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It began rather quietly several weeks ago when the aged potential future Hall of Famer Jim Thome was traded from Philadelphia to Baltimore.

The baseball trading frenzy has become just that over the past week with no fewer than six major players changing uniforms. These trades essentially involved contending teams exchanging prospects for big name players deemed to be crucial to their playoff hopes.

The frenzy began last Tuesday when the New York Yankees, playing in Seattle, acquired Ichiro Suzuki from the Mariners.

A day later the Los Angeles Dodgers traded with disappointing Miami for Hanley Ramirez and the surprising Pittsburgh Pirates acquired left-handed starter Wandy Rodriguez from their NL Central Division rivals, Houston.

Another solid starting pitcher, Anibal Sanchez, along with Miami Marlins teammate Omar Infante, were traded to Detroit for promising pitching prospect Jacob Turner.

As the week ended one of the more heralded pitchers on the trading block, Zack Greinke, was traded from Milwaukee to the Los Angeles Dodgers. And roughly 24 hours later, on Saturday, Francisco Liriano switched AL Central teams, going from Minnesota to the Chicago White Sox.

During the past couple of weeks there have also been some minor deals to make this one of the busiest trading periods approaching the deadline in several years.

More trades involving major names are likely to be consummated by Tuesday’s 1 p.m. PT deadline.

60 games to playoffs

There’s more than a third of the 162-game season left. Yet as many teams as we’ve seen in many seasons believe they still have a shot at making the postseason, especially in this, the first season of the expanded playoffs.

A total of 10 teams will begin the chase for the World Series in early October now that there will be two wild card teams from each league.

Of course, over the next two months things will become clearer and some teams will drop out of contention while others may well distance themselves from the rest of their contenders.

Washington and Cincinnati are tied for the best record in baseball, 61-40, and lead the NL East and Central Divisions, respectively. Atlanta and Pittsburgh control the two wild cards.

San Francisco is percentage points ahead of Los Angeles in the NL West with the Dodgers two out of the wild card. Only three other teams are less than 10 games out of a wild card berth – St. Louis (3½), Arizona (6½) and the New York Mets (8½).

Pittsburgh remains one of the season’s best stories as this proud franchise seeks to end its streak of 19 consecutive losing seasons. After flirting with ending the streak last season the Pirates collapsed over 2011’s final two months.

They show no such signs of repeating that collapse this season and figure to remain in playoff contention deep into September. But nothing comes easy to the Pirates. They are a solid 7-3 over their last 10 games but have lost three games in the standings to rival Cincinnati. The Reds begin the week on a 10 game winning streak!

By losing the final two of their three game series to Boston, the New York Yankees have slipped below a .600 winning percentage. Still, at 60-41 they have the best record in the AL and lead the East by 7½ games over Baltimore and Tampa Bay.

In fact, the AL East has no team with a losing record as the series win over the Yanks left Boston at 51-51, a half-game behind Toronto.

Although AL West teams Oakland and the Los Angeles Angels, currently control the wild card, the Orioles, Rays, Blue Jays and Red Sox are each within four games.

Detroit is the closest wild card challenger, starting the week just a game behind the Angels with those four AL East teams sandwiched between the Tigers and Cleveland. The Indians are five games out. Seattle, Minnesota and Kansas City are nine or more out of wild card contention.

The Chicago White Sox lead the AL Central and two-time defending AL Champion Texas leads the AL West. The Rangers have lost starting pitcher Colby Lewis for the rest of the season and may have made a move for a proven starting pitcher before Tuesday’s trade deadline.

Four pitchers prominently mentioned are the Cubs’ Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza, Philadelphia’s Cliff Lee and Tampa Bay’s James Shields. Lee remains an interesting candidate as Philadelphia is all but out of the playoff chase in the NL.

The Phils are rumored to be shopping OF Shane Victorino. And Lee was an integral part of the Rangers team that lost to San Francisco in the 2012 World Series. He’s comfortable with the Rangers.

Baseball will be as interesting as ever over the season’s final two months. 

