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The final major milepost of the regular season has come and gone as Labor Day is now behind us and barely four weeks remain before the playoffs begin.

A look at the standings on Labor Day morning showed three teams with leads of more than four games and all in the National League. San Francisco leads the LA Dodgers by 4½ games in the West while Washington leads Atlanta by 6½ games in the East and Cincinnati a bulging 9½ up on St. Louis in the Central.

Things are much tighter in the American League where the Texas Rangers have the largest lead of any division leader, 3 games over surprising and surging Oakland in the West. In the East the New York Yankees are just 2 ahead of Baltimore after dropping two of three at home to the O’s this past weekend. 

Tampa Bay is just 1½ behind Baltimore as the Rays host the Yankees for three games this week. And after sweeping a three game home series from Chicago, Detroit has caught the White Sox and the teams are tied atop the Central.

Baltimore and Oakland currently control the two AL wild cards but a trio of teams – Tampa Bay, the Central loser between the Tigers and White Sox and the Angels are all within 3½ games of that second wild card.

The NL wild cards are controlled by Atlanta and St. Louis with the Dodgers just a half game back and Pittsburgh 1½ behind. No other NL team is less than 6½ games out of the wild card.

Much will be decided over the next four weeks as teams have just between 25 and 30 games to make up ground. As Tampa Bay and St. Louis showed last season, there’s still hope for the trailers. And as Atlanta and Boston proved last season, no lead is truly safe with almost a month to go.

Here’s a look at four series of interest this weekend.

Dodgers at Giants: This is the only weekend series involving a pair of true playoff contenders. After the home team won 5 of the first 6 games between these bitter rivals the road team has now won 6 in a row. The teams traded three game road sweeps in late July and mid August. 

Both continue to rely more on pitching than hitting although the Giants have fared better at the plate than expected while the Dodgers have not been able to capitalize yet on the bats they added to their lineup for the stretch drive.

Potential plays:

• UNDER 7 or higher if the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw or Josh Beckett face the Giants’ Matt Cain or Madison Bumgarner.

• Dodgers +120 or more not facing Cain or Bumgarner.

• Giants +110 or more against Kershaw or Beckett.

Yankees at Orioles: After taking 2 of 3 in New York this past weekend the Orioles host New York for a 4-game series that starts Thursday. The Yankees should get some of their injured players back in time for this series.

This should enable the Bronx Bombers to fare better than scoring just the eight total runs they amassed against Baltimore this past weekend. The Yankees have the better overall pitching but it was not in evidence in dropping 2 of the 3 games. 

Potential plays:

• Yankees -130 or less in any matchup or as underdogs.

• Orioles +150 or more against CC Sabathia or Hiroki Kuroda.

• OVER 9 or lower in any matchup.

Rangers at Rays: The Rays and Rangers have split their 6 prior meetings this season, all of which have been played in Texas. The Rangers have the edge on offense but that is more than neutralized if not overcome by Tampa’s advantage on the mound. 

The Rays have gotten outstanding starting pitching from lefty David Price all season with Matt Moore, James Shields, Jeremy Hellickson and even Alex Cobb all shining since the All Star break. Texas has finally gotten several sharp efforts from Ryan Dempster who had struggled in his first few starts after coming over from the Cubs. 

Potential plays:

• Rangers +140 or more in any matchup.

• Rays -125 or less in any matchup.

• UNDER 8 in any matchup.

Tigers at Angels: Detroit has won 5 of the 7 prior meetings this season, all of which were played in Detroit. The Tigers are led on the mound by ace Justin Verlander although young Max Scherzer is also rapidly developing into an elite pitcher. 

The Angels have been paced by Jered Weaver although the ace has lumbered of late and the rest of the staff also seems to be running out of gas. Both teams have solid offenses that have been inconsistent but this series still figures to produce plenty of offense save for the starts by Verlander and Scherzer. 

Potential plays:

• OVER 9 or lower in starts not involving Verlander, Scherzer or Weaver.

• Angels +140 or more against Verlander.

• Angels as underdogs of any price against Scherzer.

• Tigers +125 or more against Weaver.

You can contact Andy Iskoe at Andy­[email protected]

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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