It's the second-to-last weekend of the season, and playoff spots are still up for grabs. We asked our experts to break down the best the weekend has to offer.
1. Which weekend series should baseball fans be most excited about?
David Schoenfield (@dschoenfield), SweetSpot: You mean besides Marlins-Mets? I'm going with A's-Yankees at Yankee Stadium, with New York battling for that all-important American League East crown and the A's trying to hold off the Angels for an AL wild-card spot. Great matchup on Friday, as Jarrod Parker faces CC Sabathia.
Bill Baer (@CrashburnAlley), Crashburn Alley: Athletics-Yankees. Don't look now, but the A's are only one game behind the Yankees in the overall standings. The Yankees are neck-and-neck with the Orioles for the AL East title, and the Athletics are only four back of the Rangers in the AL West. Both are focused on winning their division, but they could potentially meet for the one-game wild-card playoff.
Logan Burdine (@logan_burdine), Blake Street Bulletin: That's a tough choice. Ten of the 15 weekend series carry substantial playoff implications. I'm most interested in the Atlanta-Philadelphia series. The Phillies have clawed their way back over .500. Their chances of making the postseason are slim, but they pretty much have to win this series to keep any hope. Plus, there is the added intrigue of Atlanta looking to avoid another late-season meltdown.
2. Which contender is in best position for a sweep?
Schoenfield: Everything is going the Orioles' way, and I wouldn't be surprised to see them storm into Fenway Park and leave with three wins. Jon Lester, Aaron Cook and Felix Doubront? Please. An offense featuring Scott Podsednik, Pedro Ciriaco and Jose Iglesias? Please. The Orioles will sweep, with at least one win coming in extra innings.
Baer: It wouldn't be surprising to see the Cardinals sweep the Cubs. After the Astros, the Cubs have been baseball's worst team, and they'll be sending three mediocre pitchers to the hill in Chris Volstad, Travis Wood and Justin Germano. Meanwhile, the Cardinals counter with Chris Carpenter (making his 2012 debut), the always-formidable Adam Wainwright and NL Cy Young contender Kyle Lohse.
Burdine: The Cardinals are hot, and the Cubs have been cold since Opening Day. With Carpenter coming back and Wainwright and Lohse going over the weekend, the pitching sets them up with a solid chance to take all three at Wrigley.
3. Who is your pick to play spoiler this weekend?
Schoenfield: The Mariners have played the Rangers tough this year. They are 7-9 against Texas and have outscored the Rangers 78-66. These games are at Safeco Field, so expect low-scoring affairs. The Mariners will throw Hisashi Iwakuma (against Martin Perez), who has a 2.57 ERA at home, and Jason Vargas (against Ryan Dempster), who has a 2.62 ERA at home. Don't be surprised to see two wins from Seattle.
Baer: The Astros, which played spoiler against the Phillies last week, winning three in a four-game series. The Pirates have completely hit the skids with a 4-13 September, but they still find themselves within shouting distance of the second NL wild card, 5½ games behind. The Astros may be baseball's worst team, but they get the Pirates at their worst and could deliver the final blow that ends the Buccos' season.
Burdine: The Angels are up against it and are playing the White Sox at home. I think the Angels will win this series, and with the Tigers playing the Twins, it will likely cost the Sox some ground in the AL Central race.