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Less than two weeks remain in the regular season with much still to be decided. In addition to division winners and the four Wild Card teams, the race for the right to host potential Games 6 and 7 of the World Series is being tightly contested. 

That honor goes to the team with the best overall record and entering play Tuesday three teams were separated by just one game. New York and Houston are tied for the best American League record (98-53) with the Astros holding the tiebreaker by winning four of seven games between the teams this season. The Los Angeles Dodgers lead the National League at 97-54. 

Just seven teams remain in playoff contention in the American League. Boston could be eliminated by the end of this weekend leaving Cleveland, Oakland and Tampa Bay vying for the two AL Wild Cards. Both Houston and the Yankees are all but certain to win their divisions, being within a few days of officially clinching playoff spots. Minnesota has a five-game lead over Cleveland in the AL Central. 

Only two series this weekend match potential playoff teams against one another. In all but one of the other 13 series at least one team has a losing record. Only Boston at Tampa Bay features two winning teams although Boston trails Tampa by 8 games for the second Wild Card with just 13 games left.

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Here’s a look at three key weekend matchups:

Cardinals at Cubs: This four-game series starts Thursday and the teams end the season with three games in Chicago next weekend. Remarkably the home team has won 11 of 12 meeting this season. The lone road win was a 2-0 Cubs win at the end of July.

These final seven meetings will have a huge impact on the NL Central race. Entering Tuesday the Cardinals held a two-game lead over the Cubs with Milwaukee one game further back.  The Brewers end the season playing only teams with losing records.

For the Cubs, starters Yu Darvish and Kyle Hendricks are in great form. St. Louis’ best starter for the past half-season has been Jack Flaherty although veteran Adam Wainwright and emerging Dakota Hudson are also pitching their best ball of the year. In matchups involving two of these starters look Under totals of 9 or higher and play the underdog in such matchups. Otherwise look to back Flaherty, Hudson or Wainwright against other than Darvish or Hendricks if laying no more than -125.

Similarly, back Darvish or Hendricks against the Cards if laying no more than -150 against other than the three aforementioned St Louis starters.

Red Sox at Rays: It’s possible Boston might be officially eliminated from the playoffs either prior to or during this series. The Rays may well be playing for a Wild Card berth into the final weekend.

Although Tampa has employed an “opener” very often this season they’ve just gotten back both Tyler Glasnow and Blake Snell to join Charlie Morton as part of a solid starting trio.  Even fourth starter Ryan Yarbrough has been effective, going at least six innings in 10 of his 12 starts.

Boston’s starters have struggled all season and with their top starters Chris Sale and David Price both sidelined, there’s no quality starter to support backing in this series.

The Rays can be played throughout the series if laying -130 or less in any matchup. They have a realistic chance to host the Wild Card game and are more likely than the Red Sox to micro-manage every inning.

With both Glasnow and Snell just off the IL, each may be limited in their innings pitched which could result in higher than expected scoring. Look Over totals of 8.5 or less or 9 or less in starts by Boston’s Rick Porcello (19-11 to the Over) or Eduardo Rodriguez (19-10-1 to the Over).

Phillies at Indians: This weekend’s lone interleague series involves two teams seeking a Wild Card in their respective leagues. A sweep by either team likely deals a fatal blow to the Wild Card chances of the victim.

The Phillies bring the more potent offense to this series while the Indians have the better pitching. Cleveland starters Shane Bieber, Aaron Civale and Mike Clevinger can each be backed at prices of -150 or less and you might consider both a First Five Innings play as well as a Full Game play (Cleveland has the better bullpen).

An exception would be if a member of that trio is opposed by Philly ace Aaron Nola. In such a matchup Nola is playable as an underdog of +120 or more and a play on Under a total of 7.5 or higher is also justifiable.

A start by Bieber against other Philly starters can also be played Under totals of 8 or higher.  Note that Bieber’s 31 starts have produced 20 Unders, 9 Overs and 2 Pushes.


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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