My Thoughts on the Major League Baseball Playoffs


Bryce Harper is a key cog in the Nationals' machine.

I remember a time when the Fall Classic actually meant that it would be played in October. Actually, it’s now played in November because hey, the baseball season isn’t long enough already is it?

In fact I think a week after Thanksgiving don’t pitchers and catchers report?

OK, I won’t go there right now because this is a time to be celebrating baseball rather than ripping on it so let’s get to my thoughts on who will do what in the 2014 MLB Playoffs.

American League

Detroit vs. Baltimore.

The Tigers won five of six from the East Division champs but they haven’t seen each other since May. A lot has changed since then for both teams while some things have stayed the same. Postseason baseball is about pitching and timely hitting.

Detroit can handle both of those things with one exception; their bullpen. Brad Ausmus has his hands full in trying to juggle the bullpen because closer Joe Nathan has been a train wreck all season. The good news is that Justin Verlander is heating up and the rest of the playoff rotation is good.

Have to give the managerial advantage to Baltimore’s Buck Showalter who will not make knee-jerk decisions while Ausmus is a bit new at this playoff stuff.

Prediction: Tigers in 4

Royals vs. LA Angels

What a second half for the Halos who seemed destined for a wild-card spot. Their run coupled with Oakland’s misery have them back atop the West Division. The offense begins and ends with Trout, Hamilton and Puljos while the starting pitching will need to hold up despite injuries.

The Royals made a spectacular comeback last night to defeat the A’s in 12 innings despite the best efforts of Manager Ned Yost to screw things up in the 6th inning. KC will not be an easy out for the Angels especially because of the home crowd but I think talent will eventually be too much for the Royals.

Prediction: Angels in 7

Can Clayton Kershaw carry his outstanding season into the playoffs?

National League

St. Louis vs. LA Dodgers

The Dodgers won the season series 4-3 but they haven’t seen each other since the month of July. Both teams have some playoff experience but in terms of an edge that would have to go to the Cardinals.

If ever there was a series about starting pitching this would be it. There’s no reason to expect Clayton Kershaw to be anything other than brilliant in game one but the Cards will make him work I guarantee that.

If St. Louis can put together some hitting they have a shot.

Prediction: Dodgers in four

Giants/Pirates vs. Washington

A lot of people just want to hand the Nationals the World Series trophy and I can understand why but there’s a reason they actually play the games. Washington is third in hitting and first in pitching and they will also have a fan base as fired up as any in recent memory.

It’s been 90 years since a Washington baseball team has a won a title.

The Pirates will host the Giants tonight and while either team can give the Nats problems, I think the Buccos would offer more of a challenge but that’s not by a long shot by any stretch.

Either way, I like Washington to get by either team with great depth in both pitching and hitting.

Prediction: Nats in Four

If you’re dying to know my League Championship Series predictions I’ll abide by your wishes but just in case I’m not right about the divisional round I’ll “re-predict” later.

ALCS – Angels over Tigers in 5

NCLS – Nationals over Dodgers in 6.

Here’s the Latest on the Races in Major League Baseball



Buck Showalter has his Orioles just days away from an East Division title.

With about 14-15 games to go in the regular season of Major League Baseball, there are races that are just about to end and some that are about as close as they can get. Here’s a look at where we stand and who I like for the MVPs as well.


The surprising Baltimore Orioles have their magic number down to just three games as I write this and will clinch their first division championship since 1997 and have not won a pennant since 1983.

Toronto and New York are four and five games respectively out of a wild-card berth and unless something drastic happens neither will make the postseason. An unfortunate end to a great career for the Yankees’ Derek Jeter.


The Tigers swept the Cleveland Indians over the weekend to essentially knock them out of it. Detroit now has a 1.5 games lead over Kansas City who currently has a wild-card struggle with the Oakland A’s and Seattle Mariners.

The Royals and Tigers will meet for three more games later this week in Kansas City and each still have series’ left with Cleveland and the White Sox.


The LA Angels had their ten-game winning streak snapped Sunday but they lead the division by an amazing 10 games over Oakland. The A’s and Mariners are both still well alive for wild-card berths with only the Detroit/KC loser perhaps being a factor. Whether the Mariners make the postseason or not, Manager Lloyd McClendon should garner serious consideration for Manager of the Year honors. 

AL Picks: Orioles, Tigers, Angels. WCs Royals and A’s.

AL Pennant: Angels


I'm not at all surprised that Williams has the Nationals on the verge of a division title.


