Results tagged ‘ Blue Jays ’

2014 MLB Bobblehead Battle: AL East

Time to finish up the American League with the American League East where the Red Sox finally bring back bobblehead giveaways in 2014.  While you’re here check out the AL Central and AL West bobblehead battles.  As a reminder, each bobblehead will be rated 1-5 stars based on quality of subject, originality, number available, and overall awesomeness.  Teams will be ranked by total stars, so the more giveaways (especially quality ones) the better.

Boston Red Sox (all fans in attendance)

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Monday, April 7th, David Ortiz: You couldn’t ask for a better Red Sox player to start the bobblehead giveaways with.  This would’ve been a perfect ***** if it had been of Ortiz raising his fist telling Boston to stay strong.  Red Sox are going to rate highly giving these away to every fan. ****

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Wednesday, April 30th, Dustin Pedroia: And if you were going to pick a 2nd player on the current Red Sox to immortalize on a bobblehead, it would be former AL MVP Dustin Pedroia.  Better have real dirt stains! ***1/2

Tuesday, September 9th, Pedro Martinez: Come on Red Sox!  No bobbling goodness in May, June, July, or August?  For shame!  You get some redemption with the best pitcher in Red Sox history and the man who asks “Who is Karim Garcia?” ***1/2

Total: 11 stars

New York Yankees (18,000 fans)

Thursday, June 19th, Mark Teixeira: Yankees bobbleheads in 2013 were a murderer’s row (unfortunately not the actual Murderer’s Row) with Derek Jeter, Hideki Matsui, Yogi Berra, and Mariano Rivera.  This years crop?  Not so much, starting off with the oft-injured Yankees first baseman. **

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Wednesday, July 2nd, Lou Gehrig: I love this bobblehead and is by far the best one in the Yankees crop.  It celebrates the 75th anniversary of Lou Gehrig’s “luckiest man” speech, it’s a must have, especially if you can get the Twins one to pair with it.  ****1/2

Sunday, July 27th, Paul O’Neill: A solid Yankees player that has found a home in the YES broadcasts with the team, so he’ll be in attendance for this one.  Don’t think there will be as much excitement for this one than Matsui last year. ** 1/2

Wednesday, August 20th, Joe Girardi: Has Yankees World Series rings as a player and as a manager and is worthy of a bobblehead, but I can’t get too excited for it.  **

Total: 11 stars

Tampa Bay Rays (20,000 fans)

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Saturday, April 5th, Wil Myers Rookie of the Year: I just like the way that this bobblehead looks.  Props to the AL East for having larger giveaway numbers.  ***

Friday, May 23rd, Alex Cobb Military Themed: I’m interested to see how this one ends up looking, but it sounds pretty solid.  For now, though. ** 1/2

Saturday, September 6th, Evan Longoria 80’s Hair Band: Another Rays bobblehead that I need to see to believe.  I want to have faith that this is going to be spectacular though.  *** 1/2

Total: 9 stars

Toronto Blue Jays (20,000 fans)

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Sunday, April 27th, R.A. Dickey: This Dickey bobblehead would’ve meant more if he had repeated his 2012 performance north of the border, but it’s a good effort and he deserves it.  ** 1/2

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Sunday, June 8th, Jose Reyes: I can basically say the same thing for Reyes that I said for Dickey, right? ** 1/2

Sunday, August 24th, Mark Buerhle: Let the 2013 Blue Jays disappointment bobblehead train continue! **

Total: 8 stars

Baltimore Orioles (Promotion schedule not posted as of 3/7)

What do you think is the best bobblehead collection in the AL East?  Let us know in the comments!

-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)

Rasmus vs. Rasmus

It was a great night for the Rasmus family as older son Colby’s Blue Jays took on younger son Cory’s Atlanta Braves.  Cory Rasmus had just been called up from AAA Gwinnett last week, when Eric O’ Flaherty went to the disabled list.  It just lucked out that the Braves were making a trip north of the border right after the call-up.  Which Rasmus won the battle?  Let’s take a look!

On top of the double, Colby’s team won 9-3. It was just the third time since 1974 that brothers squared off on the mound and in the batter’s box joining Ken and George Brett in the 1970’s and Ruddy and Julio Lugo in 2007.

