The 2017 regular season has come down to the final two weeks and roughly a dozen games for each team looking to secure a berth in the Playoffs.
Last week was highlighted by the setting of an American League winning streak as the Cleveland Indians finally lost last Friday night for the first time in September after winning 22 games in a row, dating back to August.
After losing to the Royals on Friday night to end the streak the Tribe began a new streak by closing out the week with wins on Saturday and Sunday.
Over the weekend a pair of Division titles were clinched in the American League as Cleveland clinched the AL Central and Houston the AL West.
In the National League Washington clinched the East and start this week with a huge 21-game lead over second place Miami. Two more losses by the Marlins and one more by Atlanta will assure the Nats of finishing the season as the only NL teams with a winning record.
The Los Angeles Dodgers’ losing streak reached 11 games – the most since the franchise moved from Brooklyn nearly 60 years ago. The streak was snapped last Tuesday with a win at San Francisco.
The Dodgers would then win four in a row prior to losing at Washington Sunday night, and that mini-streak enabled the Dodgers to clinch at least a Wild Card berth, although it will be only a few days before the Dodgers, leading the NL West by 9.5 games through Sunday, clinch the Division title. They still have a 6 game lead over the Nationals for the best record in the senior circuit. They also start the week with a 3.5 game lead over Cleveland for the best record in MLB.
The Indians start this week with a slim 1.5 game lead over Houston for the best record in the American League and the right to face the winner of the Wild Card game in the ALDS.
The two Division races that may not be officially decided until the final week of the season are in the AL East where Boston led the New York Yankees by 3 games through Sunday and in the NL Central where the Chicago Cubs, finally playing excellent baseball, had a Monday morning lead of 4 games over Milwaukee.
Arizona and Colorado have all but clinched the two NL Wild Cards Arizona up by 5 games on Colorado for the first Wild Card and the Rockies holding a 2.5 game lead over Milwaukee for the second. Only St Louis, 2 games behind the Brewers, has what can be considered a remote chance of making the Playoffs field.
The AL Wild Card chase is finally being narrowed with only two teams less than 5 games behind Minnesota, which holds the second Wild Card. The Twins trail the Yankees by 4 games for the first Wild Card as they visit Yankee Stadium for a three game series that started Monday, giving them a chance to narrow the game on New York. The LA Angels started the week 2 games behind Minnesota with Seattle 4.5 games behind the Twins.
In next week’s column that previews the final week of the regular season we will take a look at the teams whose Season Win Totals still are to be decided as the Playoffs approach.
Here’s a preview of three weekend series.
Chicago Cubs at Milwaukee: A bit more than a week ago Milwaukee swept a three game series in Chicago that enhanced the Brewers’ chances of catching the Cubs in the NL Central. The Brewers have gone 3-3 since while the Cubs have not lost since, winning 6 in a row to regain their 4 game lead that had slipped to 1 following Milwaukee’s sweep.
The Cubs are playing their most consistent baseball of the season and start the week 17 games above .500 after flirting with that mediocre mark for the first half of the season. The Division race should still be alive when this series begins and as such the Brewers are playable in any matchup if getting plus 125 or more. The Cubs can be backed in starts by Jack Arrieta or Kyle Hendrics as underdogs of plus 120 or more against any Milwaukee starter. Look OVER Totals of 8.5 or lower in any matchup.
Cleveland at Seattle: Having clinched the AL Central title Cleveland goal the rest of the way will be to maintain its hold on the top seed for the AL Playoffs. The Tribe starts the week a game and a half ahead of Houston. Seattle is still in the race for a Wild Card, starting the week 4.5 games behind the holder of the second Wild Card, Minnesota, but with just one team to jump over, trailing the Angels by 2 games.
The task is daunting and we don’t know the situation as this series starts but the Mariners will be worth playing as home underdogs of plus 150 or more in any matchup. Cleveland may begin to rest some players on a daily basis prior to the final few games of the regular season. They still have excellent starting pitching which is why we have the requirement for at least plus 150. At the same time the UNDER is worthy of playing, especially at Totals of 8 or higher although in starts by Cleveland’s Corey Kluber or Carlos Carrasco UNDER Totals of 7.5 or higher are playable.
Boston at Cincinnati: This is a rematch of that great 1975 World Series but in franchise names only. Whereas Boston is likely headed to the Playoffs the Reds have been out of contention virtually all season as they need to address a multitude of issues, most revolving around their starting pitching. This is why the OVER makes sense throughout this series with the exception of a game started by Boston’s Chris Sale.
At Totals of 9 or lower the OVER may be played and even at 9.5 consider the OVER unless Boston starts Sale, Rick Porcello or Drew Pomeranz. With the games having little meaning for Cincinnati it would take a price of plus 200 or more to back the Reds except in a start by Sale. In such a start Sale and the Red Sox can be backed laying the run anda half.