From the cheers of the crowd to the comfort of the locker room to the simple pleasure of sleeping in your own bed, the benefits that MLB teams reap during an extended homestand are undeniable.
Familiar surroundings and friendly faces have a way of putting people at ease.
Yet players cannot afford to be lulled into a false sense of security, for there are games to be played, some of which could make or break a team’s entire season.
But to be the best you’ve got to beat the best. That’s what awaits the teams we are about to look at—tough homestands against some of the best ballclubs in the game today.
May 20-22: Cincinnati (three games)
May 24-26: Atlanta (three games)
May 27-28: NY Yankees (two games)
Aside from Matt Harvey’s early-season dominance and David Wright’s continued high level of play, things have not gone well for the New York Mets in 2013.
The pitching staff—both the rotation and bullpen—has been awful. Jon Niese, who the team was counting on to lead the rotation this season, has allowed 15 earned runs and walked nine batters in his last 8.1 innings of work.
Only two regulars in the lineup—Wright and Lucas Duda—have posted an OPS above .800, while Ike Davis has been a virtual non-factor all season long. Davis is hitting .190 with only four home runs and nine RBI.
A quick look at the homestand that awaits the Mets next week isn’t going to make things any easier.
The Cincinnati Reds won six of their eight games against New York in 2012, and walk into Citi Field an improved team from a year ago.
While the Mets split a two-game series against Atlanta earlier this month, the Braves were missing both Jason Heyward and Brian McCann. Heyward remains sidelined, but McCann is back and producing runs in the heart of Atlanta’s lineup, making Atlanta more dangerous than before.
Along those same lines, the crosstown Yankees will be missing significant pieces, including Derek Jeter. But Curtis Granderson has returned to action in time for this always-contentious interleague matchup.
A poor showing in this late-May showdown would send the Mets limping into the summer while calls for top pitching prospect Zack Wheeler’s arrival will only grow louder.
May 20 – May 22: Tampa Bay (three games)
May 23 – May 26: Baltimore (four games)
May 27- May 29: Atlanta (two games)
Despite all of the team’s high-profile offseason additions, things have gone about as poorly as they could have in Toronto this season. The team is currently sitting more than 10 games below .500, on the outside of the playoff picture.
Toronto’s seemingly potent offense has struggled to produce runs, a problem only exacerbated by the absence of its table-setter, Jose Reyes. He has been sidelined since early April with an ankle injury.
The starting rotation—widely considered to be the most improved and one of the best rotations heading into the season—trails only Houston’s starting rotation as the most inept in 2013.
While the bullpen hasn’t been terrific, they haven’t been terrible either. Considering the increasingly difficult situations and deficits the team’s starters are leaving them with, mediocre results aren’t all that surprising.
But it’s still relatively early in the season, and Toronto can rebound from this slow start. However, the rebound must begin during the team’s upcoming nine-game homestand that begins next week.
All three of Toronto’s opponents have been among the best teams in baseball thus far in 2013. Each packs a powerful lineup and quality pitching staff, both in the rotation and bullpen.
Taking care of business against division foes Boston and Baltimore will help to atone for past shortcomings and allow the Blue Jays to make up ground in both the AL East and wild-card races.
Beating Atlanta, one of the best teams in baseball, doesn’t necessarily improve the team’s playoff chance. However, doing so would provide a massive confidence boost for a team that can sure use one.
May 29-May 30: Kansas City (two games)
May 31-June 2: San Francisco (three games)
June 3-June 6: Arizona (four games)
It’s been nearly 30 years since both professional baseball teams in Missouri have been relevant at the same time. But that’s exactly the situation that the Cardinals face to kick off a nine-game homestand at the end of May, with a pair of interleague games against their in-state rivals, the Kansas City Royals.
A resurgent Kansas City ballclub has one of the better pitching staffs in baseball, and sits in the thick of the American League playoff race. The Royals are set to take on a Cardinals team that has been one of baseball’s best through the first two months of the 2013 regular season.