-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)

Casper Wells on the Move Again

Where in the world is Casper Wells? It appears it’s now Oakland after the Athletics grabbed Wells from Toronto after he was designated for assignment by the Blue Jays.

 

The weird part is he was just claimed off waivers by the Blue Jays twelve days ago from Seattle and designated for assignment on April 15th, without even playing for Toronto.

The good news for Wells, he’s racking up frequent flier miles as it’s 5,215 miles from Safeco Field to the Rogers Centre to o.Co Coliseum. Plus, his Twitter handle @UpstateBaller makes sense again, playing in upstate California. Now, he can focus on .189 batting average so far this season.

-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)

The Best/Worst Article Headline Ever Written

Really? This is either a journalist’s worst nightmare or an editor’s best prank, depending on how you look at it:

Stiff Dickey

After R.A. Dickey exited his start against the Chicago White Sox in Toronto with back and neck stiffness, the Jays were able to hold on to a victory. But still, there’s no way this headline wasn’t intentional. Or so I thought.

Upon digging for the original article, I found multiple links that informed me: “Oops. There’s something wrong with that link.”

Yeah, what was wrong is you failed to notice that R.A.’s last name sounds like the phallic slang for “Richard” and that the common understanding of “happy ending” is…well, I won’t go there. When you put the two together…I don’t need to help you with that. Just know that it’s commonplace in the sketchiest of massage parlors.

I don’t know what else to say, besides oh, Canada. We love you.

- Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman)

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Brewers Jean Segura Steals 1st Base

Just when you think you’ve seen everything in baseball, Brewers shortstop Jean Segura goes and does something we may never see again.  In the 8th inning against the Cubs, Segura reached base and then stole 2nd.  He then tried to steal 3rd base and got hung up resulting in this..

Let me attempt to explain.  Ryan Braun seeing the throw go to 3rd decides to take 2nd base, then Segura and Braun are both on the base.  Segura is safe when tagged and Braun is out when tagged because 2nd was Segura’s original base.  Segura assumed he was out at 2nd (which he should’ve been on his 2nd tag) and starts to run back to the dugout only to realize he had been safe at 2nd.   Knowingly (for the first time) that he’d end up out if he went back to 2nd, he steals 1st base and is safe.  Naturally, Segura is thrown out trying to re-steal 2nd base afterwards.

UPDATE: Here’s the full video of Segura’s antics including both steal attempts of 2nd base.

 

It’s not the first time we’ve seen someone steal 1st base though.  Flashback to Lloyd Moseby of the Toronto Blue Jays in 1987.

Luckily for Moseby, he ended up back at 2nd base in the end.  Segura’s still trying to find his way back.

-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)

3U3D Break it Down: The A.L. East

A ton happened in the American League East this offseason, the Blue Jays traded for and signed everybody under the sun, the Yankees can’t stay healthy, the Red Sox have a new manager, the Rays said goodbye to James Shields and hello to Wil Myers, and well the Orioles, they didn’t do much.  Who will win possibly the most unpredictable division in the Majors?  Let’s take a look!

Projected Order of Finish: Tampa Bay Rays, Toronto Blue Jays, Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles

Why the Rays could win the A.L. East: Let’s start off with defending Cy Young winner David Price anchoring a young and talented starting rotation.  James Shields may be gone, but there is still plenty of firepower with maturing Matt Moore, Jeremy Hellickson, Alex Cobb, and Jeff Niemann.  Not to mention Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi waiting in the wings.  The bullpen is the best in the division with Fernando Rodney coming off the lowest ERA in the history of the league, plus excellent setup men in Joel Peralta and Jake McGee.  We’re still waiting on the superstar break out season from Evan Longoria.  If it happens in 2013, the Rays are in great shape.  I’ve also now gone this entire paragraph without mentioning Joe Maddon, who is the best manager in the game today.

Why the Rays wouldn’t win the the A.L. East:  The young rotation guys aren’t quite ready.  Evan Longoria spends more than half the season on the disabled list like in 2012.  Fernando Rodney reverts back to the Fernando Rodney before 2012 and doesn’t carry over the “magic plantain” powers from the World Baseball Classic.  Desmond Jennings still isn’t ready to take the next step.  Yunel Escobar gets himself in trouble.  The Blue Jays really are that good.

