Baseball’s non-waiver trade deadline passed last week and those two old foes -- the Yanks and Red Sox -- were busiest.
New York begins this week with a 3Â½ game lead over Boston in the AL East. While the Yanks focused primarily on offense and some spot relievers, Boston was heavy into shoring up both its starting and relief pitching with the acquisitions of starter Jeff Suppan from Pittsburgh and closer Scott Williamson from Cincinnati.
Yogi Berra is most often quoted as saying "It ain’t over ”˜till it’s over" and despite the seeming hilarity of that statement those words are very true. A few weeks ago both Seattle and Kansas City had comfortable divisional leads but are now being challenged.
It is quite possible that either or both could miss the playoffs despite being in first place for much of the first two thirds of the season.
Atlanta and San Francisco have "comfortable" double-digit leads in the NL East and West. But baseball’s other four divisions now have races with a possible change of leadership within the next week if things break certain ways.
Boston and Yankees continue to battle in the AL East as do Seattle and Oakland in the West. The Central is a three-way battle between Kansas City, Chicago and Minnesota.
The lone National League pennant race is in the Central where Houston begins the week with 2Â½ games up on St Louis and four ahead of the Chicago Cubs.
The wild card races continue to be exciting, especially in the NL where Philadelphia’s lead is only two games over Florida. Five other teams - Florida, Montreal, St. Louis, the Cubs and Arizona are also in the mix. Even Colorado and Los Angeles, both 6Â½ behind the Phils, have a shot. This has the makings of the fiercest battle since the wild card was introduced nearly a decade ago.
Things are less congested in the AL. Boston has a slim half game lead over Oakland by virtue of one less loss. The White Sox are 6Â½ back with Toronto, Minnesota and Anaheim fading.
Here’s a look at four series to be played this weekend.
Braves at Cards: Atlanta is 3-0 vs St. Louis with none of the games decided by more than two runs. The UNDER was also 3-0 in the matchup, played in Atlanta back in late April. Both teams have been strong offensively for much of the season and neither has a dominating starting pitcher. Atlanta has the overall better pitching especially in the bullpen with closer John Smoltz. Play ATLANTA as an underdog in any game and the OVER at 9 or less. The best high-scoring may come when St Louis starts Garret Stephenson or Brett Tomko or when Atlanta pitches rookie Horacio Ramirez.
Phillies at Giants: Philadelphia won 2-of-3 when the teams met at The Vet in late April. The line "under" result was the finale, a 1-0 gem in which Kevin Millwood no-hit the Giants in edging rookie Jessie Foppert. The Phillies have better depth in starting pitching, although the Giants acquisition of Sidney Ponson from Balitmore just before the trade deadline bolsters the rotation considerably. Play PHILLY as an underdog except when Brandon Duckworth pitches. Bet UNDER at 8 or higher when the Giants start Jason Schmidt or Jerome Williams against any Philly hurler, including Duckworth.
M’s at Yanks: Possible playoff preview. Seattle has been the more balanced team until recently when the starting pitching and offense have struggled. The Mariners have won only half their games over the past month. New York has the deepest starting rotation in baseball with only Jeff Weaver struggling consistently. Play SEATTLE as a +150 underdog except when Joel Pineiro starts. Pineiro should backed at any price. Bet UNDER at 9 or higher except when Freddy Garcia (M’s) or Jeff Weaver (Yanks) starts. The Yanks and the "over" are each 4-2 in the series.
A’s at White Sox: Both teams could be in position to capture first place in their respective divisions. Both teams have solid starting pitching, which should be the key in this series. Play UNDER key at totals of 9 or higher. Oakland has won 4-of-6 meetings this season with the "over / under" split at 3-3. The value in the series will be with the underdog, especially if Oakland’s Tim Hudson or Mark Mulder and Chicago’s Esteban Loaiza or Bartolo Colon are in that role.