Expect final three days to set pro baseball playoff look

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Just 2½ weeks or five series per team remain in the regular season and the race to make the playoffs may well go down to the final three games played Monday through Wednesday, Oct. 1-3.

The three division leaders in the National League appear to be quite secure as Washington (5½ games), Cincinnati (11) and San Francisco (7½) each have leads of more than 5 with 16 or fewer games remaining.

The situation is different in the American League where no division leader is up by more than 3. Texas leads Oakland by 3 in the West, Chicago is 2 ahead of Detroit in the Central and the New York Yankees are just 1 up on Baltimore in the East. A 5-2 week by a second place team would be enough to catch the division leader if that leader goes 2-5 or 3-4.

The wild card races are contentious in both leagues.

In the NL 8 teams remain in contention. Even the San Diego Padres are within 6 of the second wild card. Atlanta is 7 ahead of St. Louis for the first NL wild card but the Cardinals are just a game ahead of the LA Dodgers for the second wild card. Surging Milwaukee is just 2½ behind St. Louis and fading Pittsburgh just a half game further back.

Philadelphia failed to capitalize on a golden opportunity to make up ground, dropping 3 of 4 on the road to lowly Houston. Still, the Phillies are just 4 out of that second wild card, a half-game ahead of Arizona.

Oakland controls the first AL wild card with a 2-game lead over Baltimore. The Orioles’ grasp on the second wild card is 2½ over the Angels with Tampa Bay 4 behind Baltimore and Detroit another half game back.

It will be tough to match the drama of last season’s final days but with the introduction of a second Wild Card in each league and three still competitive Divisional races in the American League, the conclusion to the 2012 regular season could come close.

Here’s a look at four series of interest this weekend.

Brewers at Nationals: This is a four game series that concludes on Monday. These teams have played just one prior series with Washington taking 3 of 4 games in Milwaukee at the end of July. The OVER/UNDER split 2-2 with the teams averaging a combined 10½ runs per game. 

After a shaky start to the season Yovani Gallardo has been Milwaukee’s best starter over the last three months. Washington’s entire rotation has been solid all season and the trio of Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and Ross Detwiler have very similar stats for the full season. 

Potential plays: 

• Nationals – 150 or less not facing Gallardo.

• Brewers underdogs of any price in a start by Gallardo.

UNDER 9 or higher in any matchup.

• UNDER 7½ or higher if Gallardo faces Gonzalez, Zimmermann or Detwiler.

Braves at Phillies: Atlanta has won 10 of their 15 prior meetings this season. The UNDER is 9-5-1 with the teams averaging 9.3 runs per game. Philadelphia has the deeper starting pitching with veteran lefty Cliff Lee pitching his best ball of the season over his last half dozen starts. Roy Halladay has been vulnerable but Cole Hamels has been steady all season. 

Kris Medlen, pitching in relief for most of the season, has been outstanding since being inserted into the rotation. The Braves have won all 9 of his starts and Medlen’s ERA is 0.86 with a WHIP of 0.85 in 63 innings as a starter. Atlanta  with a healthy Chipper Jones have the better overall offensive stats.

Potential plays:

• UNDER 8 or higher in any matchup.

• UNDER 7 or higher if Hamels or Lee opposes Medlen.

• Braves +140 in any matchup.

• Braves -130 or less if Medlen doesn’t face Hamels or Lee.

• Phillies -125 or less not facing Medlen.

Athletics at Yankees: The teams have met for two series, both in Oakland. New York swept the first, winning all 3 back in late May. Oakland swept the four game series played in mid July. The UNDER is 4-3 with the teams averaging just 6.6 runs in the 7 games. Oakland has gotten outstanding starting pitching all season and statistically rates the edge over the Yanks. 

New York’s edge is at the plate and arguably in late inning relieve but the Bronx Bombers continue to be plagued by injuries. Oakland’s Brett Anderson, injured much of the season, has been outstanding in his first 5 starts of the season while Hiroki Kuroda has been the Yankees’ most effecting and consistent starter. 

Potential plays:

• Athletics +160 in any matchup.

• Athletics +140 or more in a start by Anderson.

• Yankees -125 or less in any matchup.

• OVER 9 or lower in matchups not involving Anderson or Kuroda.

White Sox at Angels: Chicago has won 3 of 5 games against the Angels. The OVER is 3-2 with the teams averaging 9.4 total runs. Chris Sale and Jake Peavy have been Chicago’s best starting pitchers. For the Angels Jered Weaver has been the ace although Zack Greinke, acquired from Milwaukee at the trade deadline, has pitched well in recent starts.

Chicago has been the more productive team at the plate. Further hindering the Angels is the fact that they have averaged nearly a run per game less at home (4.3) than on the road (5.2).

Potential plays:

• UNDER 8 or higher in most matchups.

• UNDER 7 or higher if Sale or Peavy oppose Weaver or Greinke.

• White Sox -130 or less if Peavy or Sale doesn’t face Weaver or Greinke.

• Angels -140 or less if Weaver or Greinke don’t meet Sale or Peavy.

• Underdog at +110 or high in matchups involving Sale or Peavy against Weaver or Greinke.

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] 

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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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