Why the Blue Jays could win the A.L. East: The talent the Jays assembled is the best that they’ve had since their 1993 World Series championship team.  The starting rotation is talented and experienced with Cy Young award winner R.A. Dickey, the spectacular, but oft-injured Josh Johnson, the bulldog Mark Buerhle, and “awesome when his stuff is on” Brandon Morrow.  It’s not just the rotation that’s revamped though.  Jose Reyes now sits atop an explosive lineup with two-time home run champion Jose Bautista and WBC teammate Edwin Encarnacion, who hit 42 home runs last season.  The Jays also added Melky Cabrera, who was leading the National League in batting average, before he was suspended for fifty games.

Why the Blue Jays wouldn’t win the A.L. East:  It’s not very often the team built to succeed immediately actually succeeds.  Just ask the Angels and the Marlins last year.  The bullpen still has a ton of question marks.  Is Casey Janssen ready to be a big-time closer on a winning team?  Is Sergio Santos completely healthy?  Can Darren Oliver keep it up at 42 years-old?  The Blue Jays better hope the answer is yes to two of three of those.  Edwin Encarnacion could have had a fluke season instead of a breakout one.  Plus, can Colby Rasmus and Adam Lind keep their heads on straight and hit the way they were supposed to as highly touted prospects?

Why the Red Sox could win the A.L. East:  First off, maybe they really just disliked Bobby Valentine so much that they went into tanking mode to ensure he was gone.  John Farrell will provide an upgrade in the dugout and in the clubhouse.  Jon Lester looks ready to return to form after a terrible 2012.  The lineup is solid enough, especially when David Ortiz is healthy.  Shane Victorino provides enough of a clubhouse presence and more importantly, enough of a bat, to keep Boston in contention.  Jackie Bradley is everything Red Sox fans think he really is.

Why the Red Sox wouldn’t win the A.L. East:  The heels of David Ortiz and Jacoby Ellsbury get the Sox off on the “wrong foot”.  Jonny Gomes is primarily involved defensively.  The starters after Jon Lester (and even Jon Lester if he’s in 2012 form) aren’t top-notch.  Ryan Dempster needs to be the first half of 2012, not the second half.  Clay Buchholz has fallen apart after showing so much promise in 2010.  John Lackey is John Lackey.  The bullpen is revamped with closer-quality pitchers in Joel Hanrahan, Andrew Bailey, and Koji Uehara, but they all need to stay healthy.

Why the Yankees could win the A.L. East:  They’re the Yankees and you can never count them out.  They rally around Mariano Rivera, who’s retiring at the end of the season, to get him one more chance in the playoffs.  The injuries that they’ve experienced in Spring Training aren’t as bad as originally thought for Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira, Derek Jeter, Phil Hughes, and Alex Rodriguez and they can provide enough, especially in the 2nd half.  The pitching keeps it together (minus Hughes) with experience at the top (CC Sabathia, Huroki Kuroda, and Andy Pettitte) and youth at the bottom (Ivan Nova and David Phelps).  The bullpen with a returning Rivera, David Robertson, and a fully-healthy Joba Chamberlain could be the best in the division.  Robinson Cano plays completely out of his mind for a contract and is the clear-cut AL MVP.

Why the Yankees wouldn’t win the A.L. East:  The injury bug is just too much.  The names “Vernon Wells”, “Juan Rivera”, “Lyle Overbay” and “Travis Hafner” are predominantly involved in the lineup after the All-Star break.  They stick to their payroll to stay under the luxury tax and it prevents them from going after what they need at the trade deadline.

Why the Orioles could win the A.L. East: Winning one-run games (MLB best 29-9 in 2012) was actually skill and not luck.  The bullpen of Darren O’ Day, Pedro Strop, and Jim Johnson doesn’t wear down in a bullpen than threw the 4th most innings in MLB last season.  Buck Showalter continues to work his magic in Charm City and wins A.L. Manager of the Year.  Baltimore calls up Dylan Bundy and he immediately becomes a lights-out staff ace.  Manny Machado excels in his first full year in the Majors, while Adam Jones continues his path to super-stardom evolving into a near 30-30 player.

Why the Orioles wouldn’t win the A.L. East:  The statistics guys are right and the Orioles regress to the mean in one-run games.  The starting pitching doesn’t hold up like it did last year.  Seriously though, this is the worst rotation on paper in the division.  With the lineups in the A.L. East it might be tough for them to keep afloat.

