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The first significant milestone of the 2012 season has passed as Memorial Day has traditionally been a time to review what has happened over the slightly more than a quarter of the season that has been played.

By this weekend almost every team will have played at least 50 games and within the next week or so the one third point of the season will be reached. As noted last week a couple of players who had struggled for more than a month at the start of the season have indeed started to heat up.

Both Albert Pujols of the Los Angeles Angels and the New York Yankees’ Mark Teixeira have been hot over the past week as the teams meet to kick off an early week series in Los Angeles. The Angels start the week riding a six-game winning streak, the longest such streak in baseball.

The Yankees had a chance on Monday to equal that streak and end the Angels’ as the Bronx Bombers had won five in a row. The Chicago White Sox also started the week on a five-game winning streak and had scored nine or more runs in four straight games through Sunday. The suddenly potent Pale Hose have scored at least six runs in 10 of their last 13 games.

At the other end of the spectrum are a pair of National League teams that are not playing well. Chicago’s Cubs had lost a dozen games in a row through Sunday while the Atlanta Braves started play on Monday having lost seven straight.

Three teams, all in the AL, entered Memorial Day with five-game losing streaks with one of those streaks certain to be extended as Minnesota hosted Oakland. Toronto also had lost five in a row as they hosted Baltimore following a three-game series in Texas in which the Blue Jays were outscored by the Rangers 34-16. Ouch!

Memorial Day finds the Los Angeles Dodgers having baseball’s best record at 32-15, winning more than two of every three games. The Dodgers have opened up the largest lead of any division leader, up by7½ games over second place San Francisco in the NL West.

Only one other NL team is winning at least 60 percent of its games. The Washington Nationals, at 29-18, lead the NL East by 2½ games at the start of the week with the surprising New York Mets sitting second. This is arguably the strongest division in all of baseball with all five teams sporting winning records. 

Defending NL East champion Philadelphia is in last place with a 25-24 record and has had to deal with multiple key injuries since the start of the season.

The NL Central finds Cincinnati leading St. Louis by 1½ games at the season’s first milepost with the other four teams in that division below .500.

Baseball’s second best division is the AL East where three of the five teams have winning records and the fourth place club at .500. Last place Boston is just a game below .500 at 23-24. Tied atop the division are Tampa Bay and surprising Baltimore. Their 29-19 records are second only to Texas in the AL.

The Rangers, at 30-18, lead the AL West and hold a 6½ game lead over Los Angeles. The Angels have rallied over the past couple of weeks to escape the division cellar and have a chance to make up more ground on Texas when they host the Rangers for a three game weekend series.

Detroit was considered to be the runaway winner of the AL Central but more than a quarter of the way into the season the Tigers are struggling with a 23-24 record. Ace starter Justin Verlander is again putting up excellent stats but a lack of run support has seen Detroit win just six of his 10 starts. 

Verlander is still the top pitcher in the game with his 2.15 ERA, 0.81 WHIP and his averaging 7.5 innings pitched per start. Cleveland currently leads Chicago by a slim half game in the AL Central but Detroit is just three back and certainly capable of meeting those preseason expectations as the season progresses.

Home teams are 365-350 this season and that win percentage of just 51 percent is low compared to recent seasons. It continues the decline seen in home team success. Home teams won nearly 56 percent of all games in 2010, but dropped dramatically to just 52.5 percent last season.

The gap between OVER / UNDER is extremely narrow with 2012. The UNDER holds a narrow 345-340 edge with 29 games “pushing” and one no decision.

Here are four series to be played this weekend.

Marlins at Phils: These NL East rivals meet for their second series of the season. The Phillies took two of three in their first meeting, also in Philadelphia, back in early April. Two went OVER the total although the teams combined for just 20 runs for the three games. 

Although Anibal Sanchez and Carlos Zambrano have been Florida’s most effective pitchers, ace Josh Johnson has started to show signs of returning to the outstanding form he displayed before he was injured and missed most of last season. The Phillies have pitching concerns with ace Roy Halladay leaving his last start on Sunday with shoulder soreness and Vance Worley already on the DL. 

