?! That's ridiculous. And it goes to show Dunn's value. And it means that Connor Jackson and Mark Reynolds are seeing much better pitches hitting ahead of and behind Dunn. That can only help Arizona's beleaguered offense.

The pitching of course, still leads the way for the D'backs. Brandon Webb won his 19th game of the season last night and has slapped a veritable rear-naked-choke-hold on the NL Cy Young Award. Yes, Brewer fans, CC's been phenomenal. But so has Webb and he's been in the NL all year. End of debate.

A somewhat less publicized story has been the quality of starts given by Randy Johnson of late. The Big Unit had a rough start to the year, but has finally found his groove and is now 10-9 with a 4.16 ERA and a gaudy 4-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. And remember, he's currently sitting on 294 career wins which makes it possible that he'll get to 300 before the year's out. Not that RJ's not a lock for the Hall of Fame already, but reaching 300 would further add to an already amazing resume.

Arizona may not have a great record relative to the rest of the NL contenders. But do you want to be the team that has to find a way to get 3 wins against Webb, Haren and Johnson in a 5-game series? Ah, no thank you!
The D'backs start a 3-gamer tonight with the Marlins before taking a short trip up to San Diego where they'll challenge the same Padre squad they just got done sweeping.

That's all for this week folks. Have a wonderful weekend and I'll be back on Monday with more Sports Take magnificence. Until then, thanks for reading!

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