Odds to Win the 2015 American League Pennant

Tanaka
Tanaka
Masahiro Tanaka's health will be of extreme importance if the Yankees are to be in the running for the AL Pennant.

Boston Red Sox 11/2 – Pablo Sandoval may have shown up to Spring Training looking like Barney from “The Simpsons” but he is still being relied upon to deliver after the BoSox acquired this offseason. Offensively I think Boston will be fine. I am a tad concerned about the lack of a stud leading the rotation but this should be a good team in 2015.

Los Angeles Angles 6/1 – The Angels racked up 98 wins last season and the team appears to be largely the same. Even with Josh Hamilton’s pending suspension, LAA should be right there in the mix for the pennant.

Chicago White Sox 7/1 – This should be one of the more entertaining teams in the AL to watch. There’s plenty of offensive firepower now and the only question is how far can the pitching take them? Chris Sale will miss the opener after he injured himself getting out of a pool. Either way, this could be the team to beat in the AL Central.

Seattle Mariners 7/1 – Robinson Cano has some help in the lineup now and that’s something he didn’t have last year. Nelson Cruz and Seth Smith should both give Cano better looks at the plate. If the pitching can follow the lead of King Felix then this could be a team right there at the finish.

JV
If the Tigers are going to win the AL Pennant then Justin Verlander must be much better than he has been the last two seasons.

Detroit Tigers 8/1 – The Tigers have had a wonderful run dating back to the arrival of Dave Dombrowski but is age finally catching up to them? Both Victor Martinez and Miguel Cabrera are banged up entering the season and what can they expect from Justin Verlander who has been average the last two seasons?

Cleveland Indians 9/1 – The Indians return Cy Young winner Corey Kluber and a lot of youth that gained valuable experience last year as the Indians pushed both Detroit and Kansas City to the brink. I can see this team winning the division or finishing well back in the pack. That’s how hard they are to figure out right now.

Toronto Blue Jays 10/1 – The Jays added Josh Donaldson and field general Russel Martin but how much will they improve the team? Toronto was right there for a good part of the season in 2014 so can they see this year to the end?

Oakland Athletics 12/1 – Count me as one who thinks the A’s take a step back this year. Yes, there are some new faces, the outfield is the same and there are two good starters leading the rotation but this division will be a bear and I don’t see the A’s winning the pennant.

Baltimore Orioles 14/1 – Most people would say the Orioles did more than expected last year especially with Chris Davis having a brutal year. The Birds do get both Manny Machado and Matt Wieters back so perhaps they will be in the race again but pitching depth will be vital.

Kansas City Royals 14/1 – The Royals aren’t returning to the World Series this year but they should still be competitive despite the loss of James Shields. If the bullpen is as successful as it was last year than anything is possible but I see a step back here.

New York Yankees 14/1 – The Yanks have potentially deep rotation and solid bullpen. If they can get through the early portion of the season where all the talk will be “A-Rod” they could be right there. The first season without Derek Jeter in the locker room will be curious to watch as well.

Texas Rangers 22/1 – The Rangers were devastated by injuries last season and this year isn’t starting much better. Shortstop Jurickson Profar is likely out for the season with a shoulder injury. Yu Darvish is expecting a big season but how much can he do?

Houston Astros 28/1 – Houston added guys like Jed Lowrie and Evan Gattis but at the end of the day this will continue to be a team on the rise rather than one that will compete.

Tampa Bay Rays 33/1 – Beloved manager Joe Maddon is in Chicago and these Rays have very little depth. This will be nothing short of a miracle if the Rays can even get to .500.

Minnesota Twins 50/1 – Well, at least the fans have a lovely stadium to attend games in…. Sorry, this isn’t happening in the Twin Cities in 2015.

My Favorite: I love the Mariners. They’ll fly under the radar in the Pacific Northwest before it’s too late for most opponents to notice.

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.

Monday Night Football Vs. Baseball Contenders

 

Monday night means one thing: Monday Night Football. Actually, check that. This week it means two things: MNF and the race for baseball’s postseason.

