Action filled week still focuses on Red Sox-Yanks

May 28, 2002 9:33 AM

Despite the threat of an interruption of the season later this summer this season is unfolding with many intriguing individual and team stories.

Barry Bonds is about to become the fourth greatest home run hitter in history. We’ve had two players in less than a month hit four home runs in a game. There have been several outstanding pitching performances in the season’s first eight weeks. It would be a shame if this season were not played to its full conclusion, especially for Boston fans. The Red Sox have the best record in baseball.

Boston’s nemesis continues to be the Yankees. New York has baseball’s third best record and, in a departure from recent seasons, is using power to achieve many of its wins. The Bronx Bombers lead the majors in home runs and have used the long ball several times this season to mount big comebacks. Boston begins the week with a slim one game edge over the Yankees in the American League East.

Chicago and Minnesota are tied atop the AL Central with Cleveland just 4½ games back. Cleveland continues to struggle at the plate but its pitching is showing some improvement. The Indians may remain a good club to play UNDER the total until their bats heat up. Beginning this week, the UNDER is 33-15-1 in Cleveland’s games.

Seattle leads Anaheim by three games in the AL West while both Oakland and Texas have fallen back. The Angels had gotten off to their worst start in franchise history but their recent play has now found them off to their best start in franchise history.

The NL East remains tightly contested with fourth place Florida only two games behind division leading New York as the week begins. Last place Philadelphia is just seven out, but they’ve been unable to sustain momentum after winning two or three in a row. The Phillies are a major league worst 4-21 away from home.

St. Louis has climbed to just a game behind Cincinnati in the NL Central where suddenly Chicago’s Cubs have begun to get hot. Though nine games back and in fifth place in the six-team division, the Cubbies had won five in a row before the bullpen blew Sunday night’s game in Houston. The Cubs’ improved play has coincided with the awakening of Fred McGriff’s bat and the call up from the minors of hot pitching prospect Mark Prior.

With a pair of solid starters in Kerry Wood and Jon Lieber, it’s too early to write off the Cubs. Houston also has the potential to make a move and, by late August, the race could be a four-team affair if Cincinnati can remain in contention, especially with Ken Griffey Jr. back in the lineup.

Baseball’s best division, top to bottom, might be the NL West. Four of the five teams are above .500 and the Wild Card would be San Francisco. The Giants trail Arizona by 2½ games with the Dodgers just one more game back. The hot team over the past 10 days has been Colorado. The Rockies have won eight of 10 games beginning the week but now take to the road after a lengthy 13-game homestand. Colorado is just 7-14 away from Coors field.

Thirteen of this weekend’s 15 series are the back end of home and home matchups played last weekend. Here’s a look at some of the best this weekend.

Braves at Reds: Atlanta took two of three from Cincinnati at home last weekend and both teams are in tight races. In last week’s series Atlanta outscored the Reds 22-13 as all three games went OVER the total. Cincinnati actually caught a break by not having to face either Tom Glavine or Damien Moss who have been the Braves’ most effective starters. Both Glavine and Moss can be played in this series provided neither is priced at more than minus $1.25.

Cincinnati would be worth a play as an underdog against Greg Maddux if Elmer Dessens gets a start. Should Dessens face either Glavine or Moss the play in the game becomes UNDER rather than a side. The most likely games to feature OVERs would be in starts by Cincinnati’s Joey Hamilton and Jose Rijo or by Atlanta’s Kevin Millwood.

Rockies at Giants: Colorado swept the Giants in last weekend’s series at Coors Field. The Giants figure to be heavy favorites throughout this rematch. If the total is 9 or higher in starts from Russ Ortiz or Kirk Rueter the UNDER is worth a look.

Livan Hernandez would be "go against’ pitcher as a moderate favorite. The OVER is the play in games started by other than Rueter or Ortiz. The OVER is 19-9-1 in Rockies games at Coors, compared to 11-9-1 on the road.

Red Sox at Yanks: Boston has won five of eight meetings thus far this season but all eight were played at Fenway Park. The UNDER is the play even though last weekend’s results were split 2-2. Pedro Martinez and Derek Lowe continue to pace the Boston pitching staff and the Red Sox have won 17 of their combined 20 starts. Perhaps overlooked is the fact that Boston has won all seven of John Burkett’s starts as well. The Red Sox are clearly worth backing. No Yankees starter has an ERA under 3.00.

The Yanks’ rotation has been hit by injuries of late and no fewer than three emergency replacements have been pressed into service the past week. If priced less than minus $1.40, Ted Lilly is worth backing in matchups other than Martinez or Lowe.

Angels at Twins: Minnesota took two of three in Anaheim last weekend and could have swept. The Twins got excellent starting pitching as all three starters combined to allow just three earned runs in just over 21 innings of work.

Anaheim is 13-7 on the road and is worth playing as a dog or if starters Ramon Ortiz and Kevin Appier are favored by no more than minus $1.25. The UNDER would be enticing if we get a rematch between Kevin Appier and Eric Milton. Also, the UNDER is 5-1-1 in the last seven games Twins P Matt Kinney has started.