Two months into the MLB season, a few things have become clear: The Twins, Rockies, Brewers, Rays and Diamondbacks aren't too interested in going away; the Astros and Nationals aren't too interested in letting anyone near them; and a few teams aren't interested in playing nice with each other.
As we turn the page to June, there are some dates to circle on your calendar because you won't want to miss these key series:
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Red Sox at Orioles (June 1-4)
They’ve had a month to calm down after their hotly contested four-game series in Boston that featured Red Sox pitchers taking target practice at Manny Machado. Things got so tense that commissioner Rob Manfred had to step in before the finale. Now the rivalry returns to Baltimore, where the bad blood began with a Machado slide that injured Dustin Pedoria in April.
With both teams chasing the Yankees in the AL East, there’s plenty on the line in this four-game series, which could turn tumultuous with any pitch. But it won't feature Pedroia, who is sidelined with a wrist injury.
USA Today SportsBob DeChiara
Astros at Rangers (June 2-4)
Houston has taken three of the first four games between the teams this season, after Texas dominated the series the previous two years (28-10). Despite a brief resurgence, the Rangers have slipped back below .500 and could fall hopelessly behind the AL West-leading Astros will a poor showing this weekend.
The teams also meet June 12-14 in Houston, so Texas must make a stand at home this weekend. And it must find a way to silence Marwin Gonzalez’s bat (four homers, nine RBI vs. the Rangers this season).
USA Today Sports
Cardinals at Cubs (June 2-4)
The longtime rivals have split their first six games this season, but all six were played in St. Louis. Incredibly, both teams limp into June with the Cardinals at .500 and the Cubs below the breakeven level.
On June 1 of last season, Chicago had a 6.5-game lead over the second-place Pirates and an 8.5-game lead over the Cardinals, but it’s a much different story this time around for the defending World Series champions. St. Louis now has the superior rotation, though it hasn’t had an answer for Cubs catcher Willson Contreras (three homers, five RBI).
USA Today SportsJeff Curry
Nationals at Dodgers (June 5-7)
These NL juggernauts have combined for seven playoff appearances – but zero trips to the World Series – since 2012. Alas, the schedule doesn’t line up for a Clayton Kershaw-Max Scherzer showdown, though both will pitch in this series. Also worth watching: two of the games best young shortstops in the Nationals’ Trea Turner and Dodgers’ Corey Seager.
It’s a rematch of the 2016 NLDS – won by LA – and a chance for Dusty Baker’s bullpen-challenged bunch to wonder what might have been if it had lured free-agent closer Kenley Jansen during the offseason.
USA Today SportsGeoff Burke
Indians at Twins (June 16-18)
Cleveland finished 35.5 games ahead of Minnesota last season but now finds itself tied with surprising Twins atop the AL Central – despite a 4-2 record against Minnesota this season. In an oddity, the Indians are a better team on the road (16-10) than at home (11-14) this season, while the Twins also have had far more success away from Target Field (14-5) than at it (12-18).
This series features a day-night doubleheader on Saturday, and the teams will play three more times at Progressive Field later in the month (June 23-25).
USA Today SportsKen Blaze
Diamondbacks at Rockies (June 20-22)
Will they still be hanging around the Dodgers near the top of the NL West when they meet at Coors Field? The upstart Diamondbacks and Rockies enter the month with identical 33-22 records – with Colorado's 4-2 edge in the season series a factor.
The surprising Mark Reynolds has done plenty of damage the season, but he has been particularly productive (four homers, seven RBI) against Arizona. Meanwhile, D-backs slugger Jake Lamb has been largely silent (./150/.227/.300 with one homer) so far vs. the Rockies.
USA Today SportsIsaiah J. Downing
Cubs at Nationals (June 26-29)
The reigning NL pennant winners visit the aspiring NL pennant winners, who have quite a drought of their own to tackle. Washington hasn’t advanced past the NLDS in any of its three attempts since 2012 but can make an early statement in this series, which features the past two NL MVPs (Bryce Harper, Kris Bryant) and past two NL Cy Young Award winners (Jake Arrieta, Max Scherzer).