With just 10 days left of the regular season, Major League Baseball is beginning to heat up. Monday sees plenty of contenders looking to secure a spot. Meanwhile, the NFL Monday night game features an intriguing – if not all that fan-friendly – matchup between Green Bay and Seattle. Settle in with the remote and get ready to flick between the action.

NFL: Green Bay Packers @ Seattle Seahawks

(8:30 PM ET)

Marshawn Lynch and the Seattle Seahawks host the Green Bay Packers on Monday Night Football.

Green Bay (1-1, 0-0 road) heads to the rowdy confines of CenturyLink Field for a showdown with Seattle (1-1, 1-0 home) that will hopefully go some way to clearing up what each team is about this season.

The Packers spluttered in their season-opener against San Francisco before showing an improved performance against the Chicago Bears. Seattle lost a close one in Arizona and then thumped Dallas in the Pacific Northwest. Will the real Packers and Seahawks please stand up?

Green Bay enters the game as 3-point favorites, a number that has dwindled from the opening -6 odds.

In years gone by, this fixture would have been considered just about a dead cert for the Pack. Green Bay is 10-5 all-time against the Seahawks, including seven wins in the last nine. The last time the two teams met, the Packers won 48-10.

Seattle hasn’t beaten Green Bay since November 2006.

Green Bay is 2-2 all-time in visits to Seattle.

But that dominance could be lacking this season as the Packers struggle to find their feet. Aaron Rodgers (522 yards, 3 TDs, 68 percent completion rate) hasn’t quite looked like Aaron Rodgers and the team hasn’t looked sharp around him, especially in the running game. The Packers are averaging just 75.5 yards per game.

Seattle has no such problems running the football. Marshawn Lynch has averaged more than 100 yards per game while the team has averaged 148.5. Meanwhile, rookie QB Russell Wilson has been steady if not stunning, which is exactly what the ’hawks needed.

Having had four days extra to prepare, the advantage still sits with Green Bay, but the eight (yes, eight!) upsets on Sunday’s schedule makes you wonder if it’s not worth taking the Seahawks in this one.

It’s a tough choice, but Green Bay still looks like a good pick. Take the Pack to win this one outright and to beat the spread. With the over/under set at 44 points, take the over. This could turn out to be the shootout we’ve been waiting for from Green Bay.

If you’re looking for some side action, take Aaron Rodgers (at -125) to go over 299½ yards and Marshawn Lynch (at -135) to break 92½ yards rushing.

 

MLB: Kansas City Royals @ Detroit Tigers / Cleveland Indians @ Chicago White Sox

7:05 PM ET / 8:10 PM ET

In the race for the AL Central title – and the postseason berth that comes alongside it – Detroit and Chicago are both in action tonight.

With just one game separating the two, Detroit (80-72, 46-31 home) will be looking to defeat Kansas City (70-82, 34-40 road) whilst hoping Chicago (81-71, 43-31 home) drops a game to Cleveland (63-90, 29-49 road).

Both teams have had the better of their opposition this season, with the Tigers holding a 7-4 edge over the Royals, and the Sox besting Cleveland 8-4 so far.

Justin Verlander (15-8, 2.74 ERA) goes for Detroit whilst Chris Sale (17-7, 2.82 ERA) takes the mound at ‘The Cell’. Unsurprisingly, both are favorites.

If you’re looking to bet on this, go with both home teams. There might not be a lot of glory involved, but a smart bet is a smart bet. Then take Detroit to edge out Chicago for the division title at the start of next week.

 

MLB: Baltimore Orioles @ Toronto Blue Jays

4:05 PM ET / 7:05 PM ET

Baltimore (87-65, 45-33 road) remains one-game back of the Yankees for first place in the AL East after both teams fell on Sunday afternoon.

The Orioles now face a four-game set north of the border, starting with a doubleheader on Monday. Toronto (66-85, 36-38 home) is long gone from postseason reckoning but will be looking to play spoiler this week, first against Baltimore then the Yankees. The Jays would also like to leapfrog Boston and get off of the bottom of the division.

Game 1 sees Henderson Alvarez (9-13, 4.87 ERA) go up against Baltimore rookie Steve Johnson (3-0, 1.91 ERA). Game 2 pits Ricky Romero (8-14, 5.72 ERA) against Wi-Yin Chin (12-9, 3.98 ERA). Expect a split of the doubleheader, with Baltimore taking the second game. Unless Game 1 goes to extras; then take Baltimore who appears to be unbeatable after the ninth.

