Just under 100 games remain in the regular season as we head towards the dog days of summer. Over the next six weeks, teams will evaluate their situations and prospects for making the Playoffs and decide if they are to be procurers or providers of talent as the July 31 trade deadline approaches. Some teams may decide to be neither.
Pitching continues to dominate the headlines with several near no-hitters taking place within the past week. The major pitching headline concerned the debut last Tuesday of Stephen Strasburg, last year’s top draft choice of the Washington Nationals. Preceded by much fanfare Strasburg did not disappoint either in his debut or his follow up effort on Sunday. Pitching a total of 121/3 innings the phenom struck out 22 batters while allowing just 6 hits. After issuing zero walks in his initial outing against Pittsburgh he did walk 5 on Sunday in Cleveland although difficulties with the mound conditions may have been more of a contributing factor than poor control.
It’s too soon to call all the hype surrounding Strasburg justified and that, if healthy, he’s a future Hall of Famer. But initial impressions throughout baseball have been extremely favorable. He’s shown remarkable poise and composure and as he continues to mature and develop his upside might be unlimited. Of course, there will be pitfalls along the way and how he deals with such adversities will be key to his sustained success. The first tests might come when he faces teams a second time and we get to observe the adjustments made by both him and opposing hitters.
Backing Baltimore this season has already cost backers nearly 24 units. Only one starter, Jeremy Guthrie, has posted respectable numbers and on most other teams he’d be worth backing and likely have shown a decent profit. But with the Orioles just 3-10 in his 13 starts his backers are down 5.9 units despite an ERA of 3.83 and WHIP of 1.13.
Interleague play continues through June 27 with the first third of the total 252 such games in the books. Thus far the leagues are dead even with 42 wins each. The home team is 23-19 in each league.
There has been a contrast in Over/Under results, however. Interleague games in American League parks have produced 17 OVERs, 22 UNDERs and 2 PUSHes. National League venues have seen 25 OVERs, 14 UNDERs and 2 PUSHes. There have been a handful of games with no Total result due to rain shortened games or, in the case of last Saturday’s game in Boston, a late pitching change that occurred during pre game warmups.
Here’s a look at four of the series to be played this weekend.
Minnesota at Philadelphia: Both teams made the Playoffs last season and have winning records thus far in 2010 but each has struggled over the past couple of weeks. Philadelphia’s bats have gone silent for more than three weeks as the offense has scored 3 runs or less in 18 of their last 24 games. Both bullpens are above average.
RECOMMENDED PLAYS: Minnesota as Underdogs of +125 or more against other than Halladay or if favored by -130 or less in a start by Liriano against other than Halladay; Phillies as favorites of -125 or loss against other than Liriano; UNDER Totals of 8 or higher in a start by either Liriano or Halladay; OVER Totals of 9 or lower in any matchup not involving Liriano or Halladay
New York Mets at New York Yankees: The Mets won 2 of 3 at home when these intracity rivals met last month in the first series of interleague play. Although two of the games went OVER the Total it was a fairly low scoring series with just 21 total runs scored. The Yankees have had the better season-to-date offense but the Mets have hit better in recent weeks as David Wright seems to have regained his form and Jose Reyes has played himself into shape.
RECOMMENDED PLAYS: UNDER Totals of 9 or higher in any matchup; Mets as underdogs of +150 or more in any matchup; Mets as favorites of -125 or less in a start by Santana; Yankees as favorites of -130 or less in a start by Hughes or Pettitte against other than Santana or Pelfrey
Los Angeles Dodgers at Boston: The headline surrounding this series will be the return of Manny Ramirez to Fenway Park for the first time following his trade to the Dodgers two seasons ago. The Red Sox have the better overall bullpen although the two closers – both named Jonathan (Broxton and Pappelbon) are on a par with Broxton putting up somewhat better stats. Boston’s offense has been above average. Los Angeles’ offense is average overall but is averaging a half more run per game on the road than at home.
RECOMMENDED PLAYS: OVER Totals of 9 or lower in any matchup; Dodgers as Underdogs of +120 or more in starts by Ely or Kershaw against any Boston starter; Red Sox as favorites of -140 or less against other than Ely or Kershaw
Tampa Bay at Florida: Florida took 2 of 3 last weekend in Tampa in a high scoring series (41 total runs) that saw two of the three games go OVER the Total. The Marlins have hovered around .500 for most of the season while Tampa’s been baseball’s best since the start of the season, largely due to outstanding play on the road (22-8 heading into their midweek series in Atlanta) where they have averaged over a run per game more than they score at home.
RECOMMENDED PLAYS: UNDER Totals of 7 or higher if Price opposes Johnson or UNDER 8 or higher if only one of the two starts; Tampa Bay as underdogs of +125 against other than Johnson; Florida as favorites of -150 or less if Johnson opposes other than Price; OVER Totals of 9 or lower if Tampa starts Wade Davis against Ricky Nolasco, Nate Roberston or Chris Volstad.