St. Louis Close in NL; Still Everything To Play For In AL

Eight days will decide it all.

There are only eight days left in the Major League Baseball regular season calendar and there’s still a whole heap of questions to be answered. The National League is all but set, but the American League is still as competitive as it comes.

In eight days’ time, all will be decided. Well, it might take a ninth day; who’d bet against a playoff game to get into the Wild Card playoff game? Chicago; Detroit: we’re all looking at you.

 

National League Wrap Up Close

Wednesday has a schedule chock full of important games.

In the National League, Atlanta wrapped up a postseason berth with a win over Miami on Tuesday. The Braves can finally exorcise the demons of last September and prepare themselves for that one game playoff, unless they can make up four games on the Nationals that is.

Atlanta’s success – alongside Washington, Cincinnati and San Francisco already qualifying – leaves just one NL postseason berth up for grabs. That spot looks every bit like it’s going to go to St. Louis (84-71, 38-42 road), who plays in Houston (50-105, 34-46 home) tonight. The Cardinals have gone about it quietly as well. The focus has been on the Dodgers and their megabucks spending, leaving St. Louis to get the job done. Expect the Red Birds to do likewise in tonight’s game.

The Los Angeles Dodgers (79-75, 39-40 road) meanwhile have made the trip south down Interstate 5 to San Diego (74-80, 41-35 home). The Padres – who are no slouches at home – took Tuesday’s series opener and enters the second as favorites. Los Angeles needs a win or else they can wave goodbye to any postseason hopes. Actually, at four games back of the Cardinals, they need a miracle. Take them to win this game though.

Milwaukee (79-75, 33-46 road) visits Cincinnati (93-61, 49-30 home). The Reds may have locked up their postseason berth last week, but the team is still looking to finish with the best record in the National League. Don’t expect them to roll over in this one. Like Los Angeles, the Brewers are four games back of the Cards so anything less than a win is postseason suicide. The Reds will take this one behind Bronson Arroyo (12-8, 3.63 ERA) though, effectively eliminating Milwaukee from contention.

 

AL Central Race Couldn’t Be Closer

Tuesday saw Detroit win and Chicago lose. The result? A tie at the top of the AL Central.

Detroit (82-72, 48-31 home) hosts Kansas City (70-84, 36-42) in the third of four meetings this week. The Tigers have taken the first two. With Rick Porcello (9-12, 4.57 ERA) going up against Jeremy Guthrie (7-12, 4.80 ERA) this will hardly be a pitching duel. Take the Tigers to win a high-scoring affair.

Chicago White Sox (82-72, 44-32 home) plays Cleveland (64-91, 30-50 road) in the rubber game of the set. The White Sox have managed to stave off Detroit’s surges over the past two months, but they may not do so tonight. Hector Santiago (3-1, 3.45 ERA) has barely pitched over the past two weeks. His rustiness could cost the White Sox in this one.

 

AL East To Go Down to the Wire

The race between the Yankees and Orioles has swung in New York’s favor over the past week or so, but the Birds are hanging in there.

The New York Yankees (89-65, 41-35 road) play Minnesota (65-90, 30-47 home) this afternoon (1:10 PM ET) in the third of four, with the set having been split at one-apiece already. This one looks like a no-brainer betting-wise. C.C. Sabathia (13-6, 3.47 ERA) will take the mound and the Yankees will ultimate come out with a win that will equate to a two-game lead by the time Baltimore takes the field.

Baltimore (88-67, 43-34 home) hosts Toronto (68-86, 32-48 road) in the final game of a series that has seen the Jays take two out of three from the O’s. Expect a bounce-back performance after two straight losses and that gap closing to 1.5 games again. This race could go down to early next week.

 

AL Wild Card Looking Clearer

It’s looking less likely that the loser of the Detroit/Chicago race will make the playoffs. It’s also looking more and more like the loser of the Yankees/Orioles race will. That leaves one spot to play for.

That spot currently belongs to Oakland (87-67, 43-36 road) who looks to beat Texas (91-63, 48-28 home) tonight. The hometown Rangers are favorites despite losing Tuesday night’s encounter. With four head-to-head games left between the two after tonight, an Oakland loss effectively hands the AL West title to Texas, and leaves Oakland trying to hang on to the Wild Card place. Take a Texas win tonight.

Los Angeles Angels (85-69, 45-34) will need to beat Seattle (72-82, 34-42 road) to stay in the race, although it’s looking more and more unlikely we’ll be seeing the Halos after next Wednesday. Felix Hernandez (13-8, 2.85 ERA) goes for the Mariners, and could be a thorn in the L.A. side. He won for the first time in September last time out. Take the Mariners for the upset win.