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.

Busy Day in Baseball Has Postseason Contenders On Show

 

If anybody had any lingering doubts about whether the additional Wild Card place this year was a good thing, they need only look at the standings as we head into the final two weeks of the regular season.

No fewer than 10 teams in the National League have a valid shot at making the postseason, while eight teams in the American League are in with a chance. Everything really is still to play for.

Here’s a look at some of the important games on tap Tuesday night. If you’re thinking of placing a wager or two, you’ve got plenty to contemplate first; no fewer than 14 of the 15 games feature teams still in the postseason hunt.

Los Angeles Dodgers @ Washington Nationals

Jordan Zimmerman takes the mound for Washington against Los Angeles on Tuesday night.

Los Angeles (76-71, 36-36 road) visits Washington (89-57, 44-27 home) on the back of a 4-game split with St. Louis. The Cardinals remain one game up in the race for the final Wild Card place – Atlanta has all but wrapped up the first Wild Card. Winning in Washington is essential, especially with a tough trip to Cincinnati following.

The Dodgers may have a chance on Tuesday night as Washington pitcher Jordan Zimmerman (10-8, 3.01 ERA) looked tired last time out. Aaron Harang (9-9, 3.79 ERA) takes the mound for L.A. and has been consistent at keeping his team in the game if not winning.

Los Angeles swept Washington in a 3-game set at the end of April. The Nationals are sitting on three straight losses to the Braves, who are closing the gap in the NL East. Take Los Angeles to upset the Nationals in this one. Take the under on 8 runs.

Milwaukee Brewers @ Pittsburgh Pirates

After a late surge, Ryan Braun and the Milwaukee Brewers (74-72, 28-43 road) are somehow back in the mix for a postseason berth. They head into Tuesday’s game tied with Pittsburgh (74-72, 42-30 home) at 2.5 games out of the final Wild Card place.

Pittsburgh has gone into free fall over the last month and now looks unlikely to be play on in October. However, with their ace A.J. Burnett (15-7, 3.66) taking the mound on Tuesday they look a good bet to squeeze past the Brewers. Take the underdog Pirates at +105 in this one. Take the over on 7.5 runs.

National League Round Up: Atlanta (85-63, 42-31 road) is favored over Miami (65-83, 34-39 home) and looks a safe bet. Ian Kennedy pitches for Arizona (72-74, 36-36 home) giving the D’Backs a decided advantage over San Diego (71-76, 31-41 road). St. Louis (77-70, 43-29 home) hosts Houston (48-99, 16-56 road) and should win in what will be the Astros’ 100th loss of the year. Philadelphia (74-74, 37-37 road) will be underdog in New York but Monday night’s win will spur the Phillies on to victory.

 

Oakland Athletics @ Detroit Tigers

Detroit will look to Max Scherzer to lead the team to a much-needed victory over Oakland.

Detroit (77-69, 43-28 home) lost in Monday night’s rescheduled game in Chicago, dropping the Tigers to three games back of the AL Central-leading White Sox. It’s now looking increasingly unlikely Detroit will be playing come October.

Oakland (84-62, 40-31 road) on the other hand continues to hold tight to its postseason hopes. A series win over Baltimore, and an 8-2 record over the last 10 has the A’s headed for Detroit on a roll. Expect a slight bump in the road as Max Scherzer (16-6, 3.77 ERA) takes the mound on Tuesday night. Go with the favorite Tigers in this one.

Texas Rangers @ Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Texas (87-59, 40-32 road) has been quiet of late. That’s what happens when you consistently go about your business. The Rangers have led the AL West since April 9, and rarely looked like relinquishing that lead. Oakland currently sits three games back, and has seven still to play against the Texas side, so it’s not quite a done deal yet.

Tuesday sees the Rangers enter a game as a rare underdog, something that can be attributed to Jered Weaver (17-4, 2.74 ERA) taking the mound for the Angels (80-67, 40-32 home). Without Weaver, the Angels would have been long-gone in the hunt for the postseason. As it stands, the Orange County side is just three games back of the final Wild Card berth. Despite the pitcher’s record, take Texas in this one. This is a team looking to close out.

