Diamondbacks will cruise to another West title

Sep 24, 2002 9:27 AM

   The season’s final week of regular season play begins with a couple of Playoff spots still to be determined, with both battles taking place in the West.

   In the National League Atlanta and St Louis have clinched Division titles and Arizona is on the verge of wrapping up the NL West. The Diamondbacks begin the week needing just one win or Los Angeles loss to clinch at least a tie for a Playoff spot. The snakes lead the NF West by four and a half games over San Francisco with the Dodgers another pair of games back. Realistically the one remaining race in the senior circuit is for the Wild Card with the Giants leading Los Angeles by a pair of games. If, after next Sunday, there is just a half game separating the two the Giants will have to travel back to Atlanta to make up a game washed out over the summer. If that game results in a tie between the Dodgers and Giants then San Francisco will have to travel back across the country for a one game playoff. With Atlanta likely to wind up with the best record in the National League the winner of that one game Playoff would then have to go back across the country to open the Divisional Series against the Braves. San Francisco could be a very fatigued team if they have to both play the Dodgers in a Playoff game and then face the Braves. And that could also mess up their pitching plans for the opening of the NLDS so keep this in mind at the beginning of next week.

   Things are somewhat more settled in the American League. The New York Yankees have won their fifth straight AL East title and Minnesota has won the Central. Oakland has at least clinched a Playoff spot and lead the AL West by three games over Anaheim. The Angels still need one win or a Seattle loss to clinch the fourth Playoff spot. Barring a complete collapse by Oakland it would appear that the Angels will be a Wild Card and face the Yankees in the ALDS.  Oakland would face the Twins. The race for the best record in the American League is tight with both Oakland and the Yankees having each lost 57 games. The Yankees have one additional game to play and have a much more favorable schedule this week. New York hosts Tampa Bay and visits Baltimore while Oakland ends the season on the road in Seattle and Texas.

   The final weekend of the season does not find any of the likely Playoff participants in either league facing one another but there may still be some opportunities as teams play out the string.

   Next week we shall preview the Playoffs and assess each team’s chances of winning the World Series.

   Here’s a look at some of the series this weekend that will conclude the regular season.

   Philadelphia at Florida-Both teams were more disappointing than expected this season although the prospects for both teams are bright. That is if ownership doesn’t try to dismantle each team, especially the Marlins. Both teams have some solid young arms to form the nucleus of improving rotations. This could be a low scoring series and the underdog in each game should be considered, especially if priced at plus 120 or higher. Playing the UNDER at a line of 8 or higher is also worthy of consideration.

   San Diego at Los Angeles-The Dodgers may still be mathematically alive for the Playoffs following their midweek series at home against Colorado while the Giants hosted the Padres in a two game midweek series. San Diego can play spoiler throughout the final week. The Pads split with the Giants about ten days ago and did take one of three last week against the Dodgers. With potential need for the Dodgers expect this to be a conservatively managed series and the UNDER looks like the most attractive way to play. But if the Dodgers have been eliminated San Diego will be worth a play as underdogs.

   Oakland at Texas-The Athletics might have wrapped up the AL West title when this series gets underway and will be looking to set up their rotation for the Playoffs. Alex Rodriguez of Texas has a final chance to make his case for American League MVP and the Rangers will be trying to achieve that honor for their teammate. Texas is worth a shot throughout the series provided they are priced as underdogs of at least plus 150. The OVER is also worth a play at a total of 10 or less, especially if Oakland has already clinched the Division crown.

   Seattle at Anaheim-Seattle begins the week one game away from Playoff elimination and will likely be playing out the string against the Angels. Anaheim will be concerned about setting up their rotation for the Playoffs but will also be interested in maintaining an edge. Seattle might rest their regulars and take a look at some of the young arms in the organization in an effort to bolster their pitching staff for next season. Anaheim is worth a play when favored by no more than minus 140. At totals of 9 or higher the UNDER is also worth a look.