The Leadoff 4/18: Previewing the Week Ahead

The week ahead is poised for some playoff rematches and pitching duels.

There is another thrilling week of baseball ahead with some highly anticipated playoff rematches set to occur as well as several pitching duels that will be worth the watch. For the playoff rematches, the Dodgers will host Atlanta and the Red Sox will visit the Rays. The pitcher duels will take place as part of the series this week in which the Giants visit the Mets.


NLCS Rematch


This week is headlined by a rematch of the 2020 and 2021 NLCS as the defending World Series Champions will visit the Dodgers starting tonight. Despite Atlanta’s sub-.500 start, its lineup still contains one of the best and hottest hitters in baseball in Matt Olson, as well as Ozzie Albies and Austin Riley. Atlanta’s starting pitchers carry a combined 5.37 ERA, which has played a significant role in its disappointing record so far. Save Kyle Wright who has found a rhythm on the mound in this young season, the starters will need to figure it out. Max Fried and Charlie Morton in particular, who will take the mound in games two and three respectively, must give their offense a chance to win games.

Coming off seven perfect frames in his last outing, Clayton Kershaw will open the series for Los Angeles. He will be followed by Walker Buehler and Tony Gonsolin who have both had stellar starts to the season. As long as the Dodgers continue to do what they have done over their first nine games, they will be positioned to breeze right by Atlanta in this three-game set.

The Dodgers enter this series with a major league-leading +27 run-differential while Atlanta holds a -9 in that metric. Los Angeles has clearly been the better team so far, but Atlanta has the roster to rebound and bring themselves right back to the level of the Dodgers; it is only a matter of when Atlanta’s pitching finally puts it together.

Also worthy of note is that this is Freddie Freeman’s first matchup against his old team. While the series will not take place in Atlanta, Freeman is still someone to watch over the next few days. Although he has not directly expressed resentment towards Atlanta, the fact that Atlanta was relatively disinterested in keeping Freeman and more interested in replacing him with someone younger says something. A player always plays with something extra against their old team and Freddie is no exception.

Game one is set to begin at 10:10 PM EST on Monday night.


The Pitching Kings of Queens


The San Francisco Giants will head to Queens to visit the New York Mets for a four-game set this week. Tied with the Dodgers for the best record in baseball, the Giants are looking to defend their NL West title this season, while the Mets, who hold the next best record in baseball, look to stay consistent and make a playoff push.

The series brings some must-see pitching duels. On Tuesday for game two, Logan Webb will go up against Max Scherzer making for a game that will likely be decided by a matter of a run or two. Wednesday is set for a similar outcome with Carlos Rodón taking the mound for San Francisco and Chris Bassitt for New York.

The hurler that will be the most interesting to watch, however, will take the mound in the series opener on Monday evening. Through 10.1 innings and two starts, Tylor Megill has yet to allow an earned run. The former eighth-round draft pick who had a 4.52 ERA in his 2021 rookie campaign is making a case for him to become an integral part of the Mets’ already majestic starting rotation. If his upcoming start is anything like his previous pair, Monday’s game will be worth the watch.

With their stacked lineup, the burden will be on the Mets to take this series. Pete Alonso and Francisco Lindor have combined for six home runs and 21 RBIs so far, and newcomer Starling Marte has also knocked in 10 runs. The challenge will be on Brandon Belt, Thairo Estrada, and the rest of the Giants’ lineup to knock in runs against New York’s frightening pitching staff.

You can catch game one on Monday evening at 7:10 PM EST.


Rematch in the Trop


This coming weekend, the Tampa Bay Rays will host the Boston Red Sox for a rematch of last season’s ALDS matchup. Both teams currently sit at the .500 mark. This matchup will begin to shine a light on which of the two teams might be able to sit at the front of the four-team pack of stacked teams that make up 80% of the AL East.

Until now, Boston’s pitching staff has posted an ERA just over four, while Tampa’s staff has a 3.86 ERA. As has been the case for the last few years, the Rays carry a deep pitching staff that is often unaffected by its starters leaving games early. The Red Sox have been able to wait out stellar starting pitching for weaker bullpen arms a couple of times during this young season, but jumping on the Rays’ pitching early in games will be crucial for Boston’s bats to stand a chance.

Key to Tampa’s game will be for its offense to knock Boston’s starters out early and make its bullpen work. Boston’s bullpen lacks Tampa’s depth, and skipper Alex Cora only has a small handful of his 10 bullpen members that he trusts in high leverage spots. If Wander Franco and Ji-Man Choi can jump on Friday evening’s probable starter in Michael Wacha early on, the infielders will put their team in a great position for the remainder of the three-game set throughout the weekend.

Game one be caught on Friday night can starting at 7:10 PM EST.

Featured image by Doug Carlin (@Bdougals on Twitter)

Gabe Goralnick

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

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