Just a fortnight remains until this season’s Playoff field is set and the matchups are known. Eight teams will start off all even with two of them advancing to the 2009 World Series.
Although none of the eight participants have mathematically clinched their Playoff spots we have a pretty good idea of how most of that field will shape up.
In the American League the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Angels are all but certain to be playing in mid October. The Yankees should win the Eastern Division with the Red Sox claiming the Wild Card.
Only the Central Division champion remains contentious where Detroit is trying to hold off Minnesota over these final two weeks. The Tigers begin the week with a 3 game lead over the Twins and will host the Twins for a four game series that runs next week, Monday through Thursday.
The Philadelphia Phillies and St Louis Cardinals should wrap up Division titles within the next week. The Los Angeles Dodgers have extended their lead to five games in the West and should outlast both Colorado and San Francisco.
Colorado has a nice four and a half game lead over the Giants for the NL Wild Card but with both Florida and Atlanta within a game of the Giants it’s too early to call the Rockies the wild card winners. Sure, they do control their own fate and do play most of their remaining games at home. But they must end the season at Los Angeles which could be a series of need for both teams.
Here’s a look at four series this weekend, each involving at least one team still in contention for the postseason.
St. Louis at Colorado: St. Louis will be playing out the string as they prepare for the post season so we could see several regulars kept out of one or more games in this series. Colorado needs to win to maintain their lead in the Wild Card race while also entertaining thoughts of making a run at the Dodgers for the Western Division title. Surprisingly, in their only previous meeting this season, Colorado swept a four game series in St. Louis in early June, outscoring the Cardinals 33 to 9. Three of the 4 games went OVER the Total. Pitching has been the key to the Rockies success as their five main starting pitchers all have ERAs below 4½ despite playing home games in the mile high altitude.
PREFERRED PLAYS: Colorado as underdogs of +120 or more against St. Louis’ Chris Carpenter or Adam Wainwright or as favorites of -150 or less against any other St. Louis starter; UNDER Totals of 9 or higher in any matchup.
Chicago Cubs at San Francisco: The Cubs are reduced to playing the role of spoiler as what’s been a most disappointing seasons winds down. In their only previous meeting this season the teams split a two game series in Chicago back in early May. This is a four-game series that starts Thursday. Both teams have solid starting pitching. The Cubs normally have the better offense but injuries have significantly decreased their productivity. This is a critical series for the Giants who need to make up ground in the Wild Card race.
PREFERRED PLAYS: UNDER 8 in any matchup except UNDER 7 or higher if San Francisco’s Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain or Barry Zito oppose the Cubs’ Ryan Dempster, Ted Lilly or Randy Wells; Giants as underdogs in any matchup or if favored by -120 or less against Dempster or Lilly regardless of who starts for them.
Boston at N. Y. Yankees: Barring a collapse by the Yankees in Los Angeles earlier in the week, this series may not have the significance usually attached to a late season series between these rivals. New York starts the week leading the Sox by 5 games and while the Yankees are battling the Angels, the Sox should have success in their four-game series in Kansas City. Both teams are virtually assured of making the Playoffs so this series could impact the Division as well as the top overall American League seed. Boston’s starting pitchers have improved over the past month while the Yankees’ only reliable starter has been ace C C Sabathia. Boston won the first 8 meetings this season but the Yankees have since won 6 of the last 7.
PREFERRED PLAYS: Either team as underdogs of at least +125 in any matchup except Red Sox must be +150 or more against Sabathia; Yankees as favorites of -125 or less against Josh Beckett or Jon Lester; OVER Totals of 9 or lower in any matchup not involving Sabathia, Beckett or Lester; UNDER Totals of 8 or higher if Sabathia faces Beckett or Lester.
Detroit at Chicago White Sox: Chicago all but conceded their chances of making the Playoffs with some of their recent personnel moves yet start the week with an outside chance of catching both the Twins and Tigers. They host Minnesota in a three-game mid-week series before hosting the Tigers this weekend. They also will benefit from next week’s four-game series between the Tigers and Twins. A longshot at best but the Sox have the starting pitching to stay in almost every game, especially after Jake Peavy made his White Sox debut over the weekend. Detroit has won 7 of 12 meetings but the teams have not met since late July. Ten of the 12 games have stayed UNDER the Total including each of the last six games.
PREFERRED PLAYS: Chicago as underdogs of +125 or more against Justin Verlander or if favored by -140 or less against any other Detroit starter; UNDER Totals of 9 or higher in any matchup; UNDER Totals of 8 or higher if Chicago’s Mark Buehrle, Gavin Floyd, John Danks or Peavy oppose Detroit’s Verlander or Edwin Jackson.