Get ready for playoff baseball in July

AP Photo/Elise Amendola

Who says you have to wait for the fall for baseball to have a postseason feel? There are three games Monday between teams currently in playoff position.

At 7 p.m. ET (ESPN/streaming on the ESPN App), it's a meeting of potential award-winners as the Philadelphia Phillies and NL Cy Young hopeful Aaron Nola take on the Boston Red Sox and AL MVP candidates Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez.

After that, Manny Machado makes his home debut with the Los Angeles Dodgers as they host the Milwaukee Brewers (10 p.m. ET on ESPN/streaming on the ESPN App. Meanwhile, the AL West's top two teams meet in Seattle with Houston's Gerrit Cole squaring off against Seattle's James Paxton in a clash of hard-throwing aces.

Philadelphia Phillies at Boston Red Sox (7 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Monday's game features 2012 Cy Young winner David Price opposing one of the leading contenders to win the award this year, Aaron Nola. Only Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom have better odds in the NL than Nola.

Nola faces a tough test in his first career start against the Red Sox. Boston leads MLB in runs per game (5.3) and features two of the leading AL MVP contenders in Betts and Martinez. No set of teammates has finished in the top-3 in the MVP voting since Ryan Braun (first) and Prince Fielder (third) did it for the 2011 Brewers. No AL teammates have done it since Mark Teixeira (second) and Derek Jeter (third) for the 2009 Yankees.

The Red Sox are 23-6 in their past 29 games. A win Monday would give them their best 30-game stretch since 2004, when Boston went on to win its first World Series title in 86 years. The Red Sox are currently 41 games over .500, the most they've been since finishing the 1946 season 104-50.

The Red Sox enter Monday's game 74-33. If they reach win No. 75 before adding on two more losses, they'd join some pretty exclusive company.

Only twice in franchise history have the Red Sox had fewer than 35 losses at the time of win No. 75. The two times they've done it were the years they won their most (1912; 105) and second-most (1946; 104) games in franchise history. They're currently on pace for 112 wins this season.

The Phillies have played well against good teams this season. They're 30-24 (.556) against teams .500 or better, the fourth-best win percentage in MLB behind the Yankees (.660), Red Sox (.604) and Diamondbacks (.574).

Rhys Hoskins has been hot since competing in the Home Run Derby. He's hit seven home runs since the All-Star break, tied with Khris Davis and Jonathan Schoop for most in MLB. The other seven Derby participants have combined for 11 home runs since the break, and none of the other competitors has hit more than two.

Milwaukee Brewers at Los Angeles Dodgers (10 p.m. ET, ESPN)

One day before the trade deadline, the Brewers and Dodgers meet after already making trade upgrades to their lineups. The Dodgers acquired Manny Machado. Then, the Brewers - who were also in the market for Machado -- acquired Mike Moustakas and Joakim Soria. Machado is making Dodgers home debut. His Dodgers team debut also came against the Brewers, when he went 2-3 with 2 walks. Machado joins a list of other notable stars to join the Dodgers around the trade deadline over the last 10 years.

Machado and the Dodgers will face Brewers rookie right-hander Freddy Peralta, who is coming off his worst start of the season. He allowed seven runs last Wednesday against the Nationals, as many as he had allowed in his previous three starts combined.

Kenta Maeda starts for the Dodgers on Monday. Maeda has quietly been one of the best pitchers in baseball as of late. In fact, his miss percentage over his past five starts (35.8 percent) is higher than all MLB starters, including second-place Chris Sale (35.6 percent).

Maeda will have to contend with Christian Yelich, who is one of the hottest hitters in baseball. Yelich is on a 13-game hitting streak, the second-longest of his career behind a 17-game streak in 2014. During this current streak, Yelich is hitting an MLB-best .519 (28-54).

Houston Astros at Seattle Mariners (10 p.m. ET)

Since June 14, the Astros and Mariners have sat in first and second place in the division, respectively, but there's a new challenger approaching: the Oakland Athletics, who have the second-best record in MLB since then at 27-12 (.692) behind the Red Sox. While the Astros have kept pace in that span (23-15), the Mariners actually have a losing record (18-19).

What's changed for the Mariners since losing their grip on the AL West? Their luck in one-run games has started to dwindle (or perhaps return to the baseline) -- they were 21-9 in one-run games before June 14, but are 6-5 in those games since. Their offense has declined, as they're scoring less thanks to fewer home runs and much worse hitting with men on base.

James Paxton got off to a great start this season, including throwing a no-hitter on May 8.

But his last 6 starts haven't been as good. Today, he'll come off the 10-day DL to face the Astros.

The Astros will look to rebound after a rough week. They were 1-4 from this past Monday through Sunday. The only other MLB team to accrue just a single win in that span was the Padres (1-5). During the week, the Astros scored 3.6 runs per game and had a 5.16 ERA. For the season, they've scored 5.0 runs per game overall and have a 3.10 ERA, so this week was a clear departure.

They'll also be starting a week without Jose Altuve, who went on the disabled list for the first time in his career this past week. Carlos Correa hasn't played since June 25.