After Kansas City departs, St. Louis faces off with a pair of teams that it opened the 2013 season against on the road, San Francisco and Arizona. The Cardinals sit with a combined 3-3 record against the Giants and Diamondbacks on the season.
Like St. Louis, Arizona has one of the best pitching staffs in baseball. San Francisco’s arms have bounced back from a slow start to sit just outside the Top 10 in baseball in ERA.
If the Cardinals can weather this early-summer storm, the team will find itself in excellent position heading into the meatiest part of the schedule.
June. 7-June 9: Baltimore (three games)
June 10 – June 12: Boston (three games)
June 13 – June 16: Kansas City (four games)
In one of the most surprising developments of the 2013 season, Tampa Bay’s pitching—not their bats—have let the team down.
Neither Jeremy Hellickson nor David Price, the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner, have been sharp. Outside of Matt Moore, the rotation as a whole has been underperforming.
Things haven’t been much better in the bullpen, with a combined ERA over 4.00 and a WHIP approaching 1.40.
While the Rays are putting runs on the board, the team is hovering around .500. Tampa begins the second week of June with a difficult 10-game homestand against a pair of AL East foes and an upstart Kansas City squad.
Tampa Bay has already played each of these teams in 2013 and the results haven’t been pretty. The Rays have gone a combined 2-9 while getting outscored by a total of 20 runs in those 11 games, 64-44.
With all three of Tampa Bay’s opponents expected to be in competition with the Rays for a playoff spot in the AL, losing each of the three series on this homestand could prove to be a crushing blow in the longterm.
August 12-14: vs. Cincinnati (three games)
August 16-18: vs. St. Louis (three games)
August 19-22: vs. Washington (four games)
Less than two weeks after the non-waiver trade deadline, Chicago welcomes three of the National League’s finest into Wrigley Field for a 10-game homestand.
Cincinnati, St. Louis and Washington boast three of the best starting rotations in baseball. Each one is packed with starters who can shut down Chicago’s offense, limiting pitch counts and largely keeping the Cubs out of their respective bullpens, which in some cases are a bit shaky.
Both the Reds and Cardinals boast lineups that rank among the strongest in baseball, while the Nationals offense has stumbled out of the gate. Yet there’s no question that by the time the Nationals stroll into the north side, Washington’s lineup will be one of the most productive in the league.
Now it’s true that the rebuilding Cubs have held their own against this trio so far in 2013, going a combined 4-7 with four one-run losses. But we could be seeing a drastically different Cubs team on the field than we do now.
It’s only a matter of time until the rumor mill begins its annual process of spitting out daily updates on potential suitors for Alfonso Soriano and the currently-injured Matt Garza. They lead a group of veterans the Cubs could move for additional pieces to the puzzle.
No matter how the Cubs’ 25-man roster looks when this homestand starts, it’s going to be a gargantuan task for the home team to win more than they lose. This is especially true when you consider that each of their opponents is likely to have strengthened their rosters at the deadline.
Sept. 16-19: St. Louis (four games)
Sept. 20-22: Arizona (three games)
Sept. 24-25: Boston (two games)
For all of Colorado’s surprising early-season success, the team’s playoff fate will lie in a nine-game homestand that begins in the middle of September.
Not only do the Rockies play host to a pair of contenders in the Cardinals and Diamondbacks, but they get one last taste of interleague action, facing off with the Red Sox in a pair of games to close things out.
Colorado has faced Arizona seven times already in 2013, going 3-4 with all four losses coming by a combined five runs. In three games against the Cardinals, things haven’t gone quite as well, being shut out twice.
All three of Colorado’s opponents boast outstanding starting rotations, something that the Rockies cannot claim for themselves. While Colorado’s rotation is vastly improved from a year ago, the group has been no better than average, posting a 4.20 ERA and 1.39 WHIP.
With their history of injuries and ineffectiveness, the Rockies can’t count on their pitchers to shut down the opposition. St. Louis, Arizona and Boston all boast explosive lineups that can keep up with the Rockies’ bats in the hitter-friendly confines of Coors Field.