Postseason to be challenging

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It’s hard to comprehend this is the last week of baseball’s regular season. Believe it or not, it seems as if this shortened regular season has lasted forever.

Some things to know about this week that are important. For starters, some teams don’t need to win even if they are in the playoffs because home field doesn’t mean the same this year. Also, some teams will be setting up their rotations to better help them in the playoffs. With a mandatory quarantine date set for Wednesday, some teams will leave for the road this week and packing for a trip that could extend to 50 days if they reach the World Series.

With a 16-team postseason tournament on the horizon, there are a few things yet to be determined. Most of the question marks are set in the NL where as of right now, the only two teams clinching are the Dodgers and Padres. Five of the eight AL teams are in, but for the most part, we have a good feel for who is going to move on next week and who will be playing golf. One thing’s for sure, despite a shortened season, there is certainly no shortage of excitement.

It seems as though the last few seasons, we’ve finished very strong. I went 3-0 in last week’s column and this week’s selections are just as solid. Here are this week’s Best Bets (all records, stats, and trends are as of print and may change as can starting pitchers):

Thursday

Cubs at Pirates: Once again, the NL Central seems to be the most competitive in the Majors with four of the five teams all flirting with or playing better than .500 ball and as of Tuesday morning, no team has clinched a playoff spot.

Chicago has played consistent baseball since opening day. One of the key factors is that they are winning on the road. The Cubs own a 13-8 away record. They have also dominated the Pirates in 2020, winning six of the seven matchups by an average of 3.4 RPG.

It looks like Alec Mills (5-4, 4.14 ERA in 2020) and Chad Kuhl (1-3, 5.03) will be the starters here. Mills is certainly a bit more polished. Whether these two go or not, to me it won’t matter. When the game goes into the late innings, the Cubs have the far better bullpen. But, the major disparity that urges me to take the visitors here is in the lineups. The Chicago offense has been surging. In the nine victories over their last 13 outings they have accounted for over 5.2 RPG.

If the line opens or soars too high, feel free to play the run line here. CUBS

Astros at Rangers: Yes, I am well aware of the fact that Houston is fighting for a playoff spot, while Texas is out of the postseason race. No worries, there is a method to my madness.

Lance Lynn is scheduled to take the mound at home here. The righty is having the best campaign of his nine-year career at 6-2 with a 2.53 ERA, striking out 84 batters in 78.1 IP. The savvy veteran is eager to avenge his worst outing of 2020, an early-September loss to the Astros, giving up twice as many earned runs (six) as he has in any of his other 11 starts this season.

Houston is not the same team it was in 2019, losing strength both on the mound and at the plate. The Astros are 0-4 the last four games played as a road favorite, 0-7 the last seven road games played vs. RH starters, and 5-21 overall the last 26 road games.

Five of the last seven outings in this rivalry has been decided by just one run. Take the run and a half with the Rangers on the run line as long as Lynn takes the hill. RANGERS RUN LINE

Friday

Marlins at Yankees: As of penning this week’s column, pitchers have not been named yet. This is a moot point to me. New York, which owns the second-best home record (21-7) in all of baseball returns to the Bronx here. The lineup is whole again, thus accounting for 10 wins over their last 12 outings, averaging 8.5 RPG in those 10 victories.

Prior to the Atlanta series the last few days, Miami faced cellar-dwelling Boston and Washington. They’ve already lost the series opener with the Braves and have three more meetings with the tough, first-place Atlanta squad. They should be tired after that. Then having to travel up to NYC should takes its toll and put them in prime position for the Yankees to exploit. Whoever they put on the bump here will get lit up by the mighty Yankees offense.

Once again, if the line opens up or rises a bit too high, pull the trigger on the run line here. YANKEES

Last week: 3-0

Season: 12-11

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