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The first milepost of the 2013 season has arrived and as we observe Memorial Day and pay respects to those who have given their lives to defend our freedoms it is worth noting how the standings appear nearly one third of the way into the season.

St. Louis has the best record in all of baseball, 32-17, but their lead in the NL Central is just a game and a half over both Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. The Pirates and Reds are tied with baseball’s third best record.

The second best record in baseball is held by the Texas Rangers who lead the AL West by four and a half games over Oakland. The hottest team as of Monday morning plays in Los Angeles. The Angels have won eight in a row, yet start the week nine games behind Texas.

That shows how poorly the Angels had played for the first month and a half of the season, wallowing at 15-27 before their current surge. Keep in mind there are still more than 110 games to be played.

Two Divisions have co-leaders as play gets underway on Memorial Day. Boston and the New York Yankees are tied atop the AL East and Arizona and San Francisco are tied for first place in the NL West.

Atlanta is up by 4½ games over Washington in the NL East and Detroit leads Cleveland by 1½ in the AL Central.

Last year on Memorial Day the ultimate World Series champion San Francisco Giants were playing mediocre baseball. The Giants were 25-23 and in second place in the NL West, 7½ games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Giants went on to finish 94-68 while the Dodgers missed the Playoffs with an 86-76 record.

And Oakland, ultimately the AL West champion, was in third place at 22-26 on Memorial Day 2013, trailing then first place Texas by eight games.

After full Interleague play from Monday through Thursday this week, the schedule returns to the “new” normal of seven intra-league series per league and one Interleague series.

Here’s a look at four series to be played this weekend.

REDS/PIRATES: Pittsburgh has not had a winning season since 1992 and after coming close in each of the past two seasons this may finally be the year in which that streak of futility is broken. The Pirates begin the week tied with Cincinnati at 31-19, a game and a half behind Division leading St. Louis.

The Pirates swept a three-game home series in mid-April. Pittsburgh’s success has been largely due to its pitching, both starting and relief. Starters AJ Burnett, Jeff Locke and Jeanmar Gomez have all performed well as has veteran lefty Francisco Liriano in his three starts after starting the season injured.

The big story has been closer Jason Grilli who’s been a perfect 20 for 20 in save opportunities. The offense has been rather anemic, averaging just 3.7 runs per game at home. At the same time Pittsburgh is allowing just 2.9 runs per game at home, second only to Atlanta (2.8).

Cincinnati is one of the deepest and best balanced teams in the game. They have a potent lineup and one of the best rotations in baseball. The Reds have used six starters this season and all six have ERAs below 3.50. Mike Leake is the only one of the six with a WHIP above 1.20 (his is 1.39).

Recommended plays: UNDER 7 or higher in any matchup; either team as underdogs of +125 or more in any matchup.

NATS/BRAVES: These teams figure to battle it out for supremacy in the NL East with the loser likely to be in excellent position to earn one of the two National League Wild Cards. Atlanta starts this week up by four and a half games over the second place Nationals.

This is the third series between the teams this season. Atlanta won the first five games and Washington the last two as the road team is 5-2 in their seven games. The UNDER holds a 4-3 edge with an average of 6.1 total runs per game.

Both teams have above average pitching with lefty Mike Minor posting the best stats for Atlanta and both Jordan Zimmermann and Stephen Strasburg doing the same for the Nats. Atlanta leads all of baseball in allowing just 2.8 runs per game at home. Washington is below average in allowing 4½ runs per game on the road.

In fact, Washington is being outscored by an average of 1.3 runs per game on the road while Atlanta is outscoring foes by an amazing 2.0 runs per game at home. As such, it’s no surprise Atlanta leads the majors with a 15-5 home record.

Recommended plays: Atlanta -140 or less against other than Strasburg or Zimmermann; Washington as underdogs of any price in starts by Strasburg or Zimmermann; UNDER 7 or higher in starts by Strasburg, Zimmermann or Gio Gonzalez against Minor. OVER 7½ or lower in starts not involving, Strasburg, Zimmermann, Gonzalez or Minor.

RAYS/INDIANS: Cleveland starts the week 27-22 and in second place in the AL Central, just a game and a half behind favored Detroit. Tampa Bay has struggled much of this season and starts the week in fourth place in the AL East, one game above .500. In their only prior meeting this season Tampa Bay won two of three at home in early April.

Cleveland has had great success against lefty pitchers this season and overall is averaging a shade over 5 runs per game. They’ve also gotten some strong starting pitching from Zach McAllister and Justin Masterson.

Pitching was expected to be the strength of Tampa Bay this season as it’s been for the past several seasons. But it’s been an above average offense, scoring nearly 5 runs per game, that’s been responsible for much of the Rays’ early season success.

The pitching has been pretty good although staff ace David Price struggled greatly before being placed on the DL. Jeremy Hellickson and Roberto Hernandez have also struggled while both Matt Moore and Alex Cobb have anchored the rotation. Each has made 10 starts and Tampa is 16-4 in those starts.

Recommended plays: OVER 9 or lower in games not involving McAllister, Masterson, Moore or Cobb; UNDER 8 or higher if McAllister or Masterson oppose Moore or Cobb; Tampa Bay as underdogs in starts by Cobb or Moore against any Cleveland starter; Cleveland as favorites of -140 or lower in a start by McAllister or Masterson not facing Cobb or Moore.

RED SOX/YANKS: These longtime rivals are tied for the lead in the AL East, 3½ games ahead of Baltimore as Memorial Day dawned. The play of the Yankees has been especially surprising considering the massive number of injuries overall, and key injuries in particular, New York has suffered already this season.

These teams opened the season here with Boston winning the first two games before the Yanks’ won the finale. Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester have been the most effective Boston starters. The Sox are 17-4 in their combined 21 starts and each has posted solid primary and secondary stats. John Lackey has also been sharp in his seven starts.

Hiroki Kuroda continues to be New York’s best starter and David Phelps has also been a pleasant surprise in his five starts. Ace lefty CC Sabathia has struggled more often than not and Phil Hughes has been greatly inconsistent.

Surprisingly, the Yankees are averaging a full run less per game at home (3.8) than they are on the road (4.8). And at age 43 Yankees closer Mariano Rivera is as good as ever. He’s a perfect 18 for 18 in save opportunities (now 626 saves for his career) and continues to post outstanding stats.

Recommended plays: Boston as underdogs of +120 or more against Sabathia, Kuroda or Phelps in starts by Buchholz or Lester; Boston as favorites of -125 or less in starts by Buchholz or Lester against other Yankees starters; Yankees -125 or less not facing Buchholz or Lester; OVER 8 or lower in any matchup; UNDER 9 or higher if Buchholz or Lester opposes Kuroda or Phelps.

Andy Iskoe, and his Logical Approach, provides his popular and unique handicapping statistics to Gaming Today readers and online visitors. He has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football. Contact Andy at [email protected]

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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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