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By the time many of you read next week’s column the trade deadline will have passed and the dust will pretty much have settled. Most likely the future book will have seen several adjustments within hours of next Wednesday’s 1 p.m. PT deadline.

With so many teams still in contention for at least a Wild Card — especially in the National League — this week’s series and those over the weekend will force team ownerships and managements to finalize their decisions as to being buyers or sellers. It will be a signal, not just their fans but their players as well, whether or not such teams have mostly given up on this season or believe they have enough talent on hand to have a realistic shot at playing baseball in October.

As we approach that deadline there is an interesting dynamic that involves three teams with New York roots – the Mets, Yankees and San Francisco Giants.

Although the Giants left New York for the bay over 60 years ago, many in the metropolitan area still are fans of the Giants largely as a result of their fathers and grandfathers (and maybe beyond) rooting for them when based at Coogan’s Bluff and playing in the Polo Grounds.

Since entering the National League in 1962 there has been a rivalry, of sorts, between the Mets and the Yankees and the Mets, in particular, want little if anything to do with the Yankees, including engaging in trades that might strengthen the Mets as a result. The Yankees, much more often the better team over the past 57 years, pay little heed to their ‘little brother.’

In an odd way, the Mets, while still trying to win on their own, may have done severe damage to their cross town rivals with what happened this past weekend.

Perhaps the most sought after starting pitcher expected to be traded is the Giants’ Madison Bumgarner. The veteran lefty, who turns 30 on August 1, the day after the deadline – has been one of the best postseason pitchers of the past 30 seasons with a trio of World Series championships on his resume. He’s also been a solid regular season hurler as well with a career record of 115-90, a 3.08 ERA and 1.11 WHIP.

The Yankees, along with many other teams, have been interested in trading for Bumgarner, who will be a free agent after this season and may well be considered a rental pending a potential signing by the team who would land him.

The Mets were in San Francisco this past weekend for a four- game series. The Giants have been below .500 all season but have been red hot over the past month, winning 12 of 14 games since June 30 prior to the series with the Mets.

The Mets had the second worst record in the NL as the series began but still were within a manageable deficit of a Wild Card berth although their prospects were remote with so many teams to pass by. But a split of the series, or even taking three of four, would likely cause the front office to reconsider their plans to be sellers and give what likely false hope to their fans that they felt they could contend.

The weekend’s results were predictable from a Mets fan’s point of view as they dropped three of the four with all three losses not just by one run but in extra innings as well. And in the first of the three losses the Mets took a 2-1 lead in the top of the 16th inning only to surrender a pair in the bottom half of a 3-2 loss.

By taking three of four from the Mets the Giants improved to .500 for the first time all season. Monday night’s come from behind 5-4 win over the Cubs left San Francisco 51-50 and just two games out of the second Wild Card with the Wild Card leader just a half game further ahead.

With its fortunaes havingh suddenly taken an upswing, San Francisco may decide to not be a seller, hold on to Bumgarner (possibly re-signing him after the season) and add to the roster in attempt to make the playoffs in what will be likely future Hall of Fame manager Bruce Bochy’s final season on the bench.

It may mean the Yankees will have to look elsewhere for help in strengthening what has been their major weakness this season, the starting rotation.

It appears less and less likely that Luis Severino, considered their ace prior to the season, will pitch at all this season. Masahiro Tanaka and off-season acquisition James Paxton have been spotty. Domingo German, who has been their best starter, has been very solid (3.45 ERA, 1.07 WHIP in 15 starts) but is unproven. No Yankees starter is averaging more than 5.0 innings per start.

Bumgarner, averaging 6.0 IPS, is pitching his best baseball of the season over the past month with a 1.55 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and 6.8-1 strikeout to walk ratio in 29 innings in his last five starts.

From a handicapping and betting perspective we may wish to pay close attention to how teams approach the deadline with thoughts going forward. We may want to fade teams that were expected to be buyers but who have turned into sellers while looking to back teams though to be sellers but turn out to be buyers.

