The 3-2 Pitch by Andy Iskoe | Baseball’s final week of the regular season still has great significance for the teams still in contention for the playoffs.
In the National League only the Chicago Cubs have clinched a playoff spot by virtue of having won the NL Central Division title. They’ve all but wrapped up the best record in the Senior Circuit, assuring themselves of the homefield in the divisional round of the playoffs and also for the NLCS if they survive the first round.
Philadelphia and the New York Mets will determine the NL East title over this final week and Arizona and the Los Angeles Dodgers will do the same in the NL West. The Dodgers start the week 2½ games ahead of the Snakes while the Phillies lead the Mets by 1½.
Milwaukee remains alive for the NL Wild Card but trail the Mets by 1½ starting the week.
The Phillies have the easiest path as they host Atlanta and Washington to close the season. The Mets and Brewers each have home series against the Cubs while the Mets also host Florida and Milwaukee hosts Pittsburgh.
In the American League the Los Angeles Angels long ago had wrapped up the Western Division title and this past weekend Tampa Bay clinched at least the Wild Card, although they are just a few wins (or Boston losses) away from winning the Eastern Division title.
Not only is this Tampa’s first appearance in the playoffs in the franchise’s 11-year history, it’s also the first time the franchise has won more than 70 games in a season.
With the Yankees winning the final regular season game at Yankee Stadium Sunday night, it would take six more Yankee wins and seven straight Boston losses for the Yanks to tie the Red Sox for the Wild Card and force a one- game playoff next Monday. Folks, it ain’t gonna happen!
For the first time since 1993 (and in Joe Girardi’s first season as Yankee manager) the Bronx Bombers won’t be in the playoffs.
The AL Central remains a two-team race with the Chicago White Sox leading Minnesota by 2½ games as the week begins. Minnesota does have a chance to erase their deficit as they host the Sox for three games Tuesday through Thursday.
The Twins host Kansas City over the weekend while Chicago entertains Cleveland. It could come down to a make up game between the Sox and Detroit on Monday if needed to decide the Division title. The second-place finisher in the Central cannot earn the AL Wild Card.
Although all of the following series may wind up being meaningless in terms of playoff implications, they are still interesting matchups to wind up the 2008 regular season.
Here’s a preview:
Marlins at Mets: The Mets will likely need to win at least one if not more of these games to make the playoffs. New York has won 9 of 15 games between the teams this season.
• Marlins +150 or more in any matchup.
• Over 9 or lower except if Johan Santana starts for the Mets or Ricky Nolasco goes for Florida
Cubs at Brewers: The road team has won 9 of 13 meetings this season. Their last two series have produced six overs for totals players. The Cubs are in position to arrange their starting rotation for the playoffs while Milwaukee likely needs to win at least two of the three games to earn the Wild Card. The Cubs are likely to rest their regulars throughout the series.
• Brewers -125 or less in any matchup.
• Cubs +150 underdogs or more in any matchup.
• Over 9 or lower in any matchup in a start by Sabathia.
Yankees at Red Sox: The Yankees will be playing this series for pride. Boston has won 8 of 15 games in the series and will be setting up its rotation for the playoffs. New York will be motivated to get wins for starters Mike Mussina and Andy Pettitte, both of whom are questionable to be back next season.
• Yankees +140 or more in any matchup.
• Yankees -110 in starts by Mussina or Pettitte.
• Under 9 or higher in any matchup.
Indians at White Sox: The Sox have won 10 of 15 meetings this season. Cleveland’s starting rotation is in a state of transition following midseason trades of Paul Byrd and C C Sabathia and their youngsters will continue to get more of a look. They also have the likely Cy Young Award winner in lefty Cliff Lee.
• Indians as underdogs in starts by Scott Lewis or Jeremy Sowers.
• Indians -130 or less in a start by Cliff Lee.
• White Sox -150 or less against other Cleveland starters.
• Over 9 or lower in any series matchup.