Major League Baseball is running a full schedule again this weekend.  There are some interesting matchups that will probably have an influence on who will make the playoffs and who will not.  These are my picks of the week:

Los Angeles Angels (51-46) at Texas (55-40)

This is an AL West affair between the only two teams in the division who have a chance to get a playoff spot.  Leading five games over the second-place Angels, the Rangers would like to win a few more in this four-game series to widen their gap. 

The odds should favour the home side, as they have been hot since the All-Star break, taking both series in Boston and Detroit.  Besides, manager Ron Washington will have two ace pitchers ready on the mound this weekend: Cliff Lee (8-4, 2.59) on Thursday and C.J. Wilson (8-5, 3.23) on Friday.  Sunday starter Tommy Hunter (7-0, 2.09) is looking for a three-game winning streak.

The Angels split a two-game series with the Yankees in New York after beating the Seattle Mariners three games out of four.  They certainly need to bring their offensive power to Texas.  In the last two games against the Yankees, they scored a total of 16 runs, 10 of them produced by five home runs.    

The Rangers only played five times against the Angels so far this season and have a winning record of 3-2.

New York Mets (49-46) at Los Angeles Dodgers (50-46) 

Both teams have very similar records, but they are sitting in different positions in their respective divisions.  The Mets are second in the NL East, six-and-a-half games behind the Atlanta Braves; the Dodgers, contrarily, are in fourth place, six games behind the division-leading San Diego Padres. 

With 2B Luis Castillo, SS Jose Reyes, and CF Carlos Beltran back from the disabled list earlier this week, the Mets seem to have an ideal lineup.  However, their recent results do not reflect that, and they are quite disappointing.  In their present West Coast trip, they lost three games out of four in San Francisco before being swept by the last-place Arizona Diamondbacks.

SP Mike Pelfrey (10-5, 4.01) should be the real concern for the Mets.  Although he has already reached 10 victories, he is on a three-game losing streak.  In his last four games, he gave up 21 runs in 14.2 innings (ERA of 12.89).  His last outing against the Diamondbacks was the shortest in his career, lasting only 1.1 innings.

He will be on the mound on Saturday against Jason McDonald (0-1, 7.20) who filled in the No. 5 spot in the Dodgers’ rotation.

Johan Santana (7-5, 2.87) is scheduled to pitch on Friday night for the Mets.  He is the only pitcher that manager Jerry Manuel can rely on right now.  Santana gave up only one run in eight innings facing the Giants last Sunday, but did not factor in the game’s decision.  He has the reputation to pitch well in the second half of the season.

The Dodgers experienced a six-game losing streak before beating San Francisco Wednesday night.  They lost all four games against the St. Louis Cardinals last weekend. 

The Dodgers are looking for an urgent solution for their big problem; their offensive productivity is low.  The heart of the lineup is not generating any runs or getting any hits.  Hitters from the No. 3 to No. 5 slots only hit .156 (5-for-32) collectively, scored three runs, and had four RBI in their series against the Giants.

They need Manny Ramirez, but he is not available.  The right calf strain sent him back to the 15-day DL, his third trip of the season. 

Although the Dodgers will enjoy home-field advantage this weekend, they are only 5-11 against teams from the NL East.  The teams’ last meeting was in late April, when the Mets swept the Dodgers in Citi Field.

Note: It will be a Japanese pitching duo on Thursday night: Hisanori Takahashi (7-4, 4.69) for the Mets and Hiroki Kuroda (7-8, 3.74) for the Dodgers.

Colorado (51-43) at Philadelphia (48-46)

The Phillies cannot afford to lose any more games, as they have already slid down to third place in their division.  They are currently seven games behind the Atlanta Braves and a half game behind the New York Mets, thanks to their four-game losing streak.

They have one more game in St. Louis on Thursday before flying back home to face the Rockies starting Friday night.  

The Phillies lineup is not producing enough runs; they scored only six runs in the last three games.  They need some quick fixes offensively this weekend to get back on track. 

Both Roy Halladay and Kyle Kendrick, who will start in the first two games of the series, suffered losses in their previous outings.  Halladay was victimized in Wrigley Field, giving up five runs (including two home runs) and six hits in six innings.  Kendrick only won once in his last six starts.  His previous start resulted in a loss to the St. Louis Cardinals Monday. 

The Rockies are 2-4 since the All-Star Break, losing both series to the Cincinnati Reds and the Florida Marlins.  But there is a positive side to look at.  Starting pitcher Jeff Francis (3-3, 4.63), who has spent most of the season’s first half on the disabled list, pitched seven solid shutout innings on Tuesday night to help the Rockies beat the Marlins, 10-0.  He will start again on Sunday. 

However, 15-game winner Ubaldo Jimenez was not so smooth in Miami.  He gave up six runs (four earned) in the 8-9 loss.  His start against Kyle Kendrick on Saturday will be a great pitching matchup. 

This weekend’s matchup is only the second time both teams meet.  The first time was in May in Colorado; only two games were played in that three-game series because the second game was postponed.  They split the series 1-1. 

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