Division and Wild Card Races Heat Up This Sunday

Whilst the arrival of the new College football season this weekend has seen a flurry of sports betting, it’s worth remembering that Major League Baseball is starting to really heat up and there’s plenty of action to be had this Sunday.

Of the six MLB divisions, only Cincinnati in the NL Central looks to have a secure grip on the top spot. At 8 ½ games ahead of St. Louis, the surging Reds look a fairly safe bet to take the division. Washington remains 6 ½ ahead of the Braves with both teams trying their best to lose at all costs. San Francisco’s 4 ½ game lead over Los Angeles could take a hit when the two teams meet next weekend and again in October.

In the American League New York and Texas hold a three game lead in their respective divisions, while Chicago’s lead has dwindled to one game after Detroit was victorious on Saturday. Nothing is set yet, and with the introduction of a second Wild Card slot things look like they’ll go down to the wire.

Here then is a pair of match-ups and lines to keep an eye on this Sunday.

Baltimore Orioles @ New York Yankees

The hot-and-cold Phil Hughes takes to the mound for the Yankees on Sunday afternoon.

The rubber match of this three game series will see Chris Tillman (7-2, 3.26 ERA) take the mound for the Orioles, with Phil Hughes (13-11, 4.02 ERA) going for the Yankees.

Tillman has been a pleasant surprise for the O’s in his 10 starts and has already registered a victory against the Yankees on July 31. Hughes has been a bit of an anomaly, looking like a world-beater one moment and a Triple-A pitcher the next. Still, over the past three games he’s only given up a combined three earned runs.

New York (76-56, 41-27 home) is currently three games ahead of Baltimore (73-59, 41-27 road) having taken a win on Saturday. Baltimore hasn’t been this close to a division leader this late in the season since 1997 – the year the Birds won the division outright – and hasn’t beaten the Yankees in a series since that same season.

Baltimore is the underdog at +130 but the combination of Tillman’s strong pitching, Baltimore’s impressive record since the All Star break and the Yankees’ injuries and slump could make this a bet worth placing. Take the over on nine runs for -120; Hughes is liable to give up a slew and Tillman has had some good run support to get him through some tough games.

St. Louis Cardinals @ Washington Nationals

Sunday afternoon's game against the Cardinals could be Steven Strasburg's penultimate appearance of the season.

Washington (80-52, 38-25 home) is looking to hold on to the NL East. A recent string of poor results has seen Cincinnati pass them as the team with the best record in baseball. Meanwhile, St. Louis (72-61, 32-35 road) is looking to lockup one of the two Wild Card spots.

Jake Westbrook (13-10, 3.94 ERA) will pitch for the Cardinals. He’s 6-2 over his last eight starts but was roughed-up by Pittsburgh on Tuesday, giving up seven runs on 11 hits. He’ll be up against Steven Strasburg (15-6, 3.05 ERA) who has enjoyed an impressive season, despite the constant media circus focusing on his impending shutdown. For the record, Strasburg has pitched 150.1 innings so far this season, leaving him 9.2 to play with. That’s Sunday’s start and one against Miami next weekend.

Washington is favored (-1 ½ at +130 odds) and it’s probably best to go with the favorite here. Strasburg will be looking to go out with a bang with potentially just two games left on the slate while St. Louis will be tired in the final game of a nine-game road trip that has passed through Cincinnati and Pittsburgh as well as Washington.

Take the over on eight runs at -125; Washington has scored eight or more runs in five straight games and Saturday night’s 10-9 victory shows St. Louis is no slouch when it comes to offense.