AL West race rates all A’s for excitement

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The AL West has become very much a two team race between Oakland and Houston with Seattle lurking just 4.5 games behind first place Houston through Sunday.

This past weekend saw Oakland taking the first two games at home from Houston, tying the Astros atop the AL West following Saturday’s win. Houston regained sole possession of first place with their much needed victory on Sunday.

Seattle dropped 2 of 3 home games to the Dodgers in interleague play but still remain a threat in the Division with 7 games remaining against Oakland and 6 games left against Houston including a 3 game home series that started Monday night. Houston still has 3 games against the A’s.

Are the New York Yankees in jeopardy of missing Playoffs entirely? For most of the season the Yankees were neck and neck with Boston atop the AL East with both teams on pace to win at least 110 games. While Boston has continued its potentially record setting season (currently on pace for 114 wins) the Yankees have dropped back and now on line to win “only” 102 games.

At 78-46 the Yankees still have the second best record in baseball. They have struggled over the past month or so, beginning even before Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez were lost to injury and still remain on the DL. Over their last 40 games the Yankees are just 22-18. Compare that to Oakland which is 21-9 over the past 30. The Yankees are just 16-14.

While the Yankees are still in good shape to make the Playoffs and even host the Wild Card game their lead is not insurmountable by any means. They do lead Oakland by 4 games for the top Wild Card and Seattle is 3.5 behind the A’s. The Yankees have a 7.5 game cushion before they would be caught by the Mariners.

But (and there is always a but) both Oakland and Seattle will have their chances to gain on the Yankees beginning on Labor Day when they begin a pair of 3 game series over 7 days.

The Yankees will have a chance to extend their lead for the first Wild Card with a very favorable schedule prior to visiting Oakland. Beginning this Tuesday the Yankees play 13 straight games at Miami (2), at Baltimore (4) and then at home vs the White Sox (3) and Detroit (4).

Failure to go at least 9-6 or better and those series out West may be very, very interesting – and dicey as well.

The NL West has become a three team race. Through Sunday, Arizona had a half game lead over Colorado with the Dodgers in third place just 2 games behind the Diamondbacks. Arizona is just 13 games over .500 so this is far from a strong Division at the top.

The team to watch may be the Rockies. Colorado has played very well against a number of contending teams this season. In interleague play the Rockies are 5-1 against Seattle, 2-2 versus Houston and 3-0 vs Oakland. They are also off a weekend 4 game road sweep in Atlanta. They did lose 2 of 3 at home to the Braves but that earlier series was played in the first week of April).

After opening at 40-1 odds to win the World Series at the Westgate, Colorado is now priced at 16-1. Their NL Pennant odds have dropped from 20-1 to 7-1. Few places still have Division odds available but at William Hill the Rockies are 4-1, behind the Dodgers (-120) and Arizona (2-1). Hmmm.

Washington has many woes aside from the political arena. Every time the Nationals seem to indicate they are gelling and getting set to make a run at the Playoffs they revert right back to the form they have shown since the start of the season.

Entering this week the Nats were below .500 at 62-63, having just lost back to back games to lowly Miami, including an ugly 12-1 defeat on Sunday. Washington trails first place Atlanta in the NL East by 7 starting the week and are 6.5 games out of the second NL Wild Card (but with 5 teams to jump).

It certainly appears that this will be yet another season of disappointment in the nation’s capital – one that began with another set of high hopes and expectations that had the Nats once of the favorites to advance to and win the World Series. Dave Martinez may be a one season manager but the problems go deeper and the roster may have a much different look next spring.

Here are thoughts on three series this weekend.

St. Louis at Colorado: Both teams have been playing solid baseball over the past month and each is contending both for a Division title and a Wild Card. The Cardinals have been the hotter of the two, due in part to having won 3 of 4 home games against the Rockies as July turned into August. The OVER went 3-1.

German Marquez, Tyler Anderson and Kyle Freeland have all been steady without being dominant. And even Jon Gray has pitched much better since his brief demotion to the minors that was prompted by poor performances from the highly touted righty. St. Louis has long been built on solid starting pitching and this season both Jack Flaherty and Miles Mikolas have been solid with each sporting ERAs a shade under 3.00 and WHIPs below 1.10.

This should be a competitively priced series which usually calls for a play on either team as an underdog of +150. The Rockies can be backed at -130 or less in starts by Freeland or Marquez but the Cards can be played as underdogs of any price against Anderson, Gray or any other Colorado starter or as favorites of -120 or less in a start by Flaherty or Mikolas not facing Freeland or Marquez. At home Colorado has played 34 UNDERS and just 22 OVERS. With Totals in Colorado generally inflated we might with to look UNDER 10 or higher.

Houston at LA Angels: This becomes a huge series for the Astros this series. If so, the Angels would be playable as huge underdogs of +165 or more against any Houston starter. And even without Trout the Angels would be playable as underdogs of any price against Houston’s fifth starter should one be used. That game would also present the best opportunity for an OVER play.

In starts by Verlander, Cole or Morton consider playing UNDER 8 or higher and in a start by Keuchel move that up half a run to UNDER 8.5 or higher. Should the Astros start someone other than a member of that quarter look OVER 8.5 or lower.

Seattle at Arizona: The lone interleague series of the weekend pits a pair of contending teams. Seattle is still in the hunt for the AL West but they are more realistically battling for an AL Wild Card. Arizona is contending for both an NL Wild Card and the NL West title. This will be their lone series this season.

Arizona has two quality starters in Zack Greinke and Patrick Corbin with both Robbie Ray and Zack Godley providing decent depth. Seattle has an ace in James Paxton although he is on the DL and unlikely to return for this series. But the Mariners have gotten solid efforts from Marco Gonzales, Mike Leake and Wade LeBlanc, each of whom has an ERA below 4.00 and WHIP’s between 1.15 and 1.26. Arizona’s offense has come to life the past few weeks while Seattle is struggling.

The Mariners entered this week having scored 2 runs or less in 4 of their last 5 games and that was with Robinson Cano having returned from his 80 game suspension. The Mariners, despite their 71-54 record, have been outscored this season by 42 runs and the sabermetrics tool created by Bill James, his version of the Pythagorean Theorem, holds that Seattle should have won just 57.6 games.

If the Mariners are getting at least +160 in starts by Greinke or Corbin, or +130 or more against other Arizona starters, the value would be on taking those generous prices. But if the Diamondbacks are favored by prices that make the Mariners less than the just cited priced underdogs, we can lay the price with the Snakes. Even with Seattle’s struggles at the plate entering this week there would be a slight preference for playing OVER 7.5 or less in starts by Greinke or Corbin and OVER 8 or less in all other matchups.

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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