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

Marlins at Nats: The home team won the first 5 games before the Marlins and Nationals split a four game series in Miami coming out of the All Star break. The UNDER is 6-1-2. Not much of a surprise that the teams have combined to average just 5.3 runs per game in nine meetings.

The Nats’ top 3 starters – Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann and Gio Gonzalez – have made a combined 61 starts. Of those, 41 meet my definition of a “Quality Start” (at least 6 IP, 2 or fewer ER). Not surprisingly Washington is 42-19 in games that trio starts. All three have better stats than Miami’s best starter, Mark Buehrle.

Potential plays: 

• Washington -130 or lower in starts by Gonzalez, Strasburg or Zimmermann against Buehrle.

• Washington -150 or less against other Miami starters.

• Miami +125 or more not facing that trio.

• UNDER 8 or higher in any game.

• UNDER 7 or higher if Buehrle opposes any of the Nats’ top trio.

Pirates at Reds: Pittsburgh has won 4 of 9 meetings in what has emerged in an odd pattern. The home and road teams have alternated wins and losses since Game 1. The past five are 4-1 OVER after the first four stayed UNDER. Cincinnati is without star Joey Votto but the offense remains productive. The Pirates are led by the front runner for the National League MVP, Andrew McCutcheon.

Cincinnati has the better balanced rotation with Johnny Cueto the clear “ace” of the staff. But all 5 starters have ERAs of 4.30 or less and WHIPs lower than 1.30. Pittsburgh has been paced by James McDonald but he’s shown signs of fatigue lately. But both Eric Bedard and A J Burnett have pitched better than anticipated. Both teams have outstanding closers.

Potential plays:

• Pittsburgh +150 or more against Cueto.

• Pittsburgh +130 or more not facing Cueto.

• Cincinnati -150 or less in a start by Cueto.

• Cincinnati -125 or less in other starts.

• UNDER 9 or higher in any game.

• UNDER 8 or higher if Cueto or Bronson Arroyo oppose Pittsburgh’s Bedard or Burnett.

Indians at Tigers: The Tribe have won 7 of 9 games including 2 of 3 when the teams met in Cleveland just last week. The UNDER is 6-2-1. Detroit has the better overall pitching with Anibal Sanchez joining ace Justin Verlander, the still maturing Max Scherzer, Rick Porcello and Doug Fister. Defense remains a concern.

Cleveland has started to fade in the standings as their starting pitching has declined. Only young Zach McAllister (3.17) has an ERA below 4.45 with three starters above 5.00. Detroit is poised to use its depth to its advantage and make a late season run. The offensive duo combination of Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera gives the Tigers a decisive edge.

Potential plays:

• Detroit -150 or lower in any matchup.

• Cleveland +160 or more not facing Verlander.

• OVER 8 or lower not involving Verlander or McAllister.

• OVER 9 or lower if Detroit’s Porcello or Scherzer face Cleveland’s  Jimenez, Lowe or Tomlin.

Angels at White Sox: In their only prior meeting this season the teams split a two game series in Anaheim With Greinke, Jered Weaver, CJ Wilson and Dan Haren the Angels have the best starting quartet in the AL if not all of baseball. The White Sox added lefty Francisco Liriano to compliment a fine staff. The Sox are planning to rest to their fine young lefty, Chris Sale. Jake Peavy and Joel Quintana have been solid all season and Gavin Floyd has been sharp of late.

Chicago has been much more productive offensively at home, averaging nearly a run and a half more per game at home (5.4) than on the road (4.1). The Angels’ offense has been streaky and in a slump following a pair of shutout home losses to Tampa Bay.

Potential plays:

• Angels as underdogs of any price in starts by Greinke, Haren, Weaver or Wilson against Peavy, Quintana or Sale.

• Angels -125 or less in starts by that quartet against any other Chicago starters.

• White Sox +120 or more in starts by Peavy, Quintana or Sale against any Angels starter.

• UNDER 8 or higher in any game.

• OVER 7 or lower in games not involving Greinke, Weaver, Wilson, Peavy or Sale.





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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