20 games to go in MLB season

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Three weeks and roughly 20 games per team remain until the regular season ends and the Playoffs begin.

The Playoff field and the seeding of the teams is coming more and more into focus with each passing day and this week begins with three of the six Divisional races all but decided.

The New York Mets have surged to a 9.5 game lead over Washington in the NL East while the L A Dodgers’ lead over San Francisco in the NL West has grown to 7.5. Through Sunday the Dodgers had a one half game lead over the Mets for the 2 seed in the NL Playoffs. It is all but certain that those teams will meet in one of the two Divisional series in which home field advantage could be critical in the best of five series.

Kansas City holds a 10 game lead over Minnesota in the AL Central but their lead over Toronto for the 1 seed is just 2.5 games.

The three Divisional races that remain contentious include on that is very much a surprise. Despite holding the best record in all of baseball for most of the season the St. Louis Cardinals have seen their lead over Pittsburgh in the NL Central drop to just 2.5 games.

 The Cardinals have slumped lately, dropping 8 of 11 games, while the Pirates have won 7 of 10. The Chicago Cubs are just 6.5 games behind the Cardinals and the three teams still have series to play among each other over the next three weeks, including the Cards at the Cubs this weekend.

After taking 3 of 4 at New York this past weekend Toronto starts the week with a 3.5 game lead over the Yankees. The Blue Jays will host the Yanks for three games next week.

Three teams remain in contention in the AL West where Houston starts this week with a 1.5 game lead over Texas. The LA Angels are 4.5 games behind the Astros. But all three teams still must face one another down the stretch so each team, in theory, controls its own destiny.

The final three weeks of the season should produce drama as Divisional races and Wild Cards are determined.

Although it has not yet attracted much attention, a decision made by Major League Baseball shall do so as the final day of the regular season draws near. With the potential for Divisional and/or Wild Card races to be decided on the season’s final day, or home field advantage to be determined, MLB has scheduled all 15 games to start simultaneously, at 12:10 p.m. Pacific, 3:10 p.m. Eastern time.

In this way drama would unfold as games are being played at the same time unlike in most seasons when early starting games would or could impact what would happen later in the day.

Although the start of the football season draws most of the sports media attention in September, the winding down of the baseball season deserves just as much focus as the longest schedule in sports, 162 games, reaches its conclusion as a prelude to the Playoffs.

Here’s a look at three key series this weekend.

St. Louis Cardinals at Chicago Cubs: The Cubs have a chance to close ground on their long time rivals who have slumped lately although Chicago remains in third place behind Pittsburgh in the NL Central. St. Louis has won 10 of 16 games this season in which 9 games have gone OVER the Total, 6 have stayed UNDER and 1 game has pushed. The teams have combined to average 8.5 runs per game.

The Cubs have a formidable starting pitcher duo in Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta with Arrieta a leading contender for the NL Cy Young Award. St. Louis’ current starting rotation has five solid starters, each of whom has an ERA between 2.33 and 3.17 and a WHIP between 1.01 and 1.36. Those narrow ranges suggest a small gap between their top starter and their number 5 starts and puts the Cards in excellent position to have a strong postseason.

PLAYS: Cardinals-125 or as underdogs with any starter other than Lester or Arrieta; Cubs -150 or less with Lester or Arrieta against any Cardinals starter; UNDER 7.5 or less if Lester or Arrieta faces Michael Wacha or Jaime Garcia unless the Total in such a matchup is 9 or higher which would indicate hitter friendly winds.

LA Angels at Minnesota Twins: This four game series begins Thursday and both teams are vying for the second AL Wild Card with the Angels still harboring hopes of winning the AL West. The Twins start this week 1 game behind Texas with the Angels 2 games further back. In their only prior meetings, in mid July, the Angels won 2 of 3 from the Twins with 2 games staying UNDER the Total and 1 game pushing.

Despite the lack of outstanding starting pitching on either team, the Angels and Twins scored a total of just 17 runs over the 3 games. On balance the Angels have the better starting pitching with the Twins having the better bullpen. On paper the Angels also have the better offense but it has been very inconsistent over the past two months.

PLAYS: Either team as underdogs of +120 or more in any matchup; OVER 8.5 or lower in any matchup

NY Yankees at NY Mets: Just a few weeks ago it was thought that this would be big series for both teams’ chances of making the Playoffs. But over the past few weeks the Mets have pulled away from Washington in the NL East while the Yankees were losing ground to Toronto in the AL East. As a result, this series has much more meaning for the Yankees than for the Mets, who seem all but certain to win the NL East.

When these teams met earlier this season, in late April, the Yankees won 2 of 3 at home with 2 OVERs and a PUSH as the teams averaged a combined 9.0 runs per game. The Yankees are known more for their offense than their pitching. Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and rookie Luis Severino have been the Yanks’ best starters but they have not been as effective as the Mets’ Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard. One or more of those Mets may see their innings limited and/or starts skipped over the final three weeks of the regular season.

But just as impressive has been the Mets’ offense over the past few weeks. Through Sunday the Mets had scored at least 5 runs in 11 of their last 12 games and in 19 of their last 23 games.

PLAYS: Yankees as underdogs of any price in starts by Pineda, Tanaka or Severino against any Mets starter; Mets -125 or less with any starter other than Jon Niese against other than Pineda, Tanaka or Severino; UNDER 7.5 or higher in any matchup not involving Niese.

Andy Iskoe, and his Logical Approach, provides his popular and unique handicapping statistics to Gaming Today readers and online visitors. He has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football. Email: [email protected]

About the Author

Andy Iskoe

Owner and author of “The Logical Approach,” Andy Iskoe has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football.

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