Much will be decided over the final week of the baseball season. Although several teams have already clinched Playoff berths and Division titles, the seeding order has yet to be determined.
Boston and Oakland have clinched Division titles in the American League and the Red Sox are a game and a half ahead of the Athletics for the best record and top seed in the Playoffs. Detroit is in position to clinch the AL Central title by the weekend.
Atlanta and the Los Angeles Dodgers have clinched Division title in the National League with the Braves 2½ games ahead for the best record. In between the Braves and Dodgers is St. Louis, which leads the Central by two games over both Cincinnati and Pittsburgh.
The Reds and Pirates are tied and thus currently hold the two Wild Cards. The Cardinals are just 1½ behind Atlanta for the top NL seed. Having that top seed may be most important to Atlanta as the Braves are now a spectacular 52-22 at home but finished their road schedule at just 40-41. Both the Cardinals and Dodgers have winning road records.
Washington has faint hopes of catching either the Reds or Pirates (who end the season facing each other in Cincinnati), starting the week five games behind that duo. But the Nationals pretty much need to sweep their three-game series in St. Louis from Monday through Wednesday to maintain a realistic shot at catching the Reds or Pirates.
Even if that unlikely outcome results, the Nats would probably still need either the Reds or Pirates to sweep that weekend series while taking care of its own business as they end the season with a weekend series in Arizona.
The AL Wild Card race continues to be fascinating with 6 teams still within 4.5 games. Tampa Bay and Cleveland start the week controlling their own fates with the Rays a half game better than the Indians for the top Wild Card which will host that one game Playoff.
Tampa Bay does have a three game series in New York and the Yankees are just 4 behind the Rays. A sweep by the Yankees have them very much in contention as they will end the season with a three game series in Houston.
But if the Yankees lose even one game to the Rays their chances are all but gone and the career of future Hall of Fame closer Mariano Rivera will be over.
Texas is just 1½ games out of the second Wild Card and end the season hosting both Houston and the Los Angeles Angels. Kansas City starts the week 3½ out and has series at Seattle and at the Chicago White Sox.
Baltimore starts the week in the weakest position, 4½ games out. After winding up a four game series in Tampa on Monday, the Orioles end the season hosting Toronto and Boston.
It promises to be a very exciting final week that may come down to the final day of the season on Sunday before we learn the fates of multiple teams,
With so much uncertainty surrounding the final week it is important to be cautious when making investments at the betting windows. Many pro bettors actually take this final week to assess the prospects of the teams that will be in the Playoffs and bet very little as the regular season draws to an end, with the most attractive opportunities often limited to games in which something is at stake for both teams. In such games managers are less likely to play prospects with an eye towards next season and will field their best lineups with the philosophy being “the future is now.”
With that in mind here are some general thoughts for four series that should be of great import this weekend. The recommendations this weekend will be on the situations surrounding the games rather than for specific starting pitching matchups.
In next week’s issue the Playoffs will be previewed.
PIRATES/REDS: The Reds took two of three games in Pittsburgh this past weekend and the teams are tied entering this final week, two games behind NL Central leading St Louis. Both teams still have a shot at catching the Cards who play three weekday home games against surging Washington. Both the Reds and Pirates have gotten solid pitching even though two of last weekend’s games went OVER the Total.
Recommended plays: UNDER 7½ or less in any matchup; either team as an underdog of +125 or more in any matchup.
CAPS/D’BACKS: The Nationals may have already been eliminated from a Wild Card by the time this series starts on Friday and that will be the key to approaching this series.
Recommended plays: Washington -150 or less for as long as the Nationals remain in contention for the Wild Card; Arizona -125 or less if the Nationals have already been eliminated from Playoff contention; UNDER 9 or higher in any matchup.
RED SOX/ORIOLES: Boston may still have reason to play even though they have already clinched the AL East title.The Sox are seeking to hold off both Oakland and Detroit for the top AL Playoffs seed. Baltimore may have already been eliminated from Wild Card contention by the start of this series.
Recommended plays: Baltimore -125 or less in any matchup if a win would keep them alive for a Wild Card or if Boston has already clinched the AL’s best record; Boston -125 or less if they still need to win in order to secure the best record and if Baltimore has already been eliminated; OVER 8½ or less in any matchup
ROYALS/CHISOX: KC may still have a chance to earn a Wild Card if they’ve fared well in Seattle and things broke the right way involving the other contending teams. The Royals are already assured of a winning season and may be content to have achieved that goal if nothing is on the line during this series.
Recommended plays: Kansas City -150 or less in any matchup if they are still alive for the Wild Card; White Sox -125 or less in any matchup if Kansas City has been eliminated from Wild Card contention; UNDER 8½ or higher in any matchup.
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]