Awards Watch

AL MVP

Robinson Cano-Yankees

Evan Longoria and David Price-Rays

Jose Reyes and Jose Bautista-Blue Jays

Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia-Red Sox

Adam Jones-Orioles

Cy Young

David Price and Fernando Rodney-Rays

CC Sabathia and Mariano Rivera-Yankees

Jon Lester-Red Sox

R.A. Dickey and Brandon Morrow-Blue Jays

Rookie of the Year

Wil Myers and Chris Archer-Rays

Dylan Bundy-Orioles

Jackie Bradley and Jose Iglesias-Red Sox

Who do you think takes the crown in the A.L. East?  Let us know in the comments!

-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)

Grade That Trade! Marlins Light Up The Fire Sale Again Edition

3U3D alluded to the Marlins fire sale possibilities on July 23rd, then again on July 25th, but it wasn’t really there yet.  They had kept everyone they signed in the offseason on the team…so far.  Then a little fuel was added to the fire sale with Heath Bell being sent to the Diamondbacks on October 20th.  Tonight, the hot stove and fire sale was set ablaze with a blockbuster deal that ends an era in Miami before it even begins and put the Blue Jays in the thick of the AL East, making it officially the toughest division in baseball.  Let’s take a look at the trade that’s going down.

The Blue Jays receive: SS Jose Reyes, LHP Josh Johnson,  LHP Mark Buehrle, do-it-all player Emilio Bonifacio, and C John Buck

The Marlins receive: SS Yunel Escobar, RHP Henderson Alvarez, C Jeff Mathis, and prospects Adeiny Hechevarria, Jake Marisnick, Anthony Desclafani, and Justin Nicolino

The first thought that comes to mind is wow.  Look at all of that talent that is heading north of the border.  The Blue Jays have decided to take on a ton of money (up to $165 million) in order to try and compete in the A.L. East.  The speed throughout the order with Reyes, Bonifacio, and Rajai Davis will be the best in the American League.  Buehrle and Johnson instantly become the best pitchers in Toronto and can provided veteran leadership for Brandon Morrow and Ricky Romero.  Romero will need it after the 2nd half he had in 2012.  The Blue Jays also shed Escobar who needed a fresh start after the unfortunate, gay slur incident.  I do find it interesting that the Jays brought in John Buck in the deal.  The Jays have J.P. Arencibia behind the plate starting and top prospect Travis d’Arnaud looking for his opportunity in AAA.  It almost makes me believe that one of those three could get moved in another move to get more pitching help.  Pure speculation though.

What do the Marlins get out of this?  Well obviously more PR woes and grief that they may have fleeced the city into a new stadium, while not providing a competitive team.  Not to mention the continued outcry for owner Jeffrey Loria to sell the team.  Miami basically stole the Red Sox reset button and brought it to little Havana.  They’ve undone everything that they did in the offseason and then some.  Escobar is a good, but not great player.  Alvarez showed some promise in 2011, but took a step back last season.  He’s still young (turns 23 early in the 2013 season) and more importantly to the Marlins, affordable.  We’ve seen pitchers turn it around in the N.L. maybe Henderson Alvarez is next.  Of the prospects, Marisnick is the most intriguing. He’s ranked as the #32 best prospect in MLB by ESPN’s Keith Law.  Nicolino was the best left-handed pitching prospect in the Jays system.   Hechevarria could replace Escobar at shortstop in the near future and was ranked by MLB.com as the 7th best prospect for Toronto.

What does Miami do next?  There are rumors that Giancarlo Stanton could be next on the block, with Stanton even saying on Twitter that he was pissed off at the situation.  Fans for every team are already comtemplating trades to get the slugger on their team.  Time will tell if the fire sale rages on in Miami.

-Bryan Mapes ( @IAmMapes)

Fantastic Fielding of 2012

Chicks may dig the long ball, but it’s fielding that makes for the most exciting highlights in the game of baseball.  What have been the best displays of defensive excellence this season?  Let’s see if I can only limit Mike Trout to one play.

Let’s start it off with Mike Trout with what I believe is the best play of the year.  Look at the leap.  Look at the extension.  I don’t think there is anyone else that makes this play in the Majors.  Trout has taken away five home runs this season, but this one was the best.

