With just a few weeks left until the playoffs, there are three must-watch series this weekend.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (73-71) at Minnesota Twins (75-69)
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This big four game series starts tonight at Target Field as both teams currently trail the Houston Astros for the final wild card spot. This is the biggest series at Target Field since 2010, so expect an intense atmosphere as every game is crucial.

Pitching

The pitching match ups (Santiago vs. Milone, Heaney vs. Pelfrey, Richards vs. Gibson, and Shoemaker vs. Hughes) look to slightly favor the Angels in every game. Santiago is more consistent than Milone, Pelfrey hasn’t been anything special of late and Heaney has showed flashes of brilliance, Richards can be an ace on any given night even though those nights have been less often this season, and Shoemaker has had his struggles, but has pitched better in the second half. Both bullpens haven’t been great this season as they both have had hot and cold streaks, but I give the slight edge to the Twins because of their late inning guys.

Advantage: Angels

Hitting

Offensively, the Twins are the superior team with Dozier, Mauer, Escobar, Rosario, and of course Sano. Minnesota also features two speed demons in Buxton and Hicks, who can impact a game on the bases. The Angels have the game’s best player who has not been the best over the last month and a half in Mike Trout. Couple that with the rest of the lineup’s struggles, and the Angels have had plenty of difficulties scoring runs. Other than Trout and Pujols, no one in the Angels lineup will scare an opponent.

Advantage: Twins

Verdict: The Twins have played well of late while the Angels have hovered around .500. The Twins should win three of four and effectively end the Angels season.


New York Yankees (79-65) at New York Mets (83-62)

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A fun late season Subway Series and the first one since 2006 in which they are both playoff teams.

Pitching

Well this one is pretty obvious. The Mets have some of the best pitching in baseball and the match ups should be good. Friday night is Tanaka vs Matz, Saturday is Pineda vs. Syndergaard, and Sunday is Sabathia vs. Harvey. Game 1 is a wash; both pitchers have been good. Games 2 and 3 lean pretty heavily towards the Mets because Syndergaard has been unreal at home and Harvey is Harvey, even if he only pitches a few innings. Pineda is inconsistent and Sabathia just has not been good this season. Both bullpens are good with the Mets having a slightly better ERA, but I give the bullpen edge to the Yankees because of Betances and Miller in the 8th and 9th.

Advantage: Mets

Hitting

Offensively, the Mets have been on fire since acquiring Cespedes. They have been one of the best offenses in baseball since July 31. I expect them to score plenty of runs this series, especially in the final two games of the series. The Yankees have scored the second most runs in baseball this season, but those numbers include Teixeira who will not be playing due to injury. Because of the recent play by the Mets and the pitchers the Yankees have to face, the advantage goes to the Mets.

Advantage: Mets

Verdict: Yankees come from behind and win Friday night, but lose the next two.


Pittsburgh Pirates (87-57) at Los Angeles Dodgers (83-61)

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Pitching

The Dodgers and Pirates are second and third in starter ERA respectively and their pitching has obviously taken them to where they are. Even though the rotations overall are pretty even, the match ups favor the Dodgers. Friday features Locke vs. Greinke, Saturday is Liriano vs. Kershaw, and Sunday is Cole vs. Bolsinger. Having Kershaw and Greinke starting gives the Dodgers a big advantage, but Sunday favors the Pirates with their ace, Cole, on the mound. Liriano has been strong this season, but Kershaw has been on another level since the All-Star Break. For the bullpen, the advantage goes to the Pirates because they have the second best bullpen ERA while the Dodgers are in the middle-end of the pack in the ERA. Starting pitching is more important, however, so I’ll go with the Dodgers.

Advantage: Dodgers

Hitting

The Pirates have scored the 16th most runs while the Dodgers have scored the 18th most runs, so there is not much of a difference. The difference lies between the way they score runs. Los Angeles loves to hit home runs, the most in the NL, while Pittsburgh uses their speed to score their runs. Different methods, but both have led to similar results. Just like in the Subway Series the advantage goes to the team with better pitching because the pitching is so dominant it can shut any team down.

Advantage: Dodgers

Verdict: Dodgers win first two, but get lose in the final game.


Sources:

http://espn.go.com/mlb/stats/team

Image: Sano