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The Leadoff 7/11: Previewing the Week Ahead

Gabe Goralnick previews the week ahead in MLB.

As All-Star Week approaches, baseball fans are due for a full slate of games over the coming days. As Atlanta attempts to gain ground on its rival from the Big Apple, the Mariners and Orioles try to establish themselves as contenders by riding their momentum into the break. Additionally, the 2022 MLB Amateur Draft is set to begin on Sunday evening.

 

The Red Hot M’s

 

If you looked around baseball for the hottest team right now, you would be surprised to find your answer in the AL West. The AL West could have been declared “Houston’s division” weeks ago with the rest of the division being presumed dead in the water.

What an emotional roller coaster of a team the Mariners have been. Optimism was prevalent after making significant acquisitions during the offseason, but the Mariners had a mediocre April, ending the month just one game over .500. Then, in May, they proceeded to fall flat on their face.

Now, after having a decent June and acquiring Carlos Santana from Kansas City, Seattle finds itself three games over .500 and has won 16 of its last 19 games. All-star and AL rookie of the year candidate, Julio Rodríguez, has been performing as well as he has ever been, and Santana has provided the offensive jolt the team needed, especially with Ty France having been on the injured list until recently.

With a fairly easy schedule heading into the break, the Mariners must dominate their opponents over the next week in order to truly establish themselves as contenders and buyers as the trade deadline approaches.

They first head the Washington D.C. to face the Nationals who have won just one of their last 10 games. Due to their own sub-optimal pitching staff, the Mariners’ offense will have to capitalize on Washington’s shaky pitching to sweep the two-game set.

As they head into Texas for the weekend, however, they will first be met with All-Star starter Martín Pérez. Even if Seattle cannot pull through against Pérez, it will still have the remainder of the four-game series to beat up on their division opponents and set the tone for the second half.

Catch Rodriguez and Santana take on Pérez on Thursday night at 8:05 PM EST.

 

What’s Going On in Baltimore?

 

The only team with nearly as much momentum as the Mariners is the Orioles. While Dodgers’ manager Dave Roberts said, “I just don’t see a division that’s better than [the NL West],” the AL East standings tell a completely different story.

Many foresaw serious competition between members of the AL East before this season and even that there was something brewing in Camden Yards. Few, however, would have predicted the Orioles to be sniffing a winning record by the midpoint of the season. The Orioles have, however, performed well against good teams and have beat up on bad teams. The O’s now find themselves on an eight-game winning streak on their way to Chicago to face the Cubs for a two-game interleague series.

The Orioles have not been putting up any extraordinary statistics over the last week. They, in fact, have been in the middle of the pack in both hitting and pitching. It has been by way of strokes of luck and clutch moments that Baltimore has been so successful lately.

If they can keep up their luck against the Cubs, the O’s will be in an ideal position to then face the Rays. Baltimore and Tampa are nearly tied in their season series with Tampa having a one-game edge. Despite their disparity in the standings, the Orioles have proven to be a formidable opponent, particularly after Adley Rutschman joined the major league club.

The Orioles have been attracting an alarmingly low number of fans to games this season. Even if they do not have what it takes to make a serious run for even a pennant this year, a run at a wild card spot and maybe even a postseason win would undoubtedly fire up the fans going into next year and hand ownership some more revenue to invest in the team’s future.

 

Will the Mets Hold Off Atlanta?

 

Atlanta hosts the Mets this week to look to set the tone of the second half in their favor. The team has been winning ballgames at such a high rate recently that the Mets have simply been unable to keep up. Heading into this mid-week series, Atlanta trails New York by a game and a half.

The series is sure to be highlighted by the pitching. Game one on Monday night is set to be the duel of the Maxes. Max Scherzer will face Max Fried; each of them looking to set the tone for the remainder of the series.

Scherzer dominated in his sole start since emerging from the injured list. However, as has been the trend with the Mets for years, their offense failed to accompany Scherzer with any semblance of run support leading to a loss of 1-0. All-Stars Pete Alonso and Jeff McNeil look to snap that trend and remain atop the NL East entering the break.

Fried has been just as, if not more, dominant as of late. Over a pair of starts in July, the southpaw has allowed just one earned run and Atlanta has not lost a game that Fried started since mid-May.

If both teams’ pitching cancels each other out, then due to its far more consistent offense, Atlanta has the clear advantage heading into the week. With Austin Riley, Michael Harris II, and Matt Olson at its helm, Atlanta’s offense is rivaled by very few.

David Peterson will face Spencer Strider on Tuesday, followed by Chris Bassitt facing Charlie Morton on Wednesday.

 

It’s Almost Draft Day

 

While this is not the place for a comprehensive preview of the upcoming draft, I can offer you some names to look out for as the day approaches. Druw Jones is predicted to go first overall. He comes out of Weslyan High School in Georgia and is an outfielder just like his father, Andruw Jones. Predicted to go second or third overall is another son of a former big leaguer, Jackson Holliday. Unlike his father, Matt, Jackson is a shortstop. Like Jones, Holliday is also coming out of high school.

The wild card of this draft class will be Kumar Rocker. The former Vanderbilt pitcher, who was drafted in the first round by the Mets in 2021 but did not sign, has played some independent ball recently after undergoing shoulder surgery in September. Rocker is expected to once again be chosen in the first round, the question is which team will pull the trigger on the once-passed-over hurler.

Featured image by Doug Carlin (@Bdougals on Twitter)

Gabe Goralnick

A junior at Yeshiva University studying political science and a diehard Red Sox fan from the Big Apple. He's either watching baseball, writing about baseball, or cooking some awesome food.

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