The regular season has come down to the final two weeks and much still remains to be decided, including the top seeds in each league.
After rolling through the National League for most of the season with a record that reached 40 games over .500 at one point, the St. Louis Cardinals have been rather ordinary of late. St. Louis has lost 10 of its last 17 games through Sunday to reduce its lead in the Central to just 4 games over Pittsburgh and 6 over the Chicago Cubs.
A similar situation exists in the American League. For much of the season Kansas City had by far the best record and was the only team in the circuit playing better than .600 baseball. However, over the past month the Royals have been below average going just 14-16 over their last 30 games.
Meanwhile, Toronto has been red hot, going 20-10 over that same stretch and cutting into the Royals’ once seemingly insurmountable lead. Starting play on Monday, KC was just 2 games ahead of the Blue Jays for the best record in the AL.
Although the Royals lead second place Minnesota by 11 games in the Central, Toronto started this week with just a 2.5 game lead over the Yankees in the AL East as they host New York in a three-game series that started Monday.
Both the Yankees and Blue Jays are in good position to make the Playoffs regardless of how their series plays out. The Yanks had a 4 game lead over Houston for the first AL Wild Card and a 6.5 game lead over Minnesota, the team just behind the Astros.
The New York Mets start the week with a 6 game lead over Washington in the NL East and the Los Angeles Dodgers held a 7.5 game lead over San Francisco in the NL West. The Dodgers lead the Mets by 1.5 games for the home field advantage in their likely meeting in the NLDS.
In addition to the tight race in the AL East, a three team race still exists in the AL West. Houston and the Los Angeles Angels had alternated in the lead for most of the season but the Texas Rangers managed to stay close enough to take advantage when neither the Astros nor the Angels could break away.
Texas finally caught the Astros last week and start this week with a 1.5 game lead over Houston. The Angels are just 2.5 games behind the Astros as they battle for second place in a Monday through Wednesday three-game series in Houston. Barring a sweep by either team the Rangers can extend their lead when they play at Oakland for three games from Tuesday through Thursday.
Then the Angels get to take advantage over the weekend when Houston hosts Texas while the Angels host Seattle. The final weekend of the series will feature Texas hosting the Angels while Houston plays at Arizona. The AL West likely will come down to that final weekend.
Baseball is poised for another dramatic finish to the regular season that will serve as an appetizer for a Playoffs season where there appears to be no clear cut favorite to win it all but with virtually the entire Playoff field of 19 teams fully capable.
Here’s a look at the only three weekend series involving two teams still in contention for the Playoffs.
Pittsburgh Pirates at Chicago Cubs: This series at Wrigley Field may not only decide which team hosts a likely Wild Card meeting but could put the winner of this series, especially if there is a sweep, in position to challenge St. Louis for the NL Central title, although that remains unlikely but possible. The Cubs have won 10 of 16 meetings including taking 3 of 4 in Pittsburgh last week. The teams have played 7 OVERs, 7 UNDERs with 2 pushes, averaging 8.7 runs per game.
PLAYS: Pirates +130 or more with Cole, Liriano or Burnett against Lester or Arrieta; Pirates as underdogs of any price or favorites of -120 or less with that trio not facing Lester or Arrieta; Cubs -125 or less with other than Arrieta or Lester not opposing Burnett, Cole or Liriano; OVER 8.5 or lower in starts not involving Arrieta, Cole or Lester.
Cleveland Indians at Kansas City Royals: Cleveland has the much better starting rotation, which gives them a big edge in this series. The KC bullpen, a strength all season, has been shaky over the past month that has seen the Royals play losing baseball for the past month. The Royals have had the more productive offense but Cleveland has averaged just over 5 runs per game over the past month. KC has won 9 of 16 meetings this season with 10 games going OVER, 5 staying UNDER and 1 “No Action” with the team averaging a combined 9.1 runs per game.
PLAYS: Cleveland as underdogs of any price in any matchup except in a start by Cleveland’s Trevor Bauer; Royals -140 or less with any starter against Bauer; OVER 7.5 or lower.
Texas Rangers at Houston Astros: Houston has been a hit and miss team all season, either striking out or connecting with the long ball, Texas has had a better balanced offense but possessing decent home run power as well. Dallas Keuchel is the ace of the Houston staff although he has shown signs of fatigue lately. Cole Hamels is the supposed ace of the Texas rotation following his trade deadline acquisition but he’s been just better than average over his 9 starts.
PLAYS: Houston as underdogs of any price in any matchup except against Hamels; Texas +150 or higher against Keuchel; Texas +125 or more in any other matchup; OVER 8.5 or lower in any matchup not involving Hamels, Mike Fiers, Keuchel or Scott Kazmir.
Andy Iskoe, and his Logical Approach, provides his popular and unique handicapping statistics to Gaming Today readers and online visitors. He has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football. Contact Andy at [email protected]