Still, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels give the Phillies perhaps the best two lefties on any staff in baseball. he Philly offense continues to struggle with Chase Utley and Ryan Howard out since the start of the season. To make matter worse Philly averages a full run less per game at home (3.6) than on the road (4.6). Yet Miami has one of the more dramatic home/road differentials as the Marlins average just 3.2 runs per game on the road (versus 4.8 at home).

Potential plays:

• UNDER 8 or higher in any matchup.

• Miami +150 or more against Hamels or Lee.

• Miami as underdogs of any price in starts by Johnson, Sanchez or Zambrano not facing than Hamels or Lee.

Cards at Mets: New York and St. Louis are meeting for the first time this season in a four games series that concludes next Monday. Both teams are playing surprisingly good baseball with the Mets’ performance more of a surprise than that of the defending World Series champs who lost several key components from last season. 

Both teams have gotten solid starting pitching with Johan Santana and R A Dickey anchoring the Mets’ resurgence. The Cards have gotten better balance up and down the rotation with Kyle Lohse having been the most consistent. The good news for St. Louis is that Adam Wainwright, who struggled throughout April after, like the Mets’ Santana, having missed all of 2011, has been very sharp over his last several outings. 

The Cardinals do have the better offense, an edge that is enhanced by averaging 4.6 runs per game on the road while the Mets average just 3.6 at home.

Potential plays:

• St. Louis+125 or more against Dickey or Santana.

• St. Louis -125 or less against other Mets starters.

• Mets -125 or less in starts by Dickey or Santana.

• UNDER 8 or higher in starts by Dickey or Santana.

• OVER 7 or lower in starts not by Dickey or Santana

Red Sox at Jays: Toronto took two of three from the Red Sox in the only previous series this season between these AL East rivals, also played in Toronto, back in early April. Two stayed UNDER as the teams combined to average just 6.7 total runs per game. Boston has started to play as expected after struggling in April and has done so despite the absence of key hitters including Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford. 

Boston’s starting pitching has started to improve but remains an overall weakness. Josh Beckett has been more consistent of late but both Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz have not. Toronto’s best starter has been Brandon Morrow. Talented Kyle Drabek has improved since last season but has a distinct home/road contrast with significantly better efforts at home than on the road. 

This has the makings of a high scoring series as the Blue Jays average 5.4 runs per game at home, more than a run higher than they do on the road. Boston averages slightly over five runs per game both home and on the road. 

Potential plays:

• OVER 9 or lower in any matchup not involving Beckett or Morrow.

• UNDER 8 or higher in starts by either Morrow or Beckett.

• Boston +120 or more against Morrow.

• Boston as underdogs of any price against other Toronto starters.

Rangers at Angels: These AL West rivals met in Texas just a few weeks ago in mid May with the host Rangers winning two of three games. Two went OVER as the teams scored a total of 38 runs in that series. Texas has arguably the best offense in baseball, averaging more than 5.5 runs per game both at home and on the road. 

The Angels have started to score more now that Albert Pujols has been swinging a better bat, but the Halos still average less than four runs per game both home and away. The Angels have the better and deeper starting rotation with Jered Weaver and ex-Ranger C J Wilson the top two performers. But the dropoff to the rest of the rotation is not that great. Texas does not have a true ace with perhaps Colby Lewis and rookie Yu Darvish their top two. 

Neither is in the class of a Weaver, Wilson or even a Dan Haren. This is an important series for the Angels who seek to make up ground on division leading Texas. Despite Texas’ great offense the Rangers have actually played two more UNDER than OVER games this season. The Angels have been involved in just 16 OVER and 32 UNDER contests, second only to Pittsburgh with respect to the highest percentage of UNDER.

Potential plays:

• UNDER 8 or higher in starts by the Angels’ Haren, Weaver or Wilson.

• Angels -130 or less in starts by Weaver or Wilson.

• Rangers as underdogs of any price against Ervin Santana or Jerome Williams.

• Rangers +140 or more against Haren, Weaver or Wilson.

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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