Washington Nationals Move To Top of World Series Futures

It may be just mid January, with the NFL preparing for the Super Bowl, the NCAA for March Madness and the NBA for the All-Star break.

However, odds makers have released their futures for the World Series to be played in October.

This offseason has been relatively quiet for Major League Baseball, but that ended when Max Scherzer signed a $210 million seven-year deal with the Washington Nationals.

Upon the signing, the Nationals moved up to the top spot on the MLB Futures board as well as on Bovada and betonline for the World Series. The Nationals had their odds shrink to 5 to 1 to win the World Series.

Washington was priced following the Winter Meetings at 8 to 1, but passed the Dodgers and are now the new favorite to win the 2015 World Series.

With Scherzer in the fold, the Nats have a rotation of Scherzer, Jordan Zimmermann, Stephen Strasburg, Doug Fister and Gio Gonzalez. With a rotation like that, it is safe to say it is the best in baseball.

While the signing of Scherzer was certainly a big deal, the depth of their rotation might allow them to solidify their weaknesses, most notably the infield.

It is quite possible this is not the last of the signings by the Nationals during the offseason.

The Detroit Tiger, the team that lost Scherzer saw their odds to win the World Series double to 20 to 1 from 10 to 1.

Nobody will likely feel sorry for the Tigers, as their rotation will be led by the talented southpaw David Price and their batting order by Miguel Cabrera. The Tigers should once again be very strong.

The Dodgers have not been as active in the trade or free agent market as they were last season, with the exception of trading Matt Kemp their talented outfielder to San Diego. Nevertheless, with their strong pitching rotation the Dodgers are a strong second on the futures board.

The futures will undoubtedly see many more movements before the regular season starts in April. However, on this day, the Nationals are at the top of the board on both topbet and sportsbook.com.

2015 World Series Futures

WASHINGTON NATIONALS 5 to 1
LOS ANGELES DODGERS 6 to 1
LOS ANGELES ANGELS 8 to 1
ST. LOUIS CARDINALS 12 to 1
SEATTLE MARINERS 12 to 1
BOSTON RED SOX 14 to 1
CHICAGO CUBS 14 to 1
DETROIT TIGERS 20 to 1
BALTIMORE ORIOLES 20 to 1
KANSAS CITY ROYALS 20 to 1

Sunday Bullets On a Variety of Topics

Gronkowski
Gronkowski
Rob Gronkowski's big day helped the Pats rally to beat the Ravens.

Once again my ADD has set in and I can’t focus on just one or two or even three specific items for the blog this Sunday morning so once again I firing some bullets your way in an effort to cover numerous thoughts in my mind.

-Tom Brady and the Patriots were staring yet another loss at home in the playoffs to the Baltimore Ravens. Down 14-0 and then 28-14, the Patriots rallied and finally took their first and only lead of the game with five minutes to go to win 35-31. Ravens’ QB Joe Flacco who had been so unflappable in the playoffs threw two crucial interceptions to allow the Pats’ comeback.  New England will play the winner of today’s game between Indianapolis and Denver in the AFC Championship game next Sunday.

-Is it just me or are more NBA stars missing games at a higher rate than ever before? We know how the San Antonio Spurs operate and who can argue? Resting their aging stars has paid dividends but now we see even more teams doing the same thing. While LeBron James is on his two-week rest due to his knee and back, there are rumors that he was convinced to take the time off to rest period. Maybe it’s just me but I don’t remember so many stars missing so many games in the 1980s’.

Wilson
Rusell Wilson accounted for three TDs as the Seahawks beat the Panthers.

-In Seattle, the Seahawks relied on three Carolina turnovers and a couple of big plays en route to a 31-17 win. While I thought Seattle would cover, I didn’t expect to the Panthers out-gain the Seahawks and hold the ball considerably longer. Regardless, the Seahawks are into the NFC Title Game and will await either the Dallas Cowboys or Green Bay Packers next week.

