Long ball fuels top teams

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We all grew up with our favorite baseball announcers and commentators. There was Vin Scully on the west coast, Harry Caray in the midwest and Phil Rizzuto back east.

To this day, I would swear that every time Aaron Judge launches one into the bleachers, I can hear “The Scooter” belt out his catch phrase, “Holy Cow!”

It seems that home runs are more important than ever in baseball these days. To date, MLB has blasted over 6,525 homers this season, surpassing the previous record of 6,105 set in 2017.

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As you know, there are five teams in each league that get to the postseason. The wild card contests begin October 1-2. Let’s talk about home runs and the relationship they have with the teams that are going to compete for the championship.

The best home-run hitting teams in baseball (as of Monday) are the Yankees, Twins, Astros, Dodgers, A’s, Cubs, Braves, and Brewers. All but Chicago are seeded for a postseason spot right now. The Rays (21st in homers), Indians (18th), Nationals (14th), and Cardinals (24th) are all in or vying for a spot. Do you think it’s a coincidence that most of the top teams in baseball are hitting the long ball?

The game has changed quite a bit over the last 15 to 20 years. But, one thing hasn’t changed and that’s the importance of clearing the bases.

Here are this week’s Best Bets (all records, stats, and trends are as of Monday and may change as can starting pitchers):

Wednesday

Phillies at Nationals: This is the time of year when cream rises to the top. With just eight games remaining, Washington (85-69) owns a wild card spot. The Nationals have played solid baseball the entire season.

Despite a respectable 79-75 record, Philadelphia has been inconsistent for months. Granted, they play in the most competitive division in the Majors, with four teams possessing winning records. However, dropping 10 of the last 17 overall games and facing a team that has taken five of the last six meetings, including all four at home, is going to seal the Phillies’ fate.

These two NL East rivals had a doubleheader on Tuesday. Wednesday’s scheduled starters are Drew Smyly and Anibal Sanchez. Smyly has a record of 4-7 with an ERA of 6.44 on the season. With his fourth team in his seven-year career, I have never been a big fan of the journeyman. As a starter, the lefty has never had a significant campaign, donning a lifetime record of 35-34.  Sanchez, en route to a record of 10-8 with an ERA of 3.91, has yielded three earned runs or less in 12 of his last 15 turns. If this matchup changes due to Tuesday’s DH, I still feel any of the other possible pitching combinations favor Washington. NATIONALS

Indians at White Sox: Cleveland has just six games left on the campaign and is in a tie with Tamps Bay for the last wild card spot. The Indians sit just 4.0 GB of the Twins in the division. Don’t kid yourself, they would love to catch Minnesota and grab yet another AL Central crown.

There is a huge disparity between the top two teams and the remaining three in the Central. True, Chicago is in third place here. But the Sox are just 68-87, including a 35-39 mark at Guaranteed Rate Field, where they account for 4.11 RPG. The Indians own a 43-32 road record (45-30 on the run line) and put up 4.83 RPG as a guest.

Chicago gives Ross Detwiler the nod. The left-hander has a 2-5 record with a 6.98 ERA and hasn’t had a winning season since going 10-8 in 2012. The 33-year old has gotten shellacked lately, allowing 22 earned runs in his last six appearances (five starts), in only 20.3 IP.

Shane Bieber take the hill on the road. He’s 15-7 with a 3.23 ERA, fanning 252 batters in 208.2 IP. “Not Justin” has proven that last year’s rookie season (11-5) was no fluke.

The White Sox are 2-7 the last nine games played at home. The Indians are 39-13 the last 52 games played vs. the AL Central. INDIANS RUN LINE

Last week: No selections

Season: 35-25

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