Tampa Bay (84-70, 40-36 road) has compiled a six-game winning streak and will need to beat Boston (69-86, 34-46 home) if their very slim chances of making the postseason are to remain intact. The Red Sox have managed to put dents in both New York and Baltimore’s run to the postseason so expect them to do the same to the Rays tonight. The fate of Joe Maddon and Co. lies in Texas beating up on Oakland this week and next.

MLB Postseason Odds Offer Up Some Surprises

A late season surge by Cole Hamels and the Philadelphia Phillies all of a sudden has the team making a push for the postseason.

With just two weeks left in the season, the race for Major League Baseball’s postseason is as hot as it could possibly be.

Not a single division has been decided, although you can put a marker beside Cincinnati (89-59) and San Francisco (85-63) who have all but insurmountable leads heading down the stretch. The NL East tandem of Washington (89-57) and Atlanta (85-64) both look postseason bound. The only question there remains whether the Braves can catch the Strasburg-less Nationals?

In the American League, Texas (87-60) looks good for a postseason berth but a resilient Oakland (84-63) side is still making a bid for the division title whilst leading all in the Wild Card race. New York (83-63) and Baltimore (84-63) are knotted up at the top of the AL East. Chicago (81-66) has regained a three-game lead on Detroit (78-69) and will hope to ride out the last season storm.

But odds released by Bovada have offered up an interesting look at Baseball Futures.

Unraveling the American League

Bovada currently ranks Texas as 9/4 favorites to win the American League outright and 9/2 favorites to win the World Series. From this point forward you should consider the Rangers in the postseason.

Of the remaining teams, the New York Yankees are favorite to make the postseason (-800 Yes, +500 No) alongside Oakland (-800 Yes, +500 No). No surprise there, except New York is currently embroiled in an all-out war with Baltimore for the division crown, and both are just three games ahead of the trailing Wild Card pack.

The Yankees are actually 7/2 to take the AL outright and 7/1 to take the World Series. This is the sort of respect a 27-time World Champion is bound to get.

Baltimore meanwhile is expected to make the postseason (-115 Yes, -115 No) for the first time since 1997 via the final Wild Card spot.

The White Sox are favored to make the postseason (-150 Yes, +120 No) from the AL Central over Detroit (+110 Yes, -150 No).

This leaves the Angels (81-67) and Tampa Bay (78-70). The Angels are a stretch (+250 Yes, -325 No) to make the postseason, whilst Tampa’s poor play of late has them out of the running in the eyes of the oddsmakers. At six games back in the Wild Card race it might be time to write off the Rays.

Despite all of this, Detroit (14/1) and the Angels (15/1) have shorter odds of winning the World Series than Oakland (16/1), Chicago (16/1) and Baltimore (18/1). Tampa Bay (18/1) even has the same odds of taking the trophy. These are anomalies that suggest a bet on the Orioles makes sense.

Deciphering the National League

Although the National League may be a little clearer at the top, the Wild Card picture is particularly murky.

Cincinnati (13/2) and Washington (7/1) are favorites to take the World Series. San Francisco (9/1) follows close behind. The three, alongside Atlanta, look to have done enough to secure four of the five postseason berths.

That leaves six teams (Los Angeles, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Milwaukee Pittsburgh and Arizona) battling for one vacant spot. Take a look at that list again. That is not an arbitrary order; it’s how the teams rank in terms of World Series odds, from shortest to longest.

That’s right; the Dodgers have the best World Series odds (20/1) of any of the teams in the hunt for that one last berth. Well, at least they share the best odds. Philadelphia (20/1) has pricked the attention of oddsmakers with a late season charge. The big difference is the Phillies (74-74) currently sit four games back of the St. Louis Cardinals (78-70) while the Dodgers (78-70) are 1.5 games back. It would take some charge to live up to those expectations.

But what of those Cardinals? This is where these odds take another unexpected twist. Despite being considered less of a World Series threat than the Dodgers and Phillies, the defending champions are actually considered more likely to make the postseason (-150 Yes, +120 No). To compare: Philadelphia (+350 Yes, -500 No), Los Angeles (+400 Yes, -600 No). If we use the same logic as we used for Baltimore in the AL, this makes St. Louis a worthy bet, doesn’t it?

Oddsmakers still give Milwaukee (75-72) a slim chance of making the postseason (+600 Yes, -1,000 No) but any patience with Pittsburgh (74-73) and Arizona (73-74), who both remain on the fringe of the hunt, has long gone due to both trailing off in the last third of the season.