Trout’s catch was given a run for it’s money though by Blue Jays Rajai Davis. He uses the wall to catapult himself up over a 10-foot wall to rob Casey McGahee. This one is a thing of beauty.

This is one of the top infield plays of the season by Diamondbacks do-it-all man Willie Bloomquist. He ranges to the other side of 2nd base and flips the ball backward almost in a somersault position to Aaron Hill for the force out. Bonus points for getting out Emilio Bonifacio, one of the fastest players in MLB.

Speaking of somersaults, here’s Twins Ben Revere making a great catch in the 9th inning and rolling into a somersault. Revere is one of the best in the league at spectacular plays.

I’m impartial to this play because I was at the MLB Fan Cave when it happened. Tigers Quintin Berry gets turned around, goes back and make a leaping catch over his head. I’m still not sure how he got to it. It was a huge save for the Tigers as they kept the lead at one and took the lead in the 9th inning. Without this catch, they lose.

Who has the best right field arm? My answer has been Jeff Francouer since he was an Atlanta Brave. Look at that laser rocket arm throwing out Alexei Ramirez.

Why has Brandon Phillips won two straight Gold Gloves at second base? Plays like this are part of the reason. He makes a behind-the-back flip look easy.

I promised my fellow podcast host Jeremy Dorn that I would get a Dodgers play into this. Check out Justin Sellers going full sprint over the shoulder and going head first into the stands. If you can get Vin Scully to go “Whoa!” and “Gee whiz!” that works for me.

A late addition to this blog. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a pitcher almost end up on the dirt to make a play in no-man’s land going the wrong way like J.P. Howell.

The hands-down Minor League play of the year. Jason Repko robs a grand slam from Kosuke Fukudome for the Pawtucket Red Sox. He even tumbles OVER the wall to complete the play.

Bottom of the 12th, up by one with runners on 1st and 2nd, Roger Bernadina saves the day as he becomes one with Minute Maid Park to win the game for the Nationals.

I’ll close with a double-dip of amazing Giants plays. The first was an amazing, diving catch for Gregor Blanco. This catch was the most important on this list as it preserved Matt Cain’s perfect game. The second is the kookiest play of this list as Pablo Sandoval bobbles a catch in foul territory, dives, tips it up and is caught by a diving Brandon Crawford.

Everyone goes with a top ten list, but I love defense so much that I went with a top thirteen! I can’t resist the urge though, here’s another Mike Trout home run robbery! This one to end the game off the bat of Prince Fielder.

Did I miss anything? What’s your favorite play of the year? Let us know in the comments!

-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)

Weekend Watch! Interleague Style Part Two!

It’s time for another round of interleague play!  These match-ups aren’t as exotic as the last “Weekend Watch” with interleague play involved, but it doesn’t mean that cross-divisional series aren’t as fun.  Here’s what I’m looking forward to watching this weekend as I sneak the MLB At-Bat app on while tailgating at the Belmont Stakes.

6) Indians at Cardinals

Battle of the two 2nd place teams in the Central where both are trying to get back to the 1st place perch they had just recently.  The injury bug continues to hit St. Louis as Jaime Garcia finds himself joining teammates Jon Jay, Skip Schumaker, and Lance Berkman on the disabled list.  The Indians, on the other hand, seem to be the least talked about “good” team in the Majors.  They keep plugging away without doing anything too special, they sit 8th in the AL in batting average and a dismal 2nd to last in ERA, but there they are at 30-26, just a game out of 1st place.  Jason Kipnis has been great for Cleveland in his sophomore season leading the team in home runs (9) and stolen bases (14).

2D) Blue Jays and Braves

This is a series as a Braves fan that I wish I could go down to Turner Field and attend in person.  Friday night, the Braves are retiring the great John Smoltz’s number (more on that in a blog tomorrow) and on Saturday is the greatest promotion the team has ever done, Sid Bream Slide Bobblehead Day!  Seriously, this thing is awesome and are already being offered on eBay from $55-75.  Both the Jays and Braves are playing in tightly contested races in their East divisions.  As I type this the AL East is separated by just four games.  The NL East is only a game and a half difference between 1st place and 4th place.  Every team in those two divsions is .500 or better except for the Phillies, who saw that coming?   No wonder why FOUR East interleague series make the “Weekend Watch” this week.