-Ravens’ Coach John Harbaugh was steamed after the game because of a formation the Patriots used three times. In it, the Pats only had four offensive linemen and six eligible receivers. One of those players reported as “ineligible” and was not involved in the play other than to block. Harbaugh claims this is illegal and was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for running onto the field to argue it. He claimed his players didn’t have time to determine who was eligible and who wasn’t. I’ll be checking the rule book today.

-The Major League Baseball hot stove was burning hot this fall but has since cooled dramatically. Oddly enough the most sought-after free agent is still unsigned. Right-hander Max Scherzer is still a man without a team. It was thought he would never be able to return to Detroit simply because the money he wanted would be too much. Maybe not… The latest rumors I’m hearing are that Scherzer has narrowed his choices between the Tigers and his hometown St. Louis Cardinals. Stay tuned.

-The NFL Regular Season officially ended December 28th but a few players have wasted little time in getting in trouble with the law. Saints’ LB Junior Galette was arrested for domestic violence while Vikings’ DB Jabari Price was arrested for a DWI. Then yesterday, the Jets’ Chris Johnson was arrested for having a registered firearm out in the open when he was stopped for a traffic violation. There will sadly be more of these as the offseason comes.

-There has been substantial talk this season about John Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcats going unbeaten for the entire 2014-2015 season but in the last week the Wildcats are finding out just how tough it will be. Yesterday they defeated Texas A&M in two overtimes while earlier in the week they survived Ole Miss winning by three points. Calipari says his team isn’t very good right now and perhaps he’s right.

 

 

College Football, Baseball Awards and Should the Broncos Rest Peyton?

Manning
Manning
Should the Broncos consider resting Peyton Manning? I think it has to be discussed.

This time of year the sports world is as busy as it possibly can be with the exception of baseball. Football, basketball and hockey are all underway and provide us with storylines everyday. Today’s post for me is no different so let’s get to it.

In my somewhat expert opinion, I believe the Denver Broncos have a serious dilemma facing them on Sunday night. This dilemma has nothing to do with Head Coach John Fox who is still recovering from heart surgery either.

This has to do with Peyton Manning and his playing status.

If I’m the Broncos, I’m viewing the next three weeks very carefully. On Sunday night, the Broncos will host unbeaten Kansas City. A week later, they play at New England in another Sunday night game. The final Sunday of those three weeks, Denver will play in Kansas City.

The dilemma they are facing is whether they should play Peyton Manning and how much should they play him.

Manning is clearly less than 100% and anyone who believes otherwise is ignoring the obvious. He has been beaten up pretty severely over the last few weeks and suffered a pretty good ankle injury on Sunday in San Diego.

Let’s examine the key parameters of this dilemma.

If Manning plays on Sunday night and the Broncos win, they will move into a first-place tie with KC but will own the tie-breaker for a couple of weeks. Should they lose whether Manning plays or not, they’ll fall two games back of the Chiefs and Kansas City will have the tie-breaker with a home date in hand.

Should the Broncos go on to lose at New England and the Chiefs win at home against San Diego that would leave the Broncos three games out with four to play and the question will have to be asked. Do you play Peyton Manning if continues to be banged up?

I say, “No.”

If Denver has any hope of making a run to the Super Bowl then Peyton Manning must be the starting quarterback. I’m sure Brock Osweiler is a fine young man and I imagine he has learned a lot from Manning. No one can expect him to play well and run the offense like Manning though.

Peyton Manning will do no one any good if he is sidelined with an injury or if he is hobbling around the field worse than he already is. Rest Manning and be happy with a wild-card Denver. It’s the only way you’re going to have a shot.

Scherzer
Scherzer took 28 of 30 first place votes for the Cy Young Award.

Other Sports Thoughts….

Congratulations to Max Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw on winning the Cy Young Award. Both very deserving and I expect good seasons from both next year as well.

Michigan State travels to Lincoln Saturday to play the Cornhuskers for what will more than likely be for the Legends’ Division Title. For Bo Pelini, a win probably keeps him around for at least another year but a loss could mean anything’s possible.

