Less than two weeks remain until the regular season concludes on Sunday, Oct. 2, and much is still to be decided although the number of contenders is dwindling by the day.
The two teams affected most by this past weekend’s play were the two New York teams.
The Mets greatly enhanced their chances of not just a NL Wild Card but the top one that carries with it the right to host the one game elimination against the No. 2. While the Mets were sweeping their three game home series against lowly Minnesota the two teams contending for the other Wild Card spot – Cardinals and Giants – were splitting their four game series in San Francisco. The split was especially aggravating for the Giants who had won the first two games.
The result was the Mets began this week with a one game lead over San Francisco for the top Wild Card with the Giants a game ahead of St. Louis. The Mets finish the season with 13 games against teams currently with losing records. Only their three game series next week at Miami is against a foe with a shot at a winning record (74-75). The Marlins began this week four games behind the Giants.
The news is not as encouraging across the East River in the Bronx. The Yankees started their weekend series against Boston just four games behind the Red Sox, leaders in the AL East. A four game sweep would have tied the teams and even a 2-2 split would have left the Yankees with a reasonable chance of at least earning a Wild Card.
After being swept in Boston, including blowing leads in three of the four games, New York now trails the Sox by eight games for the Division lead, sitting in fourth place. They are also four games out of the second AL Wild Card with Detroit, Seattle and Houston in front of them. The two AL Wild Cards are controlled by Division rivals Baltimore and Toronto.
Texas and Washington are in position to clinch Division titles within the next week with Cleveland likely not clinching the AL Central until the middle of next week. The Dodgers could clinch the NL West over the weekend if they sweep their three game series at home against the Giants that began Monday night. Should the Giants engineer a sweep they would leave LA trailing the Dodgers by just two games with 10 games to play, including a season-ending three game series hosting the Dodgers.
The AL East likely goes down to the final weekend with Toronto, Boston and Baltimore each having to play each other over these final two weeks.
The final two weeks of the regular season figure to be filled with plenty of drama highlighted by comebacks, upsets and perhaps a team streaking to finish the season winning 10 of 13 games to gain momentum status as the “hot” team to enter the Playoffs.
These two weeks will serve to whet our collective appetites for what promises to be an intriguing post season with the primary question being whether the team that has dominated all season – the Cubs – can finally end its 108 year drought without winning a World Series.
Cubs fans may refer to this as a curse, looking back upon the 2004 Boston Red Sox who ended their 86 season curse with the first of three World Series titles over the following decade.
The connection between the franchises – Theo Epstein – is credited with ending the first and now is within six weeks of ending the second.
Here’s a look at three series for the regular season’s penultimate weekend.
St. Louis at Chi. Cubs
These long-time rivals have split their 16 games this season. The teams have played 9 UNDERs and 7 OVERs while averaging 8.6 total runs per game. The Cubs should be favored throughout the series although the lines may not be as high as if these games were being played in August now that the Cubs have clinched. If the Cubs are favored by more than -220 the Cardinals are playable in any matchup as they should be able to win at least one of the three games. For specific matchups the Cardinals can be played as underdogs of +150 or more in starts by Carlos Martinez or Alex Reyes. Play UNDER 9 or higher.
NY Yanks at Toronto
The Blue Jays have won 9 of their 15 games against the Yankees this season. Despite two strong offenses, the teams have played just 5 OVERs compared to 10 UNDERs. New York’s Masahiro Tanaka has put up the best stats on either staff and the Yankees have won 22 of Tanaka’s 30 starts, making them the play in a game he starts, even if favored up to -125. Otherwise Toronto, if favored by no more than -140 unless the Yankees are able to make up at least two games during the week when they play at Tampa Bay and Toronto plays at Seattle. Play OVER 8.5 or lower.
Arizona at Baltimore
Neither team has a true ace as Arizona’s Zack Greinke is having a very poor season (4.42 ERA and 1.28 WHIP through 25 starts).
Baltimore does have the much better bullpen with closer Zach Britton in the conversation for the Cy Young Award (although he is unlikely to win). The preferred play throughout this series will be OVER 8 or lower. Arizona would make for an attractive First 5 Innings play as an underdog of +125 or more. Baltimore can be played to win the full game behind any starter if priced at -150 or less. They might be a low priced favorite against Greinke but are unlikely to be underdogs in that spot.