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It’s September. Rosters have been expanded and teams will become mathematically eliminated from postseason play on a steady basis over the next four weeks. 

Only one division has a gap of five or fewer games between the first- and second-place teams with St. Louis leading Chicago by three games in the NL Central. 

On average, teams have 25 games remaining. Much of the intrigue between now and the end of the regular season will revolve around the Wild Card races in each league. 

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Games involving teams remaining in contention for the playoffs, especially head to head games between two Wild Card contenders, are the most likely to be competitively priced. Those figure to be micro-managed and with the rosters expanded to 40 players even more use of bullpens can be expected. 

Games between a team contending for the playoffs against a team that has already been eliminated figure to be too highly priced to back the favorite while providing tough arguments to back the underdog on a game-by-game basis. Parlaying big favorites might produce winners but even doing a three- team parlay of favorites each priced at -200 would yield a modest profit of 238 for each 100 wagered.

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Just look at the lines for this past Monday. Of the dozen games, nine had lines of -175 or higher, including four favorites between -280 and -360. Although most of those favorites won, had you backed the Yankees at -215 over Texas you would have lost. If the Yanks were included in a multi-team parlay that would also have lost.

So proceed with caution when playing and parlaying big favorites the rest of the way.

Here are previews of three weekend series.

Nationals at Braves: This four-game series, beginning Thursday, could either virtually wrap up the NL East for Atlanta or give Washington a true shot at the division title as the teams will meet again in Washington for three games next weekend. They’ve already split 12 games this season. Entering Tuesday, the Nats trailed the Braves by 6.5 games but also had a 3.5 game lead for the first Wild Card. Washington is led by its starting trio of Scherzer, Strasburg and Corbin and each may be backed as underdogs in this series against any Atlanta starter or if favored by -130 or less. 

Atlanta may be played against any of that trio if getting +150 or more or against other Washington starters if favored by -140 or less. Both teams are “totals neutral” although if Atlanta’s Mike Soroka starts against any of the Nats’ top trio look under a total of 8 or higher.

Cubs at Brewers: After playing just six games against each other over the first four months of the season, this will be their fourth series since late July. The Cubs have won five of the nine over the past five weeks and held the second NL Wild Card after Monday’s play with Milwaukee four games back.  This four-game series starts Thursday and is the last of the season. Their 15 games played have gone 10-4-1 to the Under. Both teams have been below average offensively since the All Star break which suggests the preferred play in the series will be under totals of 9 or higher. 

The Cubs are playable as underdogs of any price in starts by Yu Darvish, Kyle Hendricks or Jose Quintana. Milwaukee can be played against any other Chicago starter if favored by no more than -125.

Indians at Twins: Less than a month ago, the Indians had caught the Twins for first place in the AL Central. But Minnesota got hot once again and through Monday had a 6.5- game lead over the Tribe. 

Cleveland’s also involved in a three-team battle for the two Wild Cards. Cleveland has a decided edge in pitching. Minnesota has a similar edge on offense. Cleveland’s won seven of 13 meetings which have also gone 8-4-1 to the under. 

Indians rookie Aaron Civale has been brilliant in his brief career, making seven starts and allowing no more than two earned runs in any while striking out 34 and walking just nine (a 17-2 split on the road). Look to back Civale as an underdog of any price or to back Shane Bieber or Mike Clevinger as favorites of -125 or less. 

Otherwise look to back the Twins as favorites of -140 or less against other Cleveland starters. In a matchup of Bieber against Minnesota’s Jake Odorizzi look to play under a Total of 8 or higher. In games in which neither Bieber or Odorizzi starts look over Totals of 8.5 or lower.


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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