American League Round Up: Andy Pettitte (3-3, 3.22 ERA) returns from injury to start for the Yankees (83-63, 43-29 home). The Bombers are favored over Toronto (66-79, 30-41 road) and there’s very little to suggest going against the odds. Tampa Bay (78-69, 39-33 home) has fallen behind the pace and will need to beat Boston (67-81, 34-38 road) to stay in the hunt. Monday night’s loss was a reminder that the Red Sox can still play spoiler. Take the favored Rays in this one though. Meanwhile, expect Baltimore and the White Sox to win respectively.

AL Wild Card Race Sees Contenders Square Off

 

With eight teams still in the hunt for five postseason berths, the race in the American League continues to burn white hot. Wednesday night sees three head-to-head matchups between contenders in the thick of it, whilst the slumping New York Yankees look to keep their noses out in front as they battle arch-nemesis, Boston.

Tampa Bay @ Baltimore Orioles

Alex Cobb will start for the Rays in Baltimore on Wednesday.

Having once again tied the Yankees in the division standings, Baltimore (79-62, 39-30 home) will look to add to Tuesday’s 9-2 victory over Tampa Bay (77-64, 39-32 road). They’ll be doing so under the gaze of ESPN’s Wednesday Night Baseball crew and the expectations of bettors not only up and down the East Coast but across the country.

Tampa Bay will be looking to halt the O’s progress and in the process gain ground on the team which it currently stands two games back of in the Wild Card race. As it is for Los Angeles and Detroit, it’s do-or-die time now for the Rays if they’re to make the postseason.

Baltimore’s Miguel Gonzalez (6-4, 3.62) will start against impressive rookie Alex Cobb (9-8, 4.28). Cobb is coming off a win over the Yankees while Gonzalez lost two of his last three. Tampa is favorite with +140 odds to beat the spread and -113 in the moneyline. Go with the favorite here and hit the over on 8.5 runs.

New York Yankees @ Boston Red Sox

Meanwhile, ESPN’s Monday Night Baseball crew will be in Bean Town to check out the Red Sox-Yankees clash. The Red Sox (64-78, 33-41 home) rallied to beat the Yankees (79-62, 38-34 road) 4-3 on Tuesday night and will be looking to play spoiler again on Wednesday. The Sox will send Aaron Cook (3-9, 5.17 ERA) to the mound to face off against David Phelps (3-4, 3.55). Or will that be Ivan Nova (11-7, 4.92) who has just returned from injury? Regardless, take the favored Yankees in this one. Every time Baltimore looks to take sole possession of the AL East lead, New York pulls one out of the bag.

Detroit Tigers @ Chicago White Sox

Detroit starter Max Scherzer hasn't lost since July 30, something the White Sox would like to change.

A 5-3 win on Tuesday night means Detroit (74-67, 31-39 road) has split the first two of four in Chicago (76-65, 42-30 home). The Tigers now need to win another two straight to earn a share of the division lead before moving on to Cleveland. Catching Chicago now could be the team’s only chance of making the postseason, as per yesterday’s report.

The Tigers, behind Max Scherzer (16-6, 3.85 ERA), are favorites on Wednesday with +110 to beat the spread and -140 to win straight up. Scherzer hasn’t lost since July 30 and has gone 15-3 since starting the year 1-3. Take Scherzer and Detroit to win and edge a further game closer to the AL Central leaders.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim @ Oakland Athletics

With news that pitcher Brandon McCarthy has returned home following emergency brain surgery after a line drive struck him in the head last week, Oakland (81-60, 39-30 road) will look to tally a third straight victory over the Angels (77-65, 39-31 home) and a sixth win in a row.

Oakland currently holds a four game edge over those contenders not currently occupying a Wild Card position. Another win on Wednesday will go one step further to locking down that crucial postseason berth. Meanwhile, at just three games back of the AL West-leading Texas Rangers, it’s not beyond reason that the surprising A’s could win the division.

