There’s drama in the baseball Wild Card races in each league

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With just two weeks remaining until the regular season ends there’s been a bit of drama introduced into the Wild Card races in each league.

With Atlanta being swept in St. Louis, Milwaukee losing three of four to Philadelphia (at home no less) and Boston similarly being swept in Tampa Bay we now have a pair of races that appeared to be settled just a week ago.

In the National League, St Louis now trails Atlanta by just 4½ games in the Wild Card race and has even closed to within 6 of Milwaukee in the NL Central.

In the American League, Boston’s lead for the Wild Card is now just 3½ games over Tampa Bay and these teams meet in Boston for a four game series that starts Thursday.

And in the AL West, the Texas lead over the Los Angeles Angels is just 2½ games with these teams meeting for a three game series in Anaheim to end the regular season.

Arizona will win the NL West and could overtake Milwaukee for the number two seed. Starting the week the Diamondbacks trail the Brewers by just a half game for the league’s second best record.

Arizona, Detroit and Philadelphia each have “magic numbers” in single digits for clinching their Division titles.

Here’s a look at four series to be played this weekend.

Cardinals at Phillies: St Louis has won three of the prior five meetings this season, all of which were played in St. Louis. Three of the games stayed UNDER the Total. The Phillies have all but clinched the top seed in the NL with their double digit leads over both Milwaukee and Arizona for the best record in the senior circuit.

St Louis still has a shot at catching either Milwaukee in the NL Central or Atlanta for the Wild Card although those chances are slight with less than two weeks remaining when this series starts. The Phillies might well begin to rest players down the stretch and work on setting up their rotation for the playoffs.

St Louis has no such luxury and will be out to win every game, allowing manager Tony LaRussa to micro manage as no other manager seems to do in the modern era.

Preferred plays:

• Cardinals +150 against Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee or Cole Hamels.

• Cardinals as underdogs or -125 favorites not facing Halladay, Lee or Hamels.

• UNDER 8 or less in any matchup.

• UNDER 7 or higher with Lee or Hamels against Chris Carpenter.

D’backs at Padres: Arizona has won 10 of 15 meetings this season, including three of four at home against the Padres last week. Prior to losing the series finale on Sunday, the Diamondbacks had won six straight against the Pads, though all were at home.

The UNDER is 7-6-2 in previous games between the two teams. The Padres’ have been better offensively on the road but continue to struggle at home. Arizona has been efficient on offense and continues to get outstanding starting pitching from Daniel Hudson and Ian Kennedy. Even veteran lefty Joe Saunders has contributed nicely.

Preferred plays:

• D’backs as underdogs of any price in any matchup.

• D’backs -130 or less in starts by Kennedy or Hudson.

• Padres as +125 underdogs or more in starts by Mat Latos, Cory Luebke or Aaron Harang.

• UNDER 8 or higher in any matchup.

• UNDER 7 or higher in matchups involving Hudson, Kennedy, Latos or Luebke.

Rays at Red Sox: Tampa Bay has won nine of 14 meetings with the Red Sox this season, including a three game sweep at home this past weekend. Only five of the games have gone OVER with 9 staying UNDER. Boston continues to have one of baseball’s most potent offenses while Tampa has been much more productive on the road than at home.

Tampa has the much better pitching and actually has won four of five games in Boston this season.

Preferred plays:

• Rays +150 in most any matchup.

• Rays +170 against Josh Beckett.

• Red Sox -150 or less except in a start by John Lackey.

• UNDER 8 of higher if Beckett or Jon Lester oppose Tampa’s David Price or James Shields.

• UNDER 7 or higher if Beckett opposes Shields.

• OVER 9 or lower if Boston’s Lackey or Tim Wakefield does not face Price, Shields or Wade Davis.

Tigers at Athletics: These teams have split six games this season with the OVER going 4-2. Detroit has all but clinched the AL Central title while Oakland is playing out the string with an eye towards 2012. The Tigers have been scoring runs in bunches down the stretch which could make them a real challenger in the playoffs.

Detroit already has the AL’s top pitcher in Justin Verlander and decent starters in the two through four slots. Oakland relies on pitching as its primary asset and has also shown some competence at the plate in recent weeks.

The Tigers may start to rest some regulars as they get closer to clinching the AL Central title. They can still catch and overtake the winner of the AL West for the number two seed.

Preferred plays:

• Athletics +135 or more not facing Verlande.

• Athletics +150 or more against Verlander.

• Tigers -130 or less in starts by Doug Fister, Rick Porcello or Max Scherzer.

• UNDER 8 or higher in any matchup.

• UNDER 7 or higher in starts by Verlander or Fister.

 

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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