If Nebraska can’t solve the MSU defense then there will be little chance for them to win.

Miami plays at Duke this weekend and should the Blue Devils pull out the win they would take control of the ACC Coastal Division. Since starting 7-0, the Hurricanes have been whipped in two straight games by Florida State and Virginia Tech.

Beating Duke will not be easy especially with running back Duke Johnson out for the year. Stephen Morris will need to make plays without turning it over and I’m not sure he can do that.

Predicting MLB’s Award Winners for 2013

Cabrera
Cabrera
I see no way Miguel Cabrera doesn't win the American League MVP Award this year.

I’m certainly guilty of spending way too much time lately on pro and college football but considering football is the most popular sport in America these days I should probably be excused. With that in mind, I’m making my return to baseball and in doing so I’m preparing for the playoffs by focusing on the award winners.

These are my selections for Major League Baseball’s post-season award winners.

American League Most Valuable Player

Once again the selections boil down to the new crowd favorite and the old crowd favorite with a potential exception. The new crowd loves Mike Trout because ‘saber metrics’ always seem to give him the advantage over the old crowd favorite Miguel Cabrera. The only other player in the discussion is Oakland third baseman Josh Donaldson who has stats very similar to those of Trout.

To me, this isn’t even close. Cabrera is closing in on his third straight batting title and will take two of the three legs of the Triple Crown missing only on home runs. His team is also in the playoffs whereas Trout’s is not. Trout is a phenomenal talent who will no doubt win this award, but Cabrera is the best hitter on the planet right now and has done it consistently.

National League Most Valuable Player

This is another three-man race but this one really could go in any direction. Paul Goldschmidt of the Diamondbacks will win two-thirds of the Triple Crown with 35 home runs and 123 RBI’s while hitting over .300. St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina has an argument of his own for the MVP.

McCutchen
McCutchen's all-around game deserves the NL MVP Award.

Molina is considered the top defensive catcher in the game today and once again has the Cardinals in the post-season. He also is batting .314 which for a catcher is incredible.

The guy that really should get this award though is Pittsburgh’s Andrew McCutchen who is as valuable to his team as anyone could be. He is the leader of a Pirates’ team that has made the playoffs for the first time since 1992 and is one of the top defensive outfielders in the game. He has batted .300 plus all year and has 20 homers and nearly 200 hits.

American League Cy Young Award

This will come down to three guys who have all pitched their teams to division titles or at least very close to one in one case. Bartolo Colon has a league best ERA of 2.64 and has three shutouts. He has been an incredible factor in the rise of the Athletics. Yu Darvish has been good in 2013 as well. He has 260 strikeouts and an opponents’ batting average of under .200.

The guy who has to win the award is the Tigers’ Max Scherzer. While his run support has been huge, he also has pitched a ton of innings and has gone at least six innings in 27 of 31 starts. Factor in as well the less than stellar year of Justin Verlander and it makes Scherzer’s year that much more impressive.

National League Cy Young Award

This really comes down to just two guys in Clayton Kershaw and Craig Kimbrel. While the Braves’ Kimbrel has been outstanding in closing 49 games this season for Atlanta with a low ERA and WHIP of .91, Kershaw has to be the guy who walks away with the award.

Kershaw has an ERA of 1.88 with 224 strikeouts and a WHIP of under one. He has been the stabilizing force for the Dodgers who roared from last place in the NL West to win the division.

AL Rookie of the Year

There will be significant attention paid to Jose Iglesias who helped Boston get out front in the East and then helped Detroit overcome the loss of Jhonny Peralta to suspension. While it wouldn’t shock me to see him win, I have to think it will be either Wil Meyers or Chris Archer of Tampa Bay.

NL Rookie of the Year

There will be a massive call for the Dodgers’ Yasiel Puig to win this award and with good cause, but the most impressive rookie all season has been Marlins’ pitcher Jose Fernandez. Teams batted just .182 against him and he finished 12-6 for one of the worst teams in baseball.