The Angels are one of those teams chasing a Wild Card berth. They’ll send Ervin Santana (8-11, 5.21 ERA) to the mound to face A.J. Griffin (5-0, 2.21 ERA), the surprising rookie who is only the second player – after Todd Burns in 1988 – in A’s history to begin his career 5-0. Last time out he even outdueled Seattle’s Felix Hernandez.

Los Angeles is favored in this one with the moneyline standing at -124 for the Halos and +114 for the A’s. Neither Oakland nor Los Angeles has managed to hold serve in head-to-heads this year, so expect the Angels to come out on the winning side, thus making the Wild Card picture that little more compact.

Catching Chicago Only Postseason Hope For Detroit?

Doug Fister – who pitches on Tuesday night – and the Detroit Tigers face a tough challenge if they're to overtake the White Sox and make the postseason.

Chicago’s 6-1 win over Detroit on Monday night at U.S. Cellular Field did more than break the Tigers’ 7-game win streak against the White Sox: it shrouded Detroit’s postseason hopes that little bit further.

Having entered the season as heavy favorites to win the AL Central outright, Detroit has found itself trailing the White Sox for the better part of the year. Dauntingly, the Tigers last held sole possession of the division lead on July 21. A brief share of the lead on September 2 suggested the Tigers might be making a move but subsequent play has maintained Chicago’s hold on the lead.

The rivals now play a further three head-to-head games – their last of the season – this week, with the emphasis very much being on Detroit winning on the road.

Tiger players and fans alike can put some stock in the Tigers’ record against the South Siders this season. Detroit has compiled a 10-5 record against the Sox, including two consecutive home sweeps. An 8-1 home record though has not translated as well to the Cell, where the Tigers are 2-4 after Monday night’s game. That’s advantage Chicago this week then.

That advantage manifests itself in Tuesday’s game where the White Sox open -1.5 against the spread and -110 straight up.

Ask any big league manager and they’ll tell you all they want come the end of the season is for their postseason future to be in their own hands. At three games back in the race for the division and five games back in the Wild Card hunt, Detroit’s future is slipping away from Tiger control.

Even if the Motown team manages to pick-up three consecutive wins this week – which is possible given their dominance over the White Sox this season although unlikely given the venue – it will put the two in a dead heat. From there on out it’ll be a case of trying to outdo each other.

From a tied scenario at the end of this series, in terms of strength of schedule, Detroit would be favorites to take the division. The combined winning percentage of its remaining opponents – Cleveland, Oakland, Minnesota (twice) and Kansas City (twice) is .467. Compare that to Chicago’s opponents – Minnesota, Kansas City, L.A. Angels, Cleveland (twice) and Tampa Bay – who have tallied a marginally better winning percentage of .475.

Detroit only plays one team (Oakland) still in the postseason mix whilst Chicago comes up against two (L.A. Angels and Tampa Bay). How important could that additional contender make to Detroit’s future?  Of course, the problem with not playing contenders is that it makes it that much more difficult to skip past those ahead of you in the Wild Card race. Simply put, gaining five games on four teams is a tough ask, and another clear indication that Detroit needs to win the division to move on in October.

But, before you head out and put your money on Detroit based on strength of schedule, you might want to consider the following. The Tigers’ record against those teams left on their schedule stands at 22-20 (.524). Chicago meanwhile has tallied a record of 30-20 (.600) against their remaining opponents. That’s a distinct advantage in favor of the White Sox, and another hurdle for the Tigers to jump.

Of course, all of this will be impacted by the results of the remaining three head-to-head games this week. Failure to make-up ground would put the Tigers in an even more precarious predicament, whilst opening a path for Chicago to take home only its fifth AL Central crown in the 19 year history of the division.

With the rest of the AL Wild Card field still playing tough baseball, winning the division looks like the only chance Detroit has of making the postseason. Fortunately for Detroit, oddsmakers still favor the Tigers over the White Sox. Detroit is 7/1 to take the AL pennant while Chicago is 8/1. Both are considered outsiders for the World Series championship, with Detroit (12/1) again edging out Chicago (14/1).

There’s still a chance that Chicago and those in the Wild Card pack could slip and open the door for Detroit, but it has to start Tuesday against Chicago. Anything less than a win is going to make things that much tougher.