2C) Nationals at Red Sox

1st place vs. last place gets 3rd place here, that’s the average.  Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez have been wunderkinds in the National League, but how will they do on the road against a quality offense in Boston.  Gonzalez’s track record against the Sox while he was in Oakland was not very good as he has a 5.79 ERA over 28 innings in his career.  Red Sox Kevin Youkilis also feasts on Gonzalez pitching going 6 for 11 in his career.  I’m also intrigued to see Daisuke Matsuzaka’s return on Saturday to the Red Sox after recovering from Tommy John surgery.  If he can give Boston anything after they had to send down Daniel Bard to AAA it’d be a great plus.

2B) Mets at Yankees

The Subway Series means something!  The Yankees have been on fire winning 10 of their last 13 games going into Thursday night’s game with the Rays.  The Mets are still reveling in the teams first no-hitter by Johan Santana last Friday night and he’ll start the opener against Huroki Kuroda.  The no-hitter has been an extra spring in the step of Mets fans.  I live in Connecticut, where you get a mixture of Yankees, Mets, and Red Sox fans.  I’ve seen more Mets hats and jerseys in the past week than I had the entire season before Santana’s no-no.  Wonder if some will actually try to infiltrate the Bronx this weekend.  Derek Jeter thrives against his cross-town rivals hitting .385, the best batting average he has against any team he has 40 at-bats against.

2A) Rays at Marlins

The Battle for Florida means something!  I don’t expect a lot of runs this weekend between these two as the pitching matchups are pretty solid and Marlins Park has played towards the pitcher so far.  I really want to see if Matt Moore can continue his recent success as he has a 2.55 ERA over his last three starts compared to a 7.20 ERA his three starts before that.  Maybe he can still salvage my AL Rookie of the Year pick.  Mike Trout you say?  Yeah, I’m doomed.  James Shields vs. Anibal Sanchez on Sunday is an underrated pitchers special.

1) Rangers at Giants

Can’t be yelled at for East Coast bias if I put the Rangers and Giants in the top spot!  Despite Tim Lincecum’s worst efforts the Giants are the hottest team in the National League winning 8 of their last 10 games.  The Rangers have only won one game in each series against the Mariners, Angels, and Athletics coming into this series.  Roy Oswalt can’t get up to the Majors fast enough it seems as Derek Holland now joins Neftali Feliz on the DL from the rotation.  Alexi Ogando will come out of the bullpen to make the start in place of Holland.  Even better is that this could be a potential World Series match-up down the road.

Mapes Fantasy Special

Another great week for the Mapes Fantasy Special.  I’m now 10-2 since moving the Mapes Fantasy Special over to the Weekend Watch.  I’ll slow clap for myself.  Here are this weeks picks, remember these pitchers must be available in 50% or more of Yahoo! fantasy baseball leagues.

6/8 Gavin Floyd (32% owned) vs. Astros, Floyd has been absolutely terrible lately, but if he can’t do it at home against the Astros I have no hope for him.  I wish I could just quit you Gavin.

6/9 Scott Diamond (22% owned) vs. Cubs, Diamond has been a find in the rough for the Twins, sorry I couldn’t resist, he’s been stellar going 4-1 with a 1.89 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP.  Even better are his 4 walks in 38.2 innings this season.  Diamond faces the Cubs who have drawn the 4th least walks in the Majors this season, bodes well for him if they put in in play at Target Field.

6/10 Andy Pettitte (49% owned) vs. Mets, I have no explanation for what Pettitte is doing right now, so I’m just gonna enjoy the ride before he gets over 50% owned.

What are you looking forward to this weekend?  Who do you like in fantasy?  Tweet me using #MapesFantasySpecial

-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)

Weekend Watch!

Hope everyone enjoyed their first taste of interleague play last weekend.  I know I did with the Braves taking two out of three from the AL East leading Rays.  Now that we’re back in traditional league play let’s see what this week has in store.  I’ll try to not put the Braves match-up with the Nationals in the top spot, but before I look at everything else, it’s a fair warning it’s going to end up there.

