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Marty’s musings: welcoming summer

The Astros put together a run, while the Yankees and Cubs have weekend stumbles.

Tampa Bay Rays v Houston Astros Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Welcome to ‘Marty’s Musings’, my weekly column of numbers summarizing the happenings in the baseball world. I am your guide for taking an analytic look at the news and notes throughout the game, and highlighting this week’s key pitching matchups.

This week, Josh Hader continues his dominance, the Yankees hit a bump in the road, and the Phillies continue a solid month of play. All this news and more in this week’s Musings.

News and Notes

12 - Astros game winning streak snapped on Wednesday. The Astros are ahead of the Mariners by a solid 4 1/2 games and remain the favorites to repeat as AL West champs. They continue their soft schedule, playing the Blue Jays, Rays, Rangers, White Sox, Athletics, and Tigers before going up against the Angels in late July.

90 - Plate appearances between strikeouts for Andrelton Simmons. In a league where league-average strikeout rates are over 22 percent, and striking out a third of your plate appearances is normal, Simmons managed to go nearly 1/3 of the year without striking out. The defensive wizard is hitting a solid .308/.373/.421 and has a 124 wRC+. Not bad for one of the best defensive shortstops in the game.

55.2 - Percentage of batters Jose Hader has struck out so far in 2018. Josh Hader has been one of the most reliable shutdown relievers in the game, and is likely to make his first All Star Game this year. Over 39 ⅔ innings, he has 80 (!) strikeouts.

1 - Sweep this year that has come against the Yankees. The Yanks went to Tampa over the weekend and lost three straight games, including an extra inning Sunday loss. It’s their first time being swept in 2018,

04/2016 - The last time the Phillies won four series in a row. Last week Philly won four series 2:1 against the Rockies, Brewers, Cardinals, and Nationals.

5 - Consecutive games in which Odubel Herrera homered last week. Herrera earlier this year had a 45 game on-base streak. He is managing a career best 134 wRC+.

4 - Game sweep for the Reds over the Cubs. While Chicago is still favored in the Central, the Brewers are playing well and lead the division by two games over Chicago.

Matchups to Watch

Monday, June 25

J.A. Happ (TOR) v. Justin Verlander (HOU), 8:10 ET

With summer in full-swing, the rumor mill and trade deadline talk is already flowing. J.A. Happ leads the list of potential starting pitchers who could become available, and a strong showing against one of the best teams in the AL would go a long way to making Yankee fans (or other fans alike) comfortable bringing him on to help in their pennant chase. Combine that with Cy Young contender Justin Verlander, and you have yourself a juicy Monday evening matchup.

Tuesday, June 26

Luis Severino (NYY) v. Jake Arrieta (PHI), 7:05 ET

The baby-bombers are a year older and a year better, while the baby Phils are just coming into their own. Both teams are in the thick of divisional races, and this interleague matchup should be a good test for each pitcher, as both the Phillies and Yankees have decent pop in their lineup.

Corey Kluber (CLE) v. Carlos Martinez (STL), 8:15 ET

The Indians are starting to put some distance between themselves and the rest of a mediocre (at best) AL Central. The Cardinals on the other hand are at a tipping point, wondering whether they can compete with the Brewers and Cubs in a crowded NL Central. Corey Kluber continues to dazzle, and has looked like the best pitcher in the game so far in 2018. It will be interesting to see how he handles the Cardinals on Tuesday.

Wednesday, June 27

Andrew Heaney (LAA) v. Rick Porcello (BOS), 7:10 ET

When Mike Trout is on the East Coast playing good teams, it’s always worth a watch. The Angels are looking for revenge after Boston’s three game sweep in Anaheim back in April.

Thursday, June 28

Jose Quintana (CHC) v. Clayton Kershaw (LAD), 3:10 ET

Neither Quintana nor Kershaw have lived up to the expectations in 2018, the former due to a lack of performance and the latter due to a lack of health. With the Dodgers within spitting distance of the Diamondbacks, no one would be surprised if they edge Arizona for first prior to the All Star Break. The Cubs still trail the Brewers and need Quintana to be the pitcher he’s been in the past.

Friday, June 29

Julio Teheran (ATL) v. Milo Mikolas (STL), 8:15 ET

The surprising Braves remain in first place in the NL West by 2 ½ games over the Phillies. The Caridnals are 4 ½ behind the Brewers. The weekend opener pits up-and-coming Mikolas against Julio Teheran who has been less-than-impressive in several recent outings against putrid offenses like the Mets and Padres.

Saturday, June 30

Chris Sale (BOS) v. Sonny Gray (NYY), 7:15 ET

Chris Sale shutdown the Mariners on Sunday, striking out 13 of the 25 total batters he faced, and going seven shutout innings. Sonny Gray has had his ups-and-downs, and takes on a potent Boston lineup in the last rival series before the All Star Break.

Sunday, July 1

Gio Gonzalez (WAS) v. Jake Arrieta (PHI), 1:35 ET

Few thought that on July, the Nationals would be looking up at the Phillies in the standings, but that is a strong possibility going into this weekend’s series. The series finale has the most interesting pitching matchup, and the Nats are looking to get revenge after losing two of three at home to the Phils last weekend.

*All pitching matchups as of Sunday night’s pitching probables

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Steven Martano is an Editor at Beyond the Box Score, a Contributing Prospect Writer for the Colorado Rockies at Purple Row, and a contributing writer for The Hardball Times. You can follow him on Twitter at @SMartano