Week Ahead: Crazy NL West to get crazier

Week Ahead: Crazy NL West to get crazier

The days of summer arrive officially in the week ahead, but on the baseball fields of the American and National Leagues, they'll be anything but lazy.

June 21, which arrives on Wednesday, is the solstice, but it's also another milestone for the teams jockeying for position for berths in the much cooler month of October.

And when it comes to the next seven days of the Major League schedule, there's a lot of moving and shaking going on.

Take the crazy National League West, which is set to get crazier this week.

After Sunday's games, the top three clubs in the division have won a combined 15 consecutive games. First-place Colorado is on a five-game streak, capped by Sunday's win over the Giants at Coors Field, in which third baseman Nolan Arenado's walk-off home run gave him the cycle.

"It's getting loud here -- that's the loudest it's ever been," Arenado said of the downtown Denver crowd. "I think the fans and people in general are starting to get the hint that we are for real."

Only one potential issue for the Rockies -- so, apparently, are the two teams chasing them.

The D-backs have won seven in a row, and the Dodgers have won their last three. Arizona and Los Angeles are tied at 44-26, a game behind Colorado.

And this week the D-backs visit the Rockies in a three-game set that begins on Tuesday at Coors Field before the Rockies head out to Dodger Stadium for a weekend series that starts on Friday night.

Arizona also could get the benefit of a return to action by one-time All-Star outfielder A.J. Pollock. Pollock has been on the disabled list since May 15 because of a strained right groin but is scheduled to continue his Triple-A rehab progression with Reno on Monday night.

"We're encouraged by that," D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said after Pollock played five innings on Saturday night. "He'll get re-evaluated by medical staff, and then we'll piece together the next step. Obviously, we'd like him to play again soon."

Meanwhile, moving to the American League Central, where the Twins and Indians are having quite a battle. Cleveland seized the upper hand over the weekend, finishing a series sweep on the road in emphatic fashion.

Edwin Encarnacion's two-homer, five-RBI game on Sunday and Trevor Bauer's brilliant start helped the Indians to their fifth straight win. But the Twins get another chance to make back what's now a two-game deficit in the Central, and it'll come over the weekend at Progressive Field.

Statcast: Edwin's 457-ft. homer

"You let four games go to your chief competitor, and somehow you have to get past it and learn from it," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "I don't know if you want to use it as a measuring stick, but hopefully these guys learn what it takes to go out there, and hopefully we're better for it."

The Mariners would like the chance to make some sort of dent in the large AL West lead the Astros have built, and they'll get some good news in that arena when their ace, Felix Hernandez, returns from the DL on Friday night as the two teams start a weekend series at Safeco Field.

Hernandez, who has been out since April 26 because of right shoulder bursitis, could also be joined by right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma, who's been on the DL with shoulder inflammation, and shortstop Jean Segura, who's been on the DL with a right ankle sprain.

The Mariners are also waiting for the return of another starting pitcher, Drew Smyly, from a left flexor strain, but they've treaded water, with a 34-37 record heading into the week.

For Hernandez, it's about time he got back to the mound.

"I'm looking forward to it," Hernandez said. "It's been boring."

Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @DougMillerMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.