The Leadoff 8/1: Previewing the Week Ahead

New ace Luis Castillo debuts for Mariners against the Yankees.

All eyes are on Tuesday’s trade deadline — and rightfully so. The deadline is a chance to alter your roster with a player or players who you hope improve your team’s chances at a playoff spot or a shot at the World Series.

While not in a trade, the New York Mets are getting a player who should be a dominant force at the top of their rotation if he performs like he did the last two seasons before getting hurt. That is right-hander Jacob deGrom, who is scheduled to make his 2022 season debut Tuesday against the Washington Nationals following two injuries. An inflammed right elbow sidelined deGrom after July 7 of last season and a stress reaction in his scapula this season.

Of course, whether Juan Soto will be in the Nationals’ lineup Tuesday is still to be determined.

 

Castillo Set for Mariners Debut vs. Yankees

 

What better way to show off your shiny new acquisition than send him to face the team with the best record in MLB? That is exactly what the Seattle Mariners will do with Luis Castillo. The right-hander, picked up from the Cincinnati Reds for four prospects in the first blockbuster of the trade season, will pitch either Tuesday or Wednesday, the finale of a three-game series against the New York Yankees.

Castillo was set to report to the Mariners on Monday and his regular turn to pitch would be Tuesday. But Seattle manager Scott Servais said he might give his new ace an extra day. Of course, Servais also could be lining Castillo up for his next start to be Monday at home, also vs. the Yankees. In 14 starts for the Reds, Castillo went 4-4 with a 2.86 ERA with 28 walks and 90 strikeouts in 85 innings. Remember, that is for a last-place team that started the season 3-22. His presence brings a significant boost to the Mariners’ rotation of left-handers Robbie Ray and Marco Gonzales and right-handers Logan Gilbert, Chris Flexen and George Kirby.

The Mariners are a pitching-first team, with their bullpen among the best in the American League. It is a big reason they won 14 straight games before the All-Star break and are holding the second of three AL wild-card spots. But that staff will have a big challenge in slowing down Yankees slugger Aaron Judge, who heated up over the weekend by hitting three homers in back-to-back games, giving him an MLB-best 42. That total is the most in team history through 101 games, better than Babe Ruth’s 41 in 1921 and 1928.

New York, having won swept a four-game series from the Kansas City Royals over the weekend, has the best record in the majors at 69-34 and an 11½-game lead over the Toronto Blue Jays. This series and next week’s at Seattle, with a series against the St. Louis Cardinals sandwiched in between, are a prelude to a stretch of nine games against AL East foes.

 

Facing Dodgers, Do Giants Wave White Flag?

 

One of the more interesting teams to watch at the trade deadline is the San Francisco Giants. Following their very surprising 107 wins a year ago, the Giants are mere mortals this season and sit in third place in the National League West at 51-51, 12½ games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers entering a four-game series that begins Monday at Oracle Park against the team with the best record in the NL. But they are in contention for a wild-card berth, trailing the No. 3 spot by four games.

Many think the Giants could be sellers between now and the deadline, but it would take the right offer for Farhan Zaidi to subtract from the major-league roster. The Giants lost seven straight coming out of the All-Star break before winning three of four with the Chicago Cubs at home. San Francisco made a deal for a shortstop Sunday, but that was a stopgap measure due to injuries to Brandon Crawford, who could return Thursday, and Thairo Estrada.

Meanwhile, the Dodgers took all four games from the Giants coming out of the break before dropping two of three to the Nationals at home and winning three of four on the road against the Colorado Rockies. Los Angeles’ 12-game cushion in the West (over the San Diego Padres) is the tied for the biggest in MLB with the Houston Astros.

Never content, Andrew Friedman and the Dodgers have already made one move to bolster the bullpen in acquiring Chris Martin from the Chicago Cubs and have never been shy about making a big move at the deadline. One player to keep an eye on is Justin Turner, who is expected to be out until Thursday due to abdominal tightness. Of course, the Dodgers could stand relatively pat as there are key pieces set to return from injury all around the diamond.

 

More deGrom? Mets, Braves Set For Four

 

How about a double does of deGrom in his first week back? That will happen as long as everything goes smoothly Tuesday as deGrom will make his second start of the season Sunday to complete a four-game series with the Atlanta Braves at Citi Field.

But this series is more than deGrom. It is the first of two four-game sets between the top two teams in the NL East, with the Mets currently holding a three-game lead over the defending World Series champs. The Braves, who dropped two of three to the Mets a couple weeks ago, have done well to climb back into the division race after trailing by 10½ games on June 1, going 39-14.

Third baseman Austin Riley, who had a breakout season last year and slashed .303/.367/.531 with 33 homers and 107 RBIs, has built himself into an NL MVP candidate after a torrid July (1.344 OPS) and is at .301/.360/.604 with 29 homers and 68 RBIs. His walk-off double in Sunday’s 1-0 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks was his club-record 26th extra-base hit of the month, bettering the 25 of Hank Aaron in July 1961.

But the Mets have won six in a row after sweeping three from the Miami Marlins over the weekend and a pair from the Yankees entering a three-game series with the Nationals. Already with two smaller deals done plus getting deGrom back, a bigger trade would set the tone before taking on the Braves, who are likewise on the hunt for roster upgrades.

 

Featured image by Doug Carlin (@Bdougals on Twitter)

Steve Drumwright

Steve Drumwright is a lifelong baseball fan who retired as a player before he had the chance to be cut from the freshman team in high school. He recovered to become a sportswriter and have a successful journalism career at newspapers in Wisconsin and California. Follow him on Twitter @DrummerWrites.

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