Barely 10 games remain in the regular season and within the past week three teams, all in the National League, have clinched spots in the Playoffs.
Cincinnati and San Francisco clinched Division titles while NL East leading Washington clinched at least a Wild Card.
The Nationals start this final full week of play with a 4½ game lead over second place Atlanta. Interestingly, even though they’ve yet to clinch the Division title, the Nats have the best record in the NL. At 92-60 they are a half-game ahead of Cincinnati for the top seed.
Atlanta is in control of the first NL Wild Card with a 6-game lead over St. Louis. In turn, the Cardinals’ grip on the second Wild Card is 2½ over Milwaukee and three over the LA Dodgers. Arizona, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh remain mathematically alive but their realistic chances of making up ground and passing the several teams ahead of them are remote.
No American League team has clinched even a Wild Card although the New York Yankees, Chicago White Sox and Texas control their own destinies as Division leaders. Of this group Texas is in the best position with their four-game lead over Oakland in the West.
Note that the Rangers host Oakland for four game that began on Monday and runs through Thursday. They will then end the season with a three game series in Oakland next Monday through Wednesday.
The Yankees have a slim one-game lead over Baltimore in the East and Chicago remains a game ahead of Detroit in the Central. All four teams have exactly 10 games remaining as of Monday morning.
Baltimore controls the first AL Wild Card, a game better than Oakland. The A’s are 2½ games ahead of the Los Angeles Angels and 3½ over Tampa Bay. While Oakland hosts Texas in next week’s final series, Tampa Bay entertains Baltimore.
It’s almost certain that the loser of the AL Central race between Chicago and Detroit will not be in position to earn one of the Wild Cards.
There’s a real good chance that more than one Playoff team won’t be determined until next Wednesday, the final night of the regular season.
Baseball has a tough act to follow to exceed the excitement from the drama that unfolded on the final night of the 2011 regular season. But the ingredients are in place for a repeat performance.
Here’s a look at the three series this weekend that involve both teams still looking to make the Playoffs or to improve its position.
Nationals at Cardinals: In their only prior series this season, Washington took three of four games at home a month ago. The OVER is 3-1. St. Louis is an above average offensive team, scoring 5.0 runs per game at home. The Nationals have been almost as potent, averaging 4.5 rpg both at home and on the road.
Washington’s strength remains its pitching, even with ace Stephen Strasburg shut down. St. Louis has also gotten solid starting pitching that is often overshadowed by the offense. The Cardinals are playing with the greater need.
• Cards -130 or less in any matchup.
• Nats +150 in any matchup.
• UNDER 9 or higher in any matchup.
Angels at Rangers: The teams have split their 16 previous games this season. The OVER is 9-6-1. The Halos have relied more on pitching than on their offense, especially at home where they are averaging fewer runs per game (4.3) than they do on the road (5.2).
Texas is averaging more runs per game on the road (4.5) than the Angels do at home. But Texas also has the weaker starting pitching. The Angels start the week as winners of 18 of their last 25 games.
• Angels -140 or less in starts by Jered Weaver, Dan Haren or Zack Greinke against any Texas starter.
• Rangers +125 or more against any other Angels starter.
• UNDER 8 or higher in any matchup.
• UNDER 7 or higher if Weaver or Greinke faces Matt Harrison or Yu Darvish.
Rays at White Sox: This four game series starts Thursday. Tampa relies on an outstanding pitching staff, but the offense has been a weakness. The Rays have scored two runs or less 45 times this season, including 21 at home. The White Sox have an average pitching staff with an above average offense.
Chicago has a strong home/road contrast, averaging nearly 1½ runs more at home (5.3) than on the road (3.9). Both teams have been playing essentially .500 baseball for over a month. Note that in games starter by Alex Cobb and Jeremy Hellickson, the Rays have played 11 OVERS and 37 UNDERs.
• Rays -125 or less in a start by David Price or James Shields.
• White Sox -140 or less not facing Price or Shields.
• UNDER 8 or higher in any matchup.
• UNDER 7½ or higher in starts by Tampa’s Cobb or Hellickson against any Chicago starter.
Andy Iskoe and his Logical Approach is one of the most popular statistical breakdowns in sports betting. Andy is also a longtime baseball and football columnist at GT. Contact Andy at Andy[email protected]