 

So, if we pay heed to the oddsmakers, the postseason will be made up of the following:

American League: Texas, NY Yankees, Chicago White Sox, Oakland, Baltimore

National League: Cincinnati, Washington, San Francisco, Atlanta, St. Louis

Accordingly, the World Series will be contested between Texas and Cincinnati.

The only thing with that is, there’re still two weeks to play and 18 teams will have something to say about it. And that’s not counting those eliminated teams looking to play spoiler.

Short slate of baseball before football kicks off

 

If the Dallas Cowboys upsetting the New York Giants on Wednesday night has put you in the mood for a spot of betting, there’s no need to wait until Sunday afternoon’s NFL kickoff games. Ahead of Sunday’s 13-game schedule there’s plenty of sporting action to be had.

First up is a short slate of Major League Baseball games on Thursday night. While most teams are currently prepping for three-game sets this weekend, 10 teams will be in action tonight. Four of the five games are series closers, with three involving teams looking good to make the postseason. The other is a biggie.

Tim Hudson and the Atlanta Braves are looking to close out their series against Colorado with a win Thursday night.

Kicking things off, Tim Hudson (13-5, 3.76 ERA) and the Atlanta Braves (77-60, 39-32 home) host the Colorado Rockies (56-79, 26-38 road). The Rockies have been nothing to write home about this season and the focus here will be on the Braves trying to maintain 4 ½ game lead in the race for a Wild Card spot. Jhoulys Chachin (2-4, 4.85 ERA) will go for the Rockies so Hudson is the favorite in this one. Despite Colorado having taken one of three from the Braves this week bet on the Braves at +110 to cover the spread.

Atlanta’s NL East rivals Washington will also be in action tonight. The Nationals (84-52, 42-25 home) host Chicago (51-85, 17-51 road). Leave it to the lowly Cubbies to help the Nationals out of a mini-slump. The Nats have taken three in a row against Chicago this week after struggling over the past two weeks, and with Jordan Zimmerman (9-8, 3.01 ERA) looking to make-up for a poor outing Saturday, it’s hard to see past Washington on Thursday. Oddsmakers agree. The Nationals enter the game as -1.5 favorites at -120 odds.

Elsewhere in the National League, the Milwaukee Brewers (67-69, 26-41 road) finish off a four-game series at Miami (60-77, 31-37). You’d have to be a diehard fan to watch this one, but some in-play action could be interesting for bettors. For the record, the Marlins are favored despite Milwaukee having taken two of three this week.

Over in the American League, AL West-leaders Texas (81-55, 38-30 road) has one game left in Kansas City (61-75, 31-37 home). Unsurprisingly, the Rangers enter the game as favorite (-1.5 at +115 odds) but Kansas snatched a victory on Tuesday and Rangers starter Scott Feldman (6-11, 5.01 ERA) is ripe for the pickings. Take the Royals for the upset here.

Rookie David Phelps will take the mound for the Yankees' opener in Baltimore on Thursday night.

The biggest game on tap Thursday night will be the New York Yankees (77-59, 36-31 road) travelling to Baltimore (76-60, 37-30 home) for the first of four. New York managed to edge one game ahead in the AL East after defeating Tampa Bay on Wednesday, while Baltimore fell to Toronto. This weekend’s series will be even bigger than last weekend’s showdown in the Bronx.

Thursday’s matchup see David Phelps (3-4, 3.13 ERA) go for the Yankees against Jason Hammel (8-6, 3.54). Phelps is spelling the injured Andy Pettitte. The rookie has impressed this season, maintaining a respectable ERA under the big lights of New York. Hobbled by injuries, the Yanks welcomed back Alex Rodriguez this week and despite Mark Teixeira still being on the DL, on Wednesday night the Bombers looked like they might be ready to turn a corner. Baltimore head into this one as underdogs and could be worth a stake, but this one smells like a statement game for the Yankees. Expect Derek Jeter to lead by example.

After all of that, if you still fancy an NFL warm up, College Football is back Thursday night with Pittsburgh (0-1) traveling to Cincinnati (0-0) in a Big East showdown. The Bearcats are narrow favorites (-4 ½ at -115) in what will be the team’s season opener.

Utah (1-0) travels to Utah State (1-0) on Friday night before a full slate of college games takes center stage on Saturday while the race for the MLB postseason continues across the weekend, including what could be Stephen Strasburg’s last outing of the year (Vs. Miami, Friday 7:05 PM ET).

Then, of course, NFL Week 1 kicks off proper on Sunday, with the pick of the bunch looking to be San Francisco at Green Bay and Pittsburgh at Denver. Oddsmakers like both home teams here, but Pittsburgh could well get after Peyton Manning and the Broncos for the [narrow] upset.