5) Padres at Mets

This match-up would never crack the top five usually, but it makes it for one reason, Banner Day.  What is Banner Day, you ask?  It used to be a Mets tradition that fans would make giant banners and after the game would walk in a parade around the stadium.  Living in Connecticut, I get SNY which airs Mets games.  They’ll occasionally show “Mets Yearbook” chronicling a past season and my favorite part to randomly watch is Banner Day footage.  The puns are always hilarious.  I’m setting the over/under at “We Like Ike” or “He’s got the Wright stuff” at 24.5.  Might go under with the way Ike Davis and played this year. Watch this and enjoy!

4) Giants at Marlins

Might have to make the four spot the “Marlins” spot as they’ve now been here each of the last two weeks.  The series started Thursday night with a Giants 14-7 victory.  Two struggling starters take the hill on Friday in Tim Lincecum and Josh Johnson.  The other two pitching battles are solid though as well with Madison Bumgarner and Mark Buehrle on Saturday and Matt Cain taking on Ricky Nolasco on Sunday.  I really would like to take this time to make sure you endorse Giancarlo Stanton for the 2012 Home Run Derby.  First, he breaks the scoreboard on a grand slam off of Jamie Moyer.

Then follows it up Thursday night with a bomb over the Clevelander nightclub into the Budweiser Balcony in left field.

I’ve said it from the start of the new Marlins Park. Stanton will put one off the glass in left field at some point.

3) Phillies at Cardinals

Another series that started Thursday with a high-scoring affair 10-9 in favor of the Phillies.  This series also features two solid pitching duels with Cliff Lee and Kyle Lohse on Friday and Roy Halladay/Adam Wainwright on Sunday.  As we discussed on Kelsey’s Kardinals Injury Korner the Cardinals offense is in shambles and add Matt Carpenter to the disabled list.  Halladay and Lee should be able to pick apart the depleted Redbirds lineup.  This series also features two of the best catchers in the National League in Carlos Ruiz and Yadier Molina.  National League catcher might not the deepest, but also the most difficult position to choose for the 2012 All-Star Game.  Who do you send home from Molina, Ruiz, Brian McCann, Buster Posey, and I’m being serious with these last two, Jonathan Lucroy and A.J. Ellis.  There are going to be a lot of disappointed backstops.

2) Blue Jays at Rangers

Here’s a chance for the Jays to make a statement and show the rest of the American League that they are for real and can contend for the playoffs.  Brandon Morrow goes in game one for Toronto after becoming the 1st pitcher in MLB to have two shutouts this season.  Yu Darvish should be in line for a good start on Sunday for Texas, seeing as he’s dominated every team not named the Mariners in his short career.  No home runs in the past 11 games for Josh Hamilton, ugh what’s wrong with that guy.  Please note sarcasm.

1) Nationals at Braves

The battle for NL East lead.  I tried to promise not making it number one, but it’s the only series that will decide who is leading a division come Monday.  I’ll keep it short, but the Sunday match-up of Gio Gonzalez and Brandon Beachy may decide the winner of the NL Cy Young in my “Too Early MLB Awards” coming at the start of June.  This is my favorite game of the weekend, no bias I promise.

Mapes Fantasy Special

I hit a rough patch going 1-2 last week with Henderson Alvarez and Jarrod Parker getting crushed at home, while John Danks through 6 shutout, go figure.  Naturally, Parker’s next start was fantastic.  Here’s what I have for this weekend, remember they must be 50% owned or less.  12-5 record on the season.

5/25 Ivan Nova (48% owned) at Athletics, 2-0 in his career against Oakland, the ERA isn’t great, but Nova is coming off the best strikeout performance of his career.  He should be solid in that ballpark.

5/26 Mark Buehrle (47% owned) vs. Giants, Going back to the well with Buehrle who performed admirably for me at home in a Mapes Fantasy Special two weeks ago.  Hard to expect a win against Madison Bumgarner or a ton of K’s, but good peripherals will carry the day.

5/27 R.A. Dickey (49% owned) vs. Padres, I might be copping out a little bit taking three guys really close to the 50% threshold, but I didn’t think Dickey would be available.  He never gets enough credit and is a quality start machine.  Plus, it’s Banner Day!  Kudos to any Mets fans to can sneak in a Dickey pun on the field.

What would your Mets banner say?  Let me know in the comments.  Have a happy and safe Memorial Day weekend and take some time to thank a soldier for their service to our country.

-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)

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