The final month of the regular season is shaping up as another season that will go down to the final series of the season before several playoff teams are determined.
This is especially true for the Wild Card races in each league.
Several of the divisional races seem to have been decided with Baltimore, the Los Angeles Angels and Washington having leads of at least 7 games in the AL East, AL West and NL East respectively.
Races in the other three divisions remain contentious although St. Louis appears to be breaking away in the NL Central with a 4.5 game lead over Pittsburgh.
In the AL Central, Kansas City has a 2 game lead over Detroit and the Los Angeles Dodgers have a 3 game lead over San Francisco in the NL West.
Six teams are still in reasonable contention for the two AL Wild Cards with Oakland holding on to a 2 game lead for the first Wild Card over Seattle. Four teams are within 5 games of the Mariners for that second WC with Detroit just a half game back. Cleveland, the New York Yankees and Toronto the other teams within 5 games of Seattle.
San Francisco is in better shape in the NL with a 3.5 game lead over Pittsburgh for the first Wild Card. Both Atlanta and Milwaukee start this week just a half game behind the Pirates with 69-72 Miami just 4.5 games out.
With several series remaining over the next three weeks that match contending teams against one another we have the potential for many twists and turns before the Playoffs begin. That means shrewd forecasting could create the chance for some attractive futures plays with so many teams still having realistic chances.
Is anyone really surprised that the St. Louis Cardinals have saved their best play for when it matters most? Taking advantage of a severe slump by Milwaukee, the team that led the NL Central for much of the season, the Cardinals have vaulted to the top of the division and now have catcher Yadier Molina back in the lineup and behind the plate to handle the pitching staff.
Although much attention is being paid to the just started college and pro football seasons there are still opportunities for profit in baseball. Caution must be exercised as rosters were expanded on Sept. 1 and many teams no longer in contention are giving their youngsters extended playing time. That has the effect of increasing the prices you must lay with favorites but, especially when a fourth or fifth starter is on the mound, there will be opportunities to back a hard trying highly priced underdog.
At the same time, we will see many competitively priced games involving a pair of teams still in contention.
It promises to be a dramatic home stretch to the season as less than 20 games remain.
Here’s a look at four series this weekend.
Dodgers at Giants: The Giants have won 7 of 13 games between these long time rivals. Six of the games have gone OVER, 6 stayed UNDER with 1 push as the Giants and Dodgers have combined to average 6.8 runs per game. The Dodgers started this week with a 3 game lead over the Giants in the NL West but with San Francisco having a 3.5 game lead over Pittsburgh for the first Wild Card. Both teams have strong rotations with the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw the best pitcher in the game.
H J Ryu and Zack Greinke are also having solid seasons. The Giants are led by Madison Bumgarner and Tim Hudson but Jake Peavy, a trade deadline acquisition, has pitched well over the past month and has a 2.36 ERA and 1.09 WHIP in his 8 Giants starts. The Dodgers have the deeper lineup but San Francisco has also been hitting the ball as well as they have all season over the past two weeks.
Plays: Either team as underdogs of any price in starts by the Dodgers’ Kershaw, Greinke or Ryu or the Giants’ Bumgarner, Hudson or Peavy; UNDER 7 or higher in any matchup; In matchups involving two of those named pitchers, half a unit on UNDER 3.5 for the first 5 innings and half a unit on UNDER 6 or 6.5 for the game.
Yanks at Orioles: This could be the last gasp for the Yankees, both in terms of catching the Orioles and, more realistically, making a run at a Wild Card. The Yanks are 4.5 games out of the second AL Wild Card but with two teams between themselves and Seattle. Baltimore has controlled the series this season, winning 8 of 11 games. The teams have played 4 OVERS, 5 UNDERS and 1 push with one low scoring game shortened by rain and resulting in no Totals action.
Plays: Yankees +125 or more in starts by Michael Pineda or Brandon McCarthy against any Baltimore starter; Baltimore -125 or less in starts by Chris Tillman, Bud Norris or WY Chen against other than Pineda or McCarthy; UNDER 8 or higher in starts by the Yankees’ Pineda or Hiroki Kuroda; OVER 7.5 or lower in starts not involving Pineda or Kuroda.
Indians at Tigers: The Tigers and Indians have played 10 OVERs and 6 UNDERs while averaging a combined 10.1 runs per game. This is a key series for both teams, especially Cleveland. However, the Indians may have the two currently hottest starting pitchers on either team with Corey Kluber and Danny Salazar.
The Tigers’ Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and David Price have been inconsistent of late although Scherzer’s recent struggles have been mostly on the road. He’s been brilliant at home. AL MVP Miguel Cabrera has started to heat up for the Tigers and he’s been known to carry Detroit for stretches over the past few seasons.
Plays: Cleveland as underdogs of any price in starts by Kluber or Salazar against any Detroit starter; Tigers -140 or less with any starter against other than Kluber or Salazar; UNDER 7.5 or higher if Kluber or Salazar oppose Price, Scherzer, Verlander or Rick Porcello; OVER 8 or lower if none of those 6 named pitchers start.
A’s at Mariners: Oakland now trails the Angels by a whopping 7 games in the AL West and has just a 2 game lead for the first AL Wild Card with Seattle controlling the second, but by just a half game over Detroit. Seattle leads the season series 9 games to 7 with the teams playing 6 OVERS and 10 UNDERS, averaging just 6.4 combined runs per game.
The Mariners are the much hotter team. Over the last 30 games Seattle is 20-10 whereas Oakland is 11-19! Both teams are deep in starting pitching with Oakland trotting out Sonny Gray, Jeff Samardzija, Scott Kazmir and Jon Lester while Seattle counters with Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma and up and coming lefty James Paxton.
Plays: Either team on Sunday if looking to avoid a series sweep; otherwise, either team at +120 or more in matchups of Gray, Kazmir, Lester or Samardzija vs. Hernandez, Iwakuma or Paxton; UNDER 7 or higher in any matchup; UNDER 6.5 if two of the seven listed pitchers are involved, with half of the play UNDER 3.5 for the first 5 innings.
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. Contact Andy at [email protected]