Reveiwing Saturday’s Many Items of Sports News

Scherzer
Scherzer
Scherzer moved to an incredible 16-1 on the season for the Tigers yesterday.

Occasionally in this spot I feel like I have tons of things to get to but more often than not I focus on just one thing. Sometimes that proves to be a great choice while other times not so much.

A lot went on yesterday in the world of sports so why not touch on a little bit of everything?

Major League Baseball – The Detroit Tigers won their seventh straight game and pitcher Max Scherzer moved to 16-1 on the year, but the talk remains about Biogenesis and just how long will Alex Rodriguez be suspended. MLB may have tipped their hand however as they have decided they will no longer meet with A-Rod or his representatives.

This news came on the heels of A-Rod’s comments suggesting the New York Yankees and MLB were conspiring to keep him out for life. According to SI.com, the suspension could come no later than Monday and will total 214 games. This means the rest of this season and all of next season.

Rodriguez just turned 38 last week meaning the next time he would take the field, for the Yankees more than likely, he would be 40 years old. As much as I’d like to see him banned for life, I almost wonder if this isn’t more just. Let him come back to MLB and be booed at every stadium including the one he will call home in the Bronx.

Woods
Woods is in total control at Bridgestone as the final Major lurks next week.

Golf – Right on cue, Tiger Woods is tearing up Firestone Country Club this week in the Bridgestone Invitational as he has a seven-shot lead entering the final round tomorrow. I say “on cue” because this seems to be the M.O. for Woods since 2009. He tends to win the tournaments that are one step down from the majors while he contends in the Majors yet falls flat on the weekends.

Woods is an incredible 52-4 when he has at least a share of the 54-hole lead. When he trails at the 54-hole mark however the wins are few. Woods has never comeback to win a Major and had the lead or shared it in the final round of all 14 Major wins. I fully expect Tiger Woods to march to victory today.

There would be nothing shocking about that at all. I’ve said all along that until Woods finally wins another Major, then he is not “back” in my mind. He’ll have one final opportunity at the PGA which starts Thursday and should he fail, it will be another long winter filled with questions and what-ifs.

Pro Football – The National Football League inducted another group of greats into the Pro Football Hall of Fame yesterday. Among the newly inducted was Bill Parcells who deserves to be in enshrined for his three Super Bowl appearances and two wins while coaching the Giants.

I do not believe Parcells is one of the all-time great coaches as many would have you think. Part of that stems from his coaching history with the Dallas Cowboys and then his tenure as President of the Miami Dolphins. As head coach of the Cowboys, Parcells’ teams were 0-2 in the playoffs and vastly under-achieved in the eyes of many considering the talent the team had.

His overall playoff record as a head coach is 11-8. With the Giants, he was 8-3 while with the Pats, Jets and Cowboys he was a combined 3-5.

The common thread between Parcells’ success as a head coach and his lack of it is when you look at assistant coaches. In his three Super Bowl appearances there were guys like Bill Belichick and Romeo Crennel. In two of those three appearances, he also had Charlie Weis, Al Groh, Ron Erhardt and Tom Coughlin on his staffs.

Great coaches always surround themselves with solid assistants but this was on a much bigger level. Hopefully Parcells took the time to thank the staffs that helped bring him his success. Without the men mentioned above, Parcells is nowhere near the Hall of Fame.

 

Bringing Baseball Back into Focus

Puig

 

Puig
Puig, shown here in Spring Training, has been excellent since joining the team 19 games ago.

If any professional sports league is like a roller coaster it has to be Major League Baseball. America’s Pastime (arguable I know) starts with such excitement and promise for every team in the league in late March or early April and then goes through ups and downs that only the folks at Disney World or Six Flags could relate.

Baseball immediately shares time with college basketball’s Final Four and then gets some attention. Eventually the playoffs in both the NHL and NBA begin and baseball gets pushed to the back burner but before too long, the seasons end and baseball becomes the only game in town until NFL training camps open in late July.

