Here are three things we’ll be keeping an eye on throughout the baseball world this weekend…
1. Adam Jones honored in Baltimore:
The Orioles announced late last month that longtime Baltimore star Adam Jones will formally retire as a member of the O’s on Sept. 15. Jones will be honored in a pre-game at Camden Yards tonight, giving Baltimore fans that rooted him on as the heart and soul of many contending O’s clubs — and throughout his heroics for Team USA in the 2017 World Baseball Classic — to bid farewell to a franchise favorite. Jones made five All-Star teams, won four Gold Gloves and captured a Silver Slugger Award as an Oriole. From 2008-18, the center fielder played in 1613 games as an Oriole, batting .279/.319/.459 with 263 home runs and 90 steals. He helped fuel postseason runs in 2012, 2014 and 2016 and played a major role in the Orioles being one of the American League’s winningest teams during his peak years in Baltimore. Following an 11-year stretch with the O’s, Jones played a year with the D-backs (2019) and spent two seasons (2020-21) with the Orix Buffaloes of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball, but he’ll always be remembered as an Oriole.
2. Cy Young candidates on the hill:
There are still multiple viable Cy Young candidates in both the American League and National League, and this weekend’s slate of games will see several of them take the hill as they make one of their final cases for that hardware. Friday will see American League innings (187) and ERA (2.79) leader Gerrit Cole take the mound against his former team in Pittsburgh. Minnesota’s Sonny Gray, who ranks second in the AL with a 2.96 ERA, will take Sunday against the visiting White Sox. His teammate Pablo Lopez — fourth in innings pitched, seventh in ERA, second in strikeout rate and riding a blistering second-half hot streak (1.89 ERA) — will look to continue his own late bid Saturday against the ChiSox. Astros lefty Framber Valdez, second in innings (181 2/3) and fifth in ERA (3.32) will host the Royals on Sunday.
In the National League, Cubs lefty Justin Steele (2.49 ERA) will be on the bump for tonight’s game against the Diamondbacks. He ranks just 15th in the NL in innings pitched but is second to Blake Snell in ERA among qualified hurlers. Baseball’s innings leader, Logan Webb (193), could cross the 200-frame threshold today versus the Rockies and will look to drop his fifth-ranked 3.40 earned run average in an ominous Coors Field setting.
3. The wild NL Wild Card chase:
The National League Wild Card race is as tightly contested as it’s been at any point this season, with each of the D-backs, Reds and Giants in a three-way tie for the third and final spot. That trio of teams is 2.5 games behind the Cubs for the second spot. As it happens, the D-backs and Cubs are set to kick off a three-game series this weekend that’ll be particularly pivotal for Arizona, where the Diamondbacks’ playoff odds have dwindled after a torrid start to the season. A D-backs sweep could flip the script and catapult them into the second Wild Card spot, whereas a series defeat or sweep at the hands of the Cubs could be a backbreaker for their playoff hopes.
Both Cincinnati and San Francisco will take on teams with losing records, as the Reds play host to the Mets and the Giants visit the Rockies at Coors Field. San Francisco’s weekend series will be particularly notable with regard to the playoff race, as they’ll play a doubleheader tomorrow to make up for yesterday’s rainout.
The Marlins, meanwhile, are just half a game behind the Reds, D-backs and Giants — but they’re in for the toughest challenge in baseball this weekend as they tangle with a juggernaut Braves club that is currently 46 games over the .500 mark with a staggering +239 run differential.
There’s enough time left on the schedule that this weekend won’t completely determine the postseason field, but we’ve reached the point in the calendar where every series — in some cases every individual games — can swing the playoff odds in significant fashion.