The 2010 season has passed the two thirds mark with less than 54 games left to be played to determine the eight teams to make baseball’s Playoffs in October.
Pitching continues to be the dominant theme of the season and what might have been the best pitching performance of the season took place in Toronto on Sunday. The Blue Jays’ Brandon Morrow tossed a no hitter for eight and two thirds innings before Tampa Bay’s Evan Longoria hit a grounder that just eluded second baseman Aaron Hill for the Rays’ first and only hit. But what might set this game apart from the two perfect games previously pitched this season or the near perfecto marred by an umpire’s blown call or the three “ordinary” no hitters that have been pitched was Morrow striking out 17 batters.
The week begins with tight races in five of six Divisions. All three Division leaders in the National League have slim two game leads over the second place clubs with Atlanta, Cincinnati and San Diego having that narrow edge over Philadelphia, St. Louis and San Francisco, respectively.
The New York Yankees have the best record in baseball but start this week just two and a half games ahead of slumping Tampa Bay. The Rays are riding a season high five game losing streak. Perhaps as an indication as to an increasing degree of parity the Rays still have baseball’s second best record, good enough for a four and a half game lead over both Boston and Minnesota for the AL Wild Card.
Minnesota trails the Chicago White Sox by two and a half games in the AL Central and Texas has baseball’s biggest lead with a seven and a half game bulge over Oakland.
Just eight weeks remain for all to be settled and despite the shift in focus to the dawn of the football season, the best part of the baseball season is just starting to unfold.
Here’s a look at four series to be played this weekend.
Los Angeles Dodgers at Atlanta: This four game series end Monday. The teams split a four game series in Los Angeles in their only prior series this season, back in early June, the final three games of which went OVER the Total. Though seven games out of the NL West lead, the Dodgers are within four and a half games of the Wild Card. Atlanta seeks to maintain their slim lead in the NL East which makes this an important series for both teams. The Dodgers have strengthened their rotation with the trade for lefty Ted Lilly and overall the starting rotation is pitching well with all five pitchers sporting ERAs below 3.85. The offense has struggled of late, however, although it should perk up once Manny Ramirez returns from the DL. Atlanta’s ace remains Tim Hudson though Jair Jurrjens has pitched well since returning from injury. The combination of the improved Dodger pitching and their recent lack of offense suggests this will be a lower scoring series than when the teams last met.
RECOMMENDED PLAYS: UNDER Totals of 8 or higher in any matchup; Dodgers as Underdogs of any price in starts by Clayton Kershaw or Ted Lilly except price must be at least +125 or higher if against Hudson; Atlanta as favorites of -160 or lower in a Hudson start against other than Kershaw or Lilly.
San Diego at San Francisco: The Giants trail the Padres by just two games starting the week which is somewhat remarkable when you consider that San Diego has won 7 of 8 games against San Francisco this season. All 7 of San Diego’s wins stayed UNDER the Total. The Giants’ lone win resulted in an OVER. The teams have not met since mid May. Both teams rely much more on pitching than on hitting for their success. Of the Giants’ current rotation, lefty Jonathan Sanchez has the worst ERA at 3.55 and the highest WHIP, 1.32. That’s pretty darn good! Both teams have below average offenses although the Pads’ made some moves at the deadline to improve at the plate. Still, even at the projected low Totals, we should see a continuance of low scoring games.
RECOMMENDED PLAYS: UNDER Totals of 7 or higher in starts by the Padres’ Latos, Garland or Richard against any Giants starter; Giants as favorites of -135 or less against other than Latos; San Diego as an underdog or no more than -120 in a start by Latos.
Boston at Texas: Texas has won 4 of 7 games this season, all of which were played in Boston. Texas has a comfortable lead in the AL West while Boston is in third place in the AL East, needing to catch either Tampa Bay or the Yankees to make the Playoffs. That Boston is still in contention is pretty amazing in light of all the injuries the Red Sox have suffered this season, both at the plate and on the mound. Texas’ improvement has been largely due to great improvement in their pitching, both starting and in the bullpen. This is reflected in their having been involved in 58 OVERs and just 47 UNDERs this season, in addition to 5 PUSHes.
RECOMMENDED PLAYS: Boston as Underdogs of +150 or more against Cliff Lee or as underdogs or favorites of -120 or less in starts by Jon Lester or Clay Buchholz against other than Lee; Texas as favorites of -140 or less against other than Lester or Buchholz; UNDER Totals of 8 or higher if Lee, Lewis or Wilson oppose Buchholz or Lester; OVER Totals of 9 or lower if none of these pitchers is involved.
Detroit at Chicago White Sox: Chicago has won 6 of 8 games this season including 3 of 4 in Detroit this past weekend. Detroit has slipped from Division leader in the AL Central to 9 games back, largely due to the loss of two key bats in the lineup at the same time, Maglio Ordonez and Carlos Guillen. Pitching has been a concern of the Tigers all season and even ace Justin Verlander is having a rather ordinary season. It may also surprise you to learn that Chicago has outscored Detroit this season. If Detroit is to be a factor in the AL Central race it is imperative that they win at least 2 of the 3 games.
RECOMMENDED PLAYS: Detroit as underdogs of any price against other than Danks or Floyd or as underdogs of at least +140 against Danks or Floyd; UNDER Totals of 8 or higher if Danks or Floyd opposes Verlander; OVER Totals of 9 or lower if other than Danks or Floyd faces other than Verlander.