If you’ve been sleep-walking your way through the baseball season because of your attention paid to hockey, hoops or horse racing, then I’m here to catch you up on what’s going on in the Majors.

Blue Jays
The hot Blue Jays have made the AL East the tightest and best division in baseball.

Best Division – Without question the American League East is the most competitive top to bottom especially with Toronto on an eleven game winning streak heading into play last night. All five teams in the division are separated by five games with Boston on top of the Orioles by two games, the Yankees by 2.5, and the Jays and Rays by five.

I honestly don’t think you’ll see a lot of movement in this division through the summer and into September because each team has flaws that aren’t going to be cured by a trade or two at the deadline. New York could get a boost from Derek Jeter’s return but when that is is anyone’s guess. Despite losing three of four in Detroit, Boston may still be the team to beat in the East.

Worst Division – Coming in ahead of the AL Central is the National League East where only Atlanta is above the .500 mark as they lead second-place Washington by six games and Philadelphia by 7.5. The Braves don’t really do anything amazing but they pitch extremely well and seem to get big hits when they need them most.

The Nationals have to be the most disappointing team in baseball right now as they sit at 37-38 heading into last night’s action. I certainly don’t know everything going on there, but I would not be a bit surprised to see a significant change either in the clubhouse or on the field because there is too much talent for this team to be where it is.

Breakout Player so Far – Since joining the Dodgers 19 games ago, Yasiel Puig has set the Majors on fire. The 6’3″ 245lbs outfielder looks as athletic as any player I’ve seen come up in a long time and the results are validating that. Puig is hitting .425 with six home runs and 12 RBIs. His on-base percentage is also solid at .462.

Unexpected Cy Young Candidates – When you think the Detroit Tigers and pitching, you think of Justin Verlander but not this year. RHP Max Scherzer is 11-0 and has a WHIP of .91 for the Central-leading Tigers. While his 3.05 ERA is a little high, it’s actually below his career average of 3.76. Clay Buchholz of the Red Sox is a strong contender in the AL as well.

Over in the National League, 23-year old Patrick Corbin of the Arizona Diamondbacks is 9-0 with an ERA of 2.19 and a WHIP of 1.00. While Lance Lynn, Jordan Zimmerman and Adam Wainwright are all at the 10-win plateau, should Corbin continue his unbeaten season he;ll be hard to beat at awards’ time.

 

Tigers, Giants Head to World Series

San Francisco celebrates after taking Game 7 of the NLDS.

Finally, after 162 regular season games (per team) and 31 postseason games (all told), Major League Baseball is down to its final two.

Action begins on Wednesday (8 PM ET) as the AL Champion Detroit Tigers head to the West Coast to take on National League Champions, the San Francisco Giants.

 

San Francisco World Series Bound

By hook or by crook, somehow the San Francisco Giants have managed to find a way to the World Series.

Monday night’s shocking 9-0 dismissal of the St. Louis Cardinals was not only unexpected, but a statement that Bruce Bochy’s side will fight until the very end. Winners of six straight elimination games, the Giants at times looked as though they might not make the postseason, let alone play into late October. The Giants though had resolve, and the mentality to get the job done.

The victory gives the Giants a record-setting 22nd National League pennant, and a 19th trip to the World Series.

San Francisco now prepares for its first World Series since 2010’s victory over the Texas Rangers. This visit to the Fall Classic will be the team’s fifth since departing New York in 1958. It marks the first time the club has met a Detroit Tigers side after July.

A World Series win this year would be the Giants’ seventh such award.

 

Detroit Makes Trip to the Bay Area

Like San Francisco, during the regular season Detroit looked like it might not make the postseason. A twelfth hour surge saw the Tigers past the Chicago White Sox and into the American League side of the postseason.

Despite having the worst record of those AL teams, Detroit edged out Oakland before humiliating the New York Yankees, booking its place in the World Series last Thursday.

Detroit will play in the Fall Classic for the 11th time, and will be looking to win for the first time since 1984, a year that saw the Tigers defeat the San Diego Padres 4-1.

Life since that World Series victory has been somewhat barren. The Tigers’ only other appearance in the World Series came in 2006, when the team fell 4-1 to the St. Louis Cardinals. A victory this year would represent Detroit’s fifth World Series crown.

 

Head to Head

Despite both being rich in heritage, the Tigers and Giants met for the first time in 2003, more than 100 years after both clubs came into existence. The teams never met in the World Series, and it was still six years after Interleague Play was first devised (in 1997) that the two sides would meet.

The teams have met for a solitary three-game series in four seasons (2003, 2005, 2008, 2011). During that time, the Giants have taken a slender head-to-head lead (7-5). This has come on the back of a 4-2 record at AT&T Park and a 3-3 record at Comerica Park.

With head-to-head contests infrequent, it should come as no surprise that the starting rotations of both clubs are less than familiar with the opposition.

Detroit’s Justin Verlander has faced the Giants just once, recording a no decision. Doug Fister has never pitched against San Francisco, while Max Scherzer has pitched against the Giants only once in a Tigers uniform. Scherzer recorded a 1-2 record against San Francisco whilst pitching in Arizona (giving him a 1-3 career record).  Anibal Sanchez is the most experienced Detroit starter when it comes to facing the Giants. He recorded a 3-1 record (with one no decision) while pitching for Florida/Miami.

All told, Detroit’s rotation is 4-4 against San Francisco, with two no decisions.

Four of San Francisco’s five-man rotation account for two games (both no decisions) against the Tigers, with Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain never having pitched against Detroit. Barry Zito however is a veritable encyclopedia of experience compared to his team mates. Zito has recorded a 1-1 record while pitching for San Francisco, but went 8-5 with a no decision against the Tigers when pitching for the Oakland A’s.

Overall, San Francisco’s rotation – thanks mainly to Zito – is 9-6 with three no decisions against the Tigers.

 

Early Odds

While many oddsmakers are fine-tuning their betting lines, early odds have come out in favor of the Detroit Tigers. With the champagne barely soaking in in the San Francisco locker room, bookmakers have set the early World Series odds at 8/13 (Detroit) and 11/8 (San Francisco).

MLB Postseason Takes Center Stage

Chris Carpenter and the St. Louis Cardinals will look to spoil Washington’s first postseason game at home since 1933.

There’s only one place you need to be today: in front of your television screen watching as the MLB postseason unfolds without the distraction of football (college or pro). Well, I guess being at the ballpark would give you a second option of somewhere to be, but you get the picture.

Wednesday sees all eight remaining teams in action, with Oakland and San Francisco looking to stave off defeat and a postseason exit for the second straight night. Here are some things to look out for then, starting with this afternoon’s NLDS clash in the Capital.

 

St. Louis Cardinals @ Washington Nationals Series tied 1-1

1 PM ET

Pitching Matchup: Chris Carpenter (0-2, 3.71 ERA) Vs. Edwin Jackson (10-11, 4.03 ERA)

Wednesday’s lunchtime game at Nationals Ballpark marks the first postseason game to be played in the Nation’s capital since October 7, 1933.

That game took place at the long-gone Griffith Stadium – the Howard University Hospital stands in its place today – and saw the New York Giants defeat the Washington Senators (now the Minnesota Twins) 4-3 in 10 innings. With the win, the Giants took the World Series and sent Washington spiraling into mediocrity, and on to Minneapolis.

Today’s Nationals side will be looking for a better result.

St. Louis rebounded from a tough loss on Sunday with a huge (12-4) win on Monday to even the series. While MLB Futures may still consider the Cards an outsider, the victory proved that writing off the defending champs is a bad idea.

Chris Carpenter takes the mound despite only pitching 17 innings this season. The Cardinals are confident their ace can do the business against the Nationals. Washington meantime will be burdened by the knowledge that a loss will cast even more shadows over that decision to shut down Strasburg. Edwin Jackson will be looking to shine against his old team.

Take: Washington. This, like all baseball picks at this time of the year, is a tough call but there’s something about postseason home debuts. This series will most likely go five though.

 

San Francisco Giants @ Cincinnati Reds CIN leads series 2-1

4 PM ET

Pitching Matchup: Barry Zito (15-8, 4.15 ERA) Vs. Mat Latos (14-4, 3.48 ERA) or Mike Leake (8-9, 4.58 ERA)

San Francisco (and Oakland) had its backs against the bay on Tuesday night but managed to get the job done. Can they do it for a second game in a row? Oddsmakers think not, making the Reds favorites.

Barry Zito takes the hill for the Giants for his first postseason game since 2006 – he was left out of the rotation on the way to the World Series in 2010. Cincinnati fans will rejoice, knowing that the Giants have not beaten Cincinnati in the last four games Zito has started.

Cincinnati meanwhile will make the decision later today as to whom to go with. Mat Latos is available, and took Game 1 of this serious. Alternatively, Mike Leake could go leaving Latos available for the decider on Friday (if necessary). Leake doesn’t have great numbers this year, but he pitches well against the Giants.

San Francisco – batting an anemic .126 – need some kind of offensive output if it’s to force this series to a fifth game.

Take: Cincinnati. First in the postseason, first to advance. Having scored just four runs in three games, the Giants simply look worn out.

 

Baltimore Orioles @ New York Yankees Series tied 1-1

7:30 PM ET

Pitching Matchup: Miguel Gonzalez (9-4, 3.25 ERA) Vs. Hiroki Kuroda (16-11, 3.32 ERA)

The Orioles continue to do their best Boris Karloff impression, simply refusing to die. A 3-2 victory on Monday knotted this series, and proved that separating the Yankees and O’s this season is simply impossible.

Baltimore arrives at Yankee Stadium tonight looking to upset the Yankees. Will they? Won’t they? As has been the case all season, it’s tough to tell.

Hiroki Kuroda takes the mound for New York. The argument can be made that Kuroda was the Yanks’ best pitcher this season, but he’s just 1-1 against Baltimore this season. He’ll be up against Miguel Gonzalez. The O’s righty is 2-0 against the Yankees this season, and has proven to be one of the bright spots in the young Orioles rotation.

Baltimore has a 6-3 record at the Stadium this season, a rare blemish on the Yankees’ best home record in baseball. Rather than be in awe of those legendary statues and the heritage of the franchise, Baltimore comes into town and rolls with it. Doing the same tonight would give the Orioles a huge boost, and cut down those MLB Futures odds.

Take: Baltimore. Upsets are in the air and the Birds might just sneak this one. Expect the series to go five though.

 

Detroit Tigers @ Oakland Athletics DET leads series 2-1

9:30 PM ET

Pitching Matchup: Max Scherzer (16-7, 3.74 ERA) Vs. A.J. Griffin (7-1, 3.06 ERA)

Oakland pulled out the stops in Tuesday’s 2-0 game to stave off elimination and force a Game 4 tonight. Detroit – taking advantage of the skewed homefield ‘advantage’, something that really needs to be fixed next year – will look for a second straight night to eliminate their upstart opponents.

For Detroit, Max Scherzer takes the mound, and we’re assured by Jim Leiland at least) that he’s 100 percent and good to go. If that’ true, trouble could be brewing for the A’s. Scherzer was lights out this season.

However, A.J. Griffin proved to be no slouch this year, and he’ll be looking to prove himself following last Wednesday’s outing that saw him give up five early runs to Texas before the A’s miraculously took the AL West.

So far this series has been tight, with the largest scoring margin just two runs. Anyone else thinks we might see some likely bats tonight?

Take: Oakland. After the season the A’s have had, how could you possibly bet against the Bay Area team pulling off another unthinkable escape?

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.