Teams’ decisions at the deadline not only send signals to their fans but to their players as well. This can have negative effects on teams that are sellers or even stay pat. Players know that reaching the playoffs means thousands of extra dollars in their pockets. To have their management and ownership effectively write off the season (despite their saying “we’re happy with the roster we have”) it’s only natural for players to feel a sense of disappointment when expected or hoped for improvements are not made and some teams will see significant negative results over the remainder of the season.

Here are thoughts on key weekend series, each of which could be a preview of a post-season matchup.

Dodgers at Nationals: The current future odds at the Westgate SuperBook have the Dodgers as 3-1 favorites to win the World Series whereas the Nats are 18-1. Washington is playing its baseball of the season. Although the Dodgers have the best record in MLB, and have gone 24-16 over their last 40 games, the Nationals have done a bit better over that stretch with a 27-13 mark.

The teams split their lone prior series this season with each team winning twice in L.A. Three of the four games stayed under the total while the fourth was a push. The teams combined to average just 6.0 runs per game with three shutouts. And that’s no surprise as these are two of the best starting rotations in the majors.

My preference in this series will be to look under totals of 7.5 or higher in matchups featuring the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw, Hyun-Jin Ryu or Walker Buehler against Washington’s Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg or Patrick Corbin. Scherzer is on the IL but signs point towards his returning for this series.

Yankees at Red Sox: These longtime fierce rivals meet for the first time in Boston this season. The Yanks won four of the five games played earlier this season in the Bronx and swept the two game series in London at the end of June. In winning six of the seven meetings the Yankees have outscored the Sox 56-36 including 29-21 overseas.

In averaging 13.2 total runs per game it may come as a surprise the four of the seven stayed under the total and all four were played in New York. Obviously the two London games sailed over the total although their second meeting was a low scoring 4-2 contest through six innings before the Yanks plated a nine spot in the top of the seventh.

This is a critical series for the Red Sox who entered play Tuesday trailing the Yankees by 10 games in the AL East, sitting in third, a game behind Tampa Bay. With roughly 60 games remaining the Sox cannot afford to lose this series.

Neither team has a trusted ace as Boston’s Chris Sale is having a very disappointing season (and has cost his backers 19.85 units in 20 starts). Despite those low scoring games earlier this season the way to look this weekend is at over totals of 11 or lower.

Should the Yankees lose Friday night’s opener they would be a good play in games two or three if laying -125 or less or getting plus money as an underdog against Sale or David Price.

Astros at Cardinals: The Astros are vying with the Yankees for the best record in the American and entered play Tuesday just a half-game behind New York but with two fewer losses and two and a half games ahead of third-seeded Minnesota.

St. Louis, by virtue of playing in the balanced (i.e. mediocre) NL Central are contending for both a Division title and a Wild Card berth. Though through Monday they were in second place, a game and a half behind the Cubs in the Division race the Cardinals did control the second Wild Card but with just a half game edge, which was also the same gap they had versus the top NL Wild Card.

Houston is perhaps the best balanced team in baseball, with two outstanding starting pitchers (Justin Verlander and Gerritt Colt), a solid bullpen and a deep lineup. St. Louis is more of a patchwork team with no outstanding strength. Despite being in contention the Cards are just 52-47 entering Tuesday although they have won eight of their prior ten games. Being on the road will lessen the price we have to pay to back the Astros.

Barring a midweek rainout the Cardinals will be playing for a 15th straight day when this series starts Friday. Houston will have had its own 14-day streak end with on off day Thursday. Those dynamics are another reason to like Houston. If favored by -150 or less the preference is for Verlander or Cole against any St. Louis starter. If the price is higher consider the Astros on the run line.

The best spot to back the Cardinals will be as an underdog against other than Verlander or Cole. Note that St Louis is 5-1 in starts by one of the best names in baseball, Daniel Ponce de Leon, who’s pitched well both as a starter and in relief. 


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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