Final week decides all

Sep 26, 2006 7:56 AM

Much will be decided in the final week of the regular season as only the New York Mets, New York Yankees and Detroit Tigers have clinched playoff berths.

Minnesota is on the verge of wrapping up the American League Wild Card and Oakland is about to do the same in the AL West. However, especially in the case of Oakland, challenges still remain.

The A’s could have wrapped up the division by winning at home this past Saturday or Sunday against Los Angeles, but the Angels won both games. LA still has hope its four game series this coming weekend will be meaningful. Oakland can take care of business itself by winning two games in the midweek series at Seattle, even if the Angels sweep a home series against Texas.

One thing seems clear — either Oakland or the Angels have a real good shot at winning the AL pennant. Both teams have the best starting rotations of the likely playoff teams. The Yankees have had trouble with their rotation all season and the Tigers starters have worn down during the season’s second half. Minnesota, missing key starters Francisco Liriano and Brad Radke, will be hard pressed to get by the opening round of the playoffs.

San Diego and the Los Angeles Dodgers will decide the NL West with the loser likely to be involved with Philadelphia to determine the Wild Card. None of the three teams figure to finish much above .500. In fact, St Louis, likely winner of the Central, also is likely to have fewer than 85 wins for the season. Only the New York Mets have fashioned a "legitimate" World Series contender record and is the top seed for the NL playoffs. The Mets will end the season with around 95 or 96 wins, more than 10 games ahead of likely second seeded St Louis.

Be wary of making plays over this final weekend of the regular season. Many regulars figure to be rested, both on teams already in the playoffs and those that have been eliminated.

Here’s a look at four of the weekend series that may have some bearing on which teams make the playoffs.

PADRES / D’BACKS: Arizona took 5-of-6 meetings between the teams which were played back in April and May. Since then, the Padres have won 6-of-9 in the series. San Diego has solid starting pitching and should need to win to either win the NL West or Wild Card, both of which may not be decided until Sunday. Arizona was in the race for much of the season before fading in August.

Preferred plays: PADRES as an underdog while still in contention for the playoffs. D’BACKS as a +125 underdog or -125 favorite if the Padres have been eliminated. UNDER 9 or higher if San Diego is still playing to make the playoffs.

DODGERS / GIANTS: Once again one of these two long time rivals gets to play the role of spoiler. This time it’s the Giants that get the chance to knock the Dodgers out of the playoffs. That feat would be extra sweet with the Dodgers battling for both the division title and the Wild Card. Easier said than done. The Dodgers have a strong offense but it has been very streaky over the second half of the season. Giants OF Barry Bonds has been swinging a strong bat over the past month and could put pressure on the Dodgers pitchers to perform.

Preferred plays: GIANTS as an underdog in any matchup. OVER 8 or higher in any matchup.


CHISOX / TWINS: The defending champion White Sox are all but eliminated from the playoffs and likely shall be eliminated when this series gets underway on Friday. Still, the Sox have pride and are likely to give their all in an attempt to deny Minnesota the Central title as the Twins battle to overtake Detroit. However, Minnesota has the best home record in all of baseball, 50-24 beginning the week.

Preferred plays: WHITE SOX as underdogs in starts by Jon Garland or Javier Vazquez. TWINS -150 against other Chicago starters. UNDER of 9½ or higher in any matchup.

A’s / ANGELS: This series could be rendered meaningless depending on how both teams fare in midweek contests. It is possible that the Angels could be in a situation in which they’d have to sweep the A’s to either win the division or, more likely, force a playoff.

Preferred plays: ANGELS -140 if they need to win to stay alive. ATHLETICS as an underdog if they have already clinched the division. UNDER 9 or higher in any matchup regardless of whether the Angels are still alive for the playoffs.