AL Wild Card Race Getting Tighter

Tuesday night is all about baseball. The new college football season enjoys a few days rest before returning on Thursday (Pittsburgh at Cincinnati) while the NFL kicks off tomorrow with the Cowboys at Giants. That leaves bettors starting the new post-Labor Day week with baseball, baseball, baseball.

With the end of season less than a month from now, the Wild Card picture in the American League is getting fuzzier and fuzzier. Tonight sees a six card slate of teams involved in the postseason hunt, plenty for you to wager on.

New York Yankees @ Tampa Bay Rays

Alex Cobb and the Tampa Bay Rays will look to gain ground with a win over the Yankees.

New York (76-58, 35-30 road) dropped last night’s opener to Tampa Bay (74-61, 36-30 home) 4-3 despite the return of Alex Rodriguez. The defeat, combined with a Baltimore victory, now has the Yankees just one game ahead of the Orioles for the lead in the AL East. Meanwhile, Tampa is just 2 ½ games back. A victory for the Rays here will be a bonus for both trailing teams, and will put the Yanks seriously on the rocks.

Freddy Garcia (7-5, 4.90 ERA) pitches for the Yankees – who have lost 10 of the last 16 – after two disappointing outings against the White Sox and Indians that saw him pitch less than five innings both games. Alex Cobb (8-8, 4.39 ERA) goes for the Rays. He’s 4-0 in his last six starts and is a threat to win any game.

New York is +1 ½ point underdogs at -180 odds, but it looks safer to take the Rays in this one. The over/under is set at 8 ½ runs. Take the over; New York is averaging nearly eight runs over the past 10 games while Tampa is averaging nearly seven in that same period.

Baltimore Orioles @ Toronto Blue Jays

Baltimore (75-59, 38-29) will look to strengthen its current position as second Wild Card with a second successive victory over Toronto (60-74, 33-33 home).

Baltimore lefty Zach Britton (4-1, 4.80 ERA) lost last time out against the Yankees but he’ll be marginal favorite over Carlos Villanueva (7-4, 3.10) on the grounds that Toronto’s offense has been spluttering since Jose Bautista returned to IR list. Take the -105 moneyline in favor of the Orioles, alongside the under (at -120) for 8 ½ runs; these teams aren’t likely to light the scoreboard up, as seen by Monday night’s 4-0 scoreline.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim @ Oakland Athletics

Jarrod Parker will look to guide the Wild Card-leading A's over the Angels.

Good play of late has the Angels (72-63, 36-34 road) back in discussions for the Wild Card. Oakland (76-58, 42-28) currently leads the race and is 3 ½ games up on Los Angeles.

The Angels took Monday night’s game 8-3 with Vernon Wells and Chris Ianetta – the bottom of the lineup – combining for five RBIs. Zack Greinke (12-5, 3.82 ERA) will pitch for the Angels. He’s 3-2 with a 4.82 ERA since joining the Halos from Milwaukee. He’ll be up against Jarrod Parker (9-7, 3.72 ERA) who has pitched three solid games on the bounce.

Los Angeles is favorite (-1 ½ at +135 odds) but Oakland’s -155 moneyline could be worth a bet; the A’s have been playing tough and will be looking to put distance between themselves and their California rivals.

Elsewhere: Detroit hosts Cleveland looking to once again to go into a tie with Chicago on top of the AL Central. It will take a Tigers win and a White Sox loss at home to Minnesota. Both open as favorites and it’s hard to see past two wins here. Texas, meanwhile, continues its charge to the AL West title with the second of four in Kansas City, a game in which the Rangers are evens to win.

Meanwhile: On the other side of the AL/NL divide, things are equally as tough. Cincinnati is all but assured of the NL Central but everything else is up for grabs. St. Louis (73-62, 41-26 home) is ½ game ahead of Los Angeles for the final Wild Card slot so tonight’s game against the Mets (64-71, 34-36 road) is a must-win. St. Louis is favorite (-1 ½ at +135) and looks like the better bet. The Dodgers (73-63, 38-31 home) meanwhile host San Diego (62-74, 29-41 road) and look set to cash in on their favored status (-1 ½ at -110). Tuesday looks like it’s worth sticking with expectations in the National League.