Darvish, Harper, Yanks Among 10 Exciting Things to Watch This Weekend in MLB

Zachary Petersel@@ZPeterselFeatured ColumnistMay 4, 2012

Darvish, Harper, Yanks Among 10 Exciting Things to Watch This Weekend in MLB

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    It is still early in the baseball season, but there are plenty of exciting things that are happening this season that will impact October. 

    First off, the Mariano injury. Who will the Yankees choose to replace the greatest closer of all time? 

    There are top prospects, such as the Nationals' Bryce Harper and Pedro Alvarez for the Pirates, that have taken center stage for their respective teams and are performing exceptionally well.

    On a larger perspective, many teams have something to prove this weekend. Have the Angels finally arrived? Can the Orioles prove they are for real in their first games against Boston since eliminating them from the playoffs last year?

    These are just some of the exciting things that are going on in another great weekend of baseball.

David Robertson/Rafael Soriano: Who Is the Next Yankee Closer?

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    After Mariano Rivera's devastating injury, Joe Girardi has to make a decision he thought he would have an entire offseason to decide.

    Who replaces the Sandman?

    With 24.1 consecutive scoreless innings heading into this weekend's action, not to mention an incredible 37 strikeouts in that time frame against just nine walks, David Robertson has been phenomenal. He made the All-Star team last season with a 1.08 ERA in 66 innings with 100 K's, and he's already established himself as one of the best relievers in the game.

    The other semi-logical choice is Rafael Soriano. While he has the 90 saves in his career and the big salary, he has not been nearly as effective this season. Soriano has a 2.00 WHIP, with six walks in just nine innings, so while his ERA is good also at 2.00, he has walked the tight rope each time.

    Nobody could ever replace the greatest reliever of all time, but David Robertson deserves the first shot.

Great Pitching Matchup: Zack Greinke vs. Tim Lincecum

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    Coming into the season, Tim Lincecum and Zack Greinke were among the favorites to win the NL Cy Young this season.

    After a couple of rough starts for each pitcher, it appears they have rounded into form just in time to face off. Greinke has won each of his last two starts, and Lincecum has given up just two runs in his last 18 innings.

    This will definitely be a great game to follow, and it would not surprise me one bit to see each pitcher step up their game, knowing they will have to keep runs off the board if they want a chance to win. 

Can Yu Darvish Continue His Recent Dominance?

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    Over his last three starts, Yu Darvish has faced some of the best lineups in all of baseball and shut them all down.

    In 21.2 innings against the Tigers, Yankees and Blue Jays, Darvish allowed just two runs on 13 hits while striking out 24. 

    It appears as if the Yu Yu train has pulled into the station.

    This Sunday, Darvish hopes to continue his dominance against another solid hitting team in the Cleveland Indians and at this point, I do not see anything slowing him down.

Bryce Harper: How Does He Do as Nats' No. 3 Hitter?

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    In just the fifth game of his major league career, the Nationals moved Bryce Harper up to the third spot in the order. According to ESPN, the last time someone younger than Harper hit third was Andruw Jones back in 1996. 

    This kid has all the talent in the world, not to mention a rocket for an arm, and is a joy to watch on the field because he hustles out everything

    In his first game in the No. 3 spot, he drove home the winning run against the Diamondbacks, and he looks to continue that type of success against the Phillies this weekend.

Has the Real Pedro Alvarez Finally Arrived?

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    Well, Pirates fans, you can take a huge sigh of relief. Then another one. Then another one, because it looks like Pedro Alvarez, the second overall pick of the 2008 draft, has arrived.

    Over his past nine games, Alvarez has been as hot as any player in baseball. He has five homers, 10 RBI and 10 runs scored to go along with a .424 batting average. Perhaps the most important stat, however, is that he has only struck out eight times. For a player who had been striking out at least two or three times a game, that is a huge step in the right direction.

    There is no way he will hit .424 the rest of the way with this type of production, but after being heralded as a big-time bust, he has become one of the most exciting players to watch, and that should continue this weekend.

Who Will Finish Games for the Cubbies?

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    Cubs manager Dale Sveum announced today that Carlos Marmol will no longer serve as the Cubs' closer.

    It is hard to blame him considering Marmol's ERA and WHIP are 6.23 and 2.31, respectively, to go along with 12 walks in just 8.2 innings, but the question remains, do the Cubs have a better option?

    I realize that those numbers are terrible, that is obvious. However, Marmol is still a pitcher who's career batting average against is .180, and the guys they are turning to, James Russell and Rafael Dolis, are nothing special, either.

    Dolis himself has eight walks against just four strikeouts in 15.1 innings and while Russell has looked good this season, he has never been a dominant pitcher, as evidenced by his 4.20 ERA.

    It is always fun watching games in Wrigley, and this weekend will be no different.

Who Are the Real L.A. Angels?

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    The Angels got off to a horrid start in 2012, going 7-15 in their first 22 games.

    This is the same team that finished 10 games over .500 last year and that spent over $300 million this past offseason on just two players.

    However, they have won three of their past four, called up one of the top prospects in baseball in Mike Trout and Jered Weaver just pitched a no-hitter this past Wednesday.

    So who are the real Angels? 

    The series this weekend against a good Blue Jays team should fill us in.

Can Baltimore Keep Winning in Return to Boston?

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    Well hello, Baltimore.

    On this date last year Baltimore was 14-15, already 3.5 games back of the eventual AL East champion New York Yankees. However, today the O's are a surprising 16-9, and they're playing the Red Sox for the first time since eliminating them from the playoffs in Boston's epic collapse of 2011.

    The Orioles have gotten outstanding starting pitching and timely hitting from some unexpected players such as Jason Hammel and Chris Davis. If they want to stay near the top of the division, they will need to continue to play well on the road, especially against division rivals, so what better time to start than this weekend?

    It should be an exciting series.

Who Will Close Games for the Fish?

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    The word that comes to mind when thinking about Heath Bell's first season in Miami is debacle. 

    Not only has he blown three out of six save chances (all ending in Marlins losses), but he has also struggled coming into games when it was not a save chance.

    In 7.2 innings this year, Bell has given up 10 runs on 13 hits while walking eight hitters against just five strikeouts and his grip on the Marlins' closer's job is slipping away.

    Last night, Edward Mujica got the save opportunity and shut down the Giants without a hitch, and the night before he had to come into the game on Bell's behalf to clean up his mess.

    Ozzie Guillen has hinted that a closer change is near, and it will definitely be something to watch for this weekend.

Were the Mets That Bad...or Was Houston That Good?

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    Depending on who you root for, the series in Houston was either very ugly or some of the best baseball you have seen in a long time.

    The Mets were coming off an impressive series win in Colorado, where the bullpen did everything possible to give away leads, but the lineup would not give up and managed to pull out two wins. They went into Houston with a 13-9 record but came out empty-handed, getting swept by a team that had been 8-14.

    For the Astros, the story is the complete opposite. They pitched, hit, you name it. They outscored the Mets 18-7, but even that disparity does not do justice to how well Houston played compared to the Mets. 

    So the question now becomes, what should we expect going forward?

    Can the Astros' offense continue to generate runs while their pitching keeps them in the game? And for the Mets, are they the team of fighters that they were in Colorado, or the team that laid down against a seemingly inferior opponent?

    The Mets play the D-Backs at home as Houston hosts the Cardinals, so each team will show us who they are with how they perform this weekend.