Quality counts late in MLB

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It’s hard to believe that the playoffs begin less than three weeks from now on October 1st. These next weeks are just about as tough to handicap as it was in the first few weeks of the campaign.

I try to stay with quality teams that are trying to better their seeding or vying for playoff spots. The one problem is the oddsmakers are very sharp this time of year and truly make it difficult playing some of the better squads. Obviously, the teams in the running for the postseason are the best in baseball. Therefore, they will be at even higher prices than they are normally in the closing weeks. My advice is to tread lightly until October.

We do have some quality plays in this column. As you know, I went 1-1 in last week’s column to bring my current run here in the Gaming Today up to 17-6 the last 10 weeks.

Here are this week’s Best Bets (all records, stats, and trends are as of print and may change as can starting pitchers):

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Braves at Phillies: Atlanta (as of Monday morning) had a nine-game lead in the NL East and owns the National League’s second best overall record (89-55). The Braves are on fire, winning 17 of the last 20 outings.

Philadelphia is just two games behind a wild card spot and has played some very good baseball this season (74-68).

Atlanta, which is the best road team in the NL at 42-27, is averaging over 5.26 RPG as a visitor. The Braves have taken four of the last five meetings with Philly.

Dallas Keuchel gets the start here. The lefty owns a 7-5 record with a 3.47 ERA, which includes a loss in his only start this season against Phillies, despite going 7.0 IP and allowing just two earned runs.

Jason Vargas gets the nod here at home. The LH is 6-7 this season with a 4.27 ERA, including a no-decision vs. the Braves, yielding four earned runs in 0.1 IP against them when he was with the Mets earlier this year.

Atlanta is 5-2 the last seven games played on the road and 41-22 this season vs. the NL East. BRAVES

Cardinals at Rockies: Colorado might be the biggest disappointment this season. Just a season ago, they finished 1.0 GB of the Los Angeles Dodgers with a 91-72 record. Twelve months later, they dwell in the cellar of the NL West, 32.5 GB at 60-84. And talk about quitting — the Rockies are on a 3-17 run.

The Cardinals lead the NL Central by 4.5 games at 81-62. They, on the other hand, are playing their best baseball of the season, going 37-17 the last 54 games.

Dakota Hudson takes the hill here. The right-hander owns a remarkable 15-6 record with a 3.40 ERA. The team’s 2016 first round pick shut out Colorado in his only start against them this season, going 6.0 IP to earn the victory.

Antonio Senzatela takes the bump at home. The righty sports an 8-10 record with a whopping ERA of 7.19. The Venezuelan native has lost four consecutive turns, including a start vs. the Cards in which he was plowed for six earned runs in 5.0 IP.

The Cardinals are 5-2 the last seven games played on the road and 7-1 the last eight games played vs. the NL West. The Rockies are 0-6 the last six games played at home and 1-10 the last 11 games played vs. the NL Central. St. Louis is 4-0 this season vs. Colorado with the average margin of victory coming by 4.75 RPG. CARDINALS RUN LINE

Reds at Mariners: I know I said earlier in this column to stay with teams competing for the postseason. However, in this game, I am not playing the team as much as I am playing the pitching matchup.

Cincinnati’s Sonny Gray possesses a respectable 10-6 record. But, he also owns a 2.75 ERA with 181 K’s in 157.1 IP. The Vanderbilt product has made the transition from an AL pitcher to an NL pitcher look rather smooth. He knows the American League teams and how to face them. By the way, he hasn’t lost a start since July 17th.

Seattle’s Marco Gonzales has pitched well, donning a 14-11 record with a 4.37 ERA. But, has just 128 K’s in 175.0 IP. The Mariners are 4-10 this season in Interleague play and 9-24 overall the last 33 vs. National League foes. REDS

Last week: 1-1

Season: 34-23

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