The Washington Nationals ran away and hid with this division in the second half of the season and currently lead the Atlanta Braves by 10.5 games. The Braves are currently four games behind the Pittsburgh Pirates for the final wild-card spot.

NL Central

Milwaukee has had a rough second half of the season and has dropped to third in the division. St. Louis currently leads the Pirates by 3.5 games for the division lead. Pittsburgh and St. Louis will not see each other anymore down the stretch.

The Brewers can control their own destiny with series against both St. Louis and Pittsburgh in the final 15 games.


The San Francisco Giants have hung tougher than I thought they would with their rivals to the south. The LA Dodgers have a three game lead over the Giants and will entertain them for three more games next week.

At this time, San Francisco would need a major collapse to miss out on the playoffs altogether.

NL Picks: Nationals, Cardinals, Dodgers. WCs Pirates and Giants.

NL Pennant: Nationals


I’ll start in the National League where there shouldn’t even be a vote. Los Angeles Dodgers’ starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw will run away with the Cy Young Award and should also take the MVP prize as well.

On Sunday, he picked up his 19th win and gave up just two runs. Amazingly, his ERA actually went up to 1.70 for the season. Others in the discussion would include Andrew McCutchen of the Pirates, Giancarlo Stanton of Miami and Jonathan Lucroy of the Brewers.

This is Kershaw’s year though.

In the junior circuit, the competition might be just as poor with Mike Trout on the cusp of finally getting the MVP Award after finishing twice behind Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera.

There are cases to be made for Oakland’s Josh Donaldson or Kansas City’s Alex Gordon but I don’t know how anyone catches Trout who deserves the award as much as anyone in recent memory.

Richard Sherman Speaks the Truth and the MLB Races Have About a Month to Go

Even if you don't like Richard Sherman you have to appreciate his honesty.

Seattle Seahawks’ cornerback Richard Sherman is a lightning rod plain and simple. If you took  a survey of 100 football fans you’d probably get half that love him and half that hate him but I like Sherman for one reason; he speaks his mind.

Sherman did just that when he basically became the first active player to say what I’ve been saying for years now about the direction of the National Football League. In a Sunday Night Football interview with NBC’s Josh Elliott Sherman was asked about all the penalties on defensive backs this preseason. His response:

all the illegal contact calls this preseason were due to the NFL feeling the pressure from advertisers and sponsors. “When the fantasy football numbers need to be what they need to be, then the league needs to do what it needs to do to get it done,” Sherman said. “This is a money-driven league, so whatever sells the tickets is gonna sell the tickets.”

There it is. Finally a player has said what all of us have pretty much known for years. The whole ‘player safety’ issue was actually just an attempt to limit the defense so offenses could score more points. The NFL masked it with the whole concussion lawsuit. I’m all for making the game safer but let’s be real too.

More offense means more fantasy points which means more fantasy players which means more people watching the NFL. Fantasy football owners don’t want to see 10-7 games. The horror!!!!

I appreciate Sherman being himself and supporting what we all know to be true. Unfortunately it won’t do anything to slow down this machine that Roger Goodell has created. Get ready to see more scoring and more offensive numbers skyrocketing out of sight.

Manager Buck Showalter has the Orioles firmly in first place in the AL East.

Baseball Has About a Month to Go

Most  Major League Baseball teams have about 30 games to go and some of the races are fulfilling the promise I have had all season long.

Starting in the American League, the East Division has seen Baltimore quietly take a six-game lead over the New York Yankees. Toronto is eight back and Tampa Bay is 10 games back.

In the Central, the incredibly hot Kansas City Royals lead the injury-riddled Detroit Tigers by two games. Hovering in the distance are the Cleveland Indians who are six games back. The Royals have won seven of ten and continue to be among the best teams in baseball since the All-Star Break.

In the AL West, the LA Angels have a one game lead over the Oakland A’s after beating the A’s last night. Seattle is lurking at six games back but their eyes on the wild-card. Currently, the wild-cards are Oakland and the Mariners with the Tigers just a game back. New York is three and a half back.

In the senior circuit, the NL East has seen a once close race fall apart. The Washington Nationals have won nine of ten and have a commanding eight game lead over the Atlanta Braves.

The NL Central has seen some separation with the Milwaukee Brewers hanging on to a 1.5 game lead over St. Louis. Pittsburgh has fallen off the pace however and is now five full games behind the Brewers following a streak where the Pirates have won just three of ten.

The NL West is a two-team race. The LA Dodgers have a 4.5 game lead of rival San Francisco. San Diego has dropped to 12.5 games back. The Giants and Dodgers have six games remaining against each other with three each at home.

The National League Wild-Card is much more exciting. The Cards and Giants hold the two spots right now but Atlanta (1GB), Pittsburgh (1.5GB) and the Marlins (4GB) are within shouting distance.

Random Sports’ World Thoughts for the Final Sunday in July

Byron Scott returns to LA where he thrived as a player during the days of Magic Johnson.

The Los Angeles Lakers finally have their coach in Byron Scott. After three separate interviews and months of wavering, the Lakers finally decided on Scott. In the past couple of days, speculation had been growing that the Lakers were dragging their feet intentionally because there seemed to be a chance that Doc Rivers could be available.

While we might not ever know if there was that type of interest, it was thought that if Donald Sterling continued to drag out the Clippers’ saga then Rivers would quit. Whether the NBA would have allowed him to become immediately available is unknown but it would have been a very interesting situation.

As far as Scott is concerned, the former Laker is good coach but I can’t help but wonder if this has the touches of Kobe Bryant on it. Scott appears to be the perfect guy for Bryant to have influence over in his final few years. It’s a safe pick because Kobe can’t have much left so when he is gone Scott is a good enough coach to move forward.

Training Camp Injuries Already

The 49ers lost running back Kendall Hunter for the season with an ACL injury.

Training Camps across the National Football League have only been in full swing a few days but already the injury bug has bitten several teams hard. Baltimore lost defensive back Aaron Ross to an Achilles’ injury while he was just running, noting else. He is gone for the season.

The 49ers lost back-up running back Kendall Hunter with an ACL tear on Friday and the Colts lost running back Vick Ballard to an Achilles’ tear as well. Also taking a hit in the backfield were the Carolina Panthers who have lost rookie running back Tyler Gaffney to a knee injury. He is expected to miss the season.

These injuries follow the season-ending ones to linebackers Kiko Alonso of Buffalo and Sean Weatherspoon of Atlanta. Sadly, I guarantee we’ll see more of these injuries as the preseason unfolds.

MLB Races Staying Tight

At the All-Star Break, five of the six divisions in Major League Baseball were extremely tight. As we get ready to head into the month of August even that one lone division has tightened a bit.  The American League Central has the Tigers leading by five games over Kansas City who has won six of ten. This division is the tightest in baseball.

The AL East has Baltimore leading both Toronto and the New York Yankees by three games and now Tampa has closed to within 6.5 following a nine-game winning streak. The Rays streak may cause them to re-think trading David Price.

Over in the AL West, the Oakland A’s lead the LA Angels by just two games. While Seattle is 10.5 behind the Athletics, they are in prime contention for the wild-card so keep an eye on them too.

In the National League, the East Division has seen the Washington Nationals re-take first as they lead Atlanta by 1.5 games. The NL Central is the most fascinating division in baseball because of the race going on there. Milwaukee has a three game lead over St. Louis, a four game lead over Pittsburgh and a six game lead over Cincinnati.

The Reds find themselves in a situation where they need to decide if they are going to be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline this week. The same could also be said for the Pirates who need to add a bat or arm desperately.

The NL West is the tightest race in baseball. The Dodgers are just a half game up on the Giants who seem to have survived their earlier swoon although they’ve lost three in a row.

Stay tuned because I don’t see these races changing much.

The World Cup is Almost Over; MLB Races are Fantastic

I really hope the World Cup Final doesn't come down to a shootout. That's no way to settle the 'World's Greatest Championship."

The day I’ve been waiting for over the last month is finally here. The World Cup Final is today! I’m not celebrating the game itself, I’m celebrating the fact that this nonsense will be over. I’ve violated my own mantra on a couple of occasions by even writing about it but now I get to bask in the glory of it being over for another four years.

If you wonder why I despise ‘futbol’ so much a lot of it has to do with the over-saturation of it. ABC/ESPN will have a two-hour pregame today which seems a bit much. Heck, I even hate the six-hour Super Bowl pregame so two hours of soccer is about the equivalent of that in my mind.

I really don’t have anything against soccer players. They are tremendously talented and extremely conditioned athletes but that leads me to part of the problem I have with soccer. If the World Cup Final ends in a shootout today then I believe it to be a travesty. If these guys are so well-conditioned  then why are they not playing until someone scores?

Can you imagine the Stanley Cup Final being decided by a shootout? Ugh…

Oh… Is it too much to ask soccer players that when they score a goal they actually run to their teammates and celebrate rather than do everything they can to celebrate individually? Athletes in other sports are guilty of this as well but it’s abundantly obvious what soccer players are doing when they score and that’s to celebrate “me” rather than with “we.”

Of course as little scoring as there is in soccer I guess I can’t beat them up too much.

Andrew McCutchen hit homers in the ninth and eleventh innings to carry the surging Pirates to a win last night.

MLB Races Are Heating Up

While you’ve been inundated with World Cup and LeBron James coverage, Major League Baseball has been cruising along. When you open up the standings tomorrow morning you’ll notice that in five of the six divisions are about as hotly contested as you can get.

Take the National League Central for instance where four of the five teams are within 2.5 games of each other. St. Louis and Milwaukee are tied, the Reds are a game and a half back while the surging Pittsburgh Pirates have closed to within that 2.5 I mentioned.

In the National League West, the San Francisco Giants and LA Dodgers are separated by a single game and in the NL East, Atlanta and Washington are tied at the top.

In the Junior Circuit, we find the only divisional race that is not close and that’s the Central where the Detroit Tigers have stretched their lead over Kansas City to 7.5 games by winning five straight games and seven of their last ten.

The AL East has seen the surging Baltimore Orioles take a three-game lead over Toronto. The Yankees are four games out but received some bad news this week. Their ace Masahiro Tanaka is out for some time with an elbow injury. The team is hoping rehab will do the trick rather than surgery.

Two of baseball’s biggest disappointments also reside in the AL East where Tampa Bay and the defending champion Red Sox are both 9.5 games out of first.

The AL West has turned into a very nice race after it looked like Oakland might run away with it early. Even though the A’s have won seven of ten, the LA Angels have won nine of ten and trail Oakland by just a game and a half.

At this point, the races in MLB deserve your attention. Once your done doing your ‘Ole’ cheers that is.

Odds for National League Division Winners

Bryce Harper has returned just in time because the Braves have caught the Nationals in the East.

A few days back I gave you the latest odds on American League Division Winners from our friends at Bovada. Today I’m providing you the latest odds for the senior circuit, known to you youngsters as the National League.

NL East

Washington -180 – Despite a four-game winning streak, the Nationals have been caught by nemesis Atlanta who is streaking themselves right now. The Nationals have a little more staying power because of their overall balance between hitting and pitching. The return of Bryce Harper will help as well.

Atlanta +150 – At the start of the play today, the Braves are a half game up on the Nationals and that’s been due in large part to a six-game winning streak and 8-2 stretch over their last ten. The pitching is just fine as they rank third in the NL, but they need to get the batting going more consistently. I expect the Braves and Nationals to take this down to the wire.

Miami +2,000 – The Marlins continue to be a surprising story in 2014 because most thought they’d be bringing up the rear in the East. They’re just 5.5 games back right now even though they’ve gone just 3-7 in their last ten. The question will be whether they will make moves towards the end of July to better themselves for a wild-card run or will they dump players to get more talent for the future?

NY Mets +3,300 – The Mets have lost three-straight and are nine games back of the Braves. Not an impossible task, but a highly unlikely one to be sure.

Philadelphia +3,300 – The Phillies are only a half-game worse than the Mets but I don’t see any way you’d lay money on this team as they are currently constructed.

Can Ryan Braun and the Brewers hang on in the NL Central?

NL Central

Milwaukee -130 – The best record in the NL continues to reside in Milwaukee where the Brew Crew have a 6.5 game lead over St. Louis in the Central. The Brewers continue to ride great hitting which is over-coming fairly sub-par pitching. I think they’ll have enough to get into the playoffs but whether that’s as a division champ or not is uncertain.

St. Louis +160 – The Cardinals are almost dead-last in the NL in batting which just isn’t going to get things down if they plan to catch the Brewers. The pitching is fifth in the National League but cannot get worse if they plan to get into the playoffs.

Cincinnati +650 – The Reds have gone 7-3 in their last ten games but they remain seven games back in the Central. They are middle of the road in both batting and pitching and they just don’t seem to be able to gain ground on the Brewers.

Pittsburgh +1,200 – The Pirates have gone 8-2 in their last ten to tie the Reds for third-place in the Central. They recently sent closer Jason Grilli to the Angels in an effort to shake things up and it seems to be working. Will the frugal spending Pirates make a move though to improve?

Chicago Cubs +20,000 – Ummm, moving on.

NL West

LA Dodgers -180 – The Dodgers have closed to within a half-game of the division leading Giants and I think that is a trend that will continue for the rest of the season. LA is third in batting and second in pitching and I have a hard time seeing them finishing anywhere but first.

San Francisco +110 – The Giants have gone 4-6 in their last ten and will likely see their division lead gone as the Dodgers keep piling on wins.

Colorado +6,600 – No

Arizona +25,000 – No

San Diego +25,000 – And no.

If you want a sure winner, take the West and the Dodgers. If you are looking for a long-shot, take the Pirates or Marlins.

Monday Offers All Four Divisional Series in Action

Buchholz takes the hill looking to sweep Boston into the ALCS.

All four of Major League Baseball’s Divisional Series are on tap for today and in the National League, Pittsburgh and ________ have a chance to close out their respective series. To this point the action has been very good with pitching being dominant in some cases and offense rising to the forefront in others.

Regardless of the outcomes, the championship series’ in both leagues should bring some really good baseball among some of the game’s best franchises and fan bases.

Oakland at Detroit (series tied 1-1) – What a series this is turning out to be. After a sparkling performance by Max Scherzer in a 3-2 game one win, Justin Verlander and Sonny Gray matched zero for zero in game two before Oakland broke through in the bottom of the ninth for the 1-0 win.

Now the scene shifts to Detroit where Anabel Sanchez takes the hill for the Tigers. Since mid-July, he is 10-3 and has been arguably the team’s best pitcher. For the A’s, Jarrod Parker gets the call. He has lost three of his last five starts and in his most recent outing he gave up three home runs.

Everything points to Detroit in this one.

Boston at Tampa Bay (Sox lead 2-0) – The Red Sox have been nothing short of dominant as the scene shifts to Tampa where the crowd will be filled with as many Boston fans as Rays’ fans. Tampa Bay turns to Alex Cobb who was so good in knocking the Cleveland Indians out of the playoffs. He had a rough patch in late August and early September bu has things going in recent weeks.

The Red Sox will hand the ball to Clay Buchholz who enters with a 12-1 record and has been really good in his last few starts. Knowing he has a comfortable lead behind him as well as an offense that’s raking the ball I expect Buchholz to pitch well.

Cobb will pitch well too. He was in a similar spot less than a week ago but can the Rays score enough to keep in the game and series? I say no. Look for Buchholz to finsh the sweep.

Can Morton deliver and help the Pirates get to the NLCS?

St. Louis at Pittsburgh (Pirates lead 2-1) – Charlie Morton hasn’t factored in a decision since September eighth but has pitched fairly well and now gets the ball with a chacne to send to the Pirates to the National Championship Series. The problem for the Buccos who are somewhat offensively challenged is that they draw St. Louis starter Michael Wacha.

The 22-year old was last seen on the hill just one out away from a no-hitter in his final regualr season appearance. At 4-1 the youngster has shown he can pitch. The question of course now is can he do it with his team’s season in the balance and in front of a raucaos crowd in Pittsburgh?

I think Wacha will pitch well but this Pirates team just seems destined for something greater. Take the Bucs.

Atlanta at Los Angeles (LA leads 2-1) – The Dodgers scored 10 runs last night over the second, third and fourth innings to breeze to a 13-6 win. They now move to a game from advancing to the NLCS.

37-year old Freddy Garcia takes the mound for the Braves in Los Angeles while Ricky Nolasco takes the bump for the Dodgers. Both guys were brought in from other teams during the season for this exact purpose. Nolasco has been sharper during his time with his current team than has Garcia but the elder Garcia has more playoff seasoning. I like the Dodgers to close things out tonight.



A Few Key Series’ Set to Begin Today in MLB

Cabrera's MVP season has helped the Tigers stretch their lead in the AL Central.

It’s time once again to re-visit where Major League Baseball is at the current time and it’s already vastly different than it was a month ago. It wasn’t that long ago that there were legitimate races in every division but that is in the past.

The Los Angeles Dodgers are on a run of epic and historical proportions over their last 50 games. They have won 41 of those games and their extra -inning loss yesterday ended a 10-game winning streak. LA has gone from being a cellar-dweller two months ago to leading the National League West by 7.5 games over Arizona.

In third place in the division is Colorado who is an amazing 15 games back. I say amazing because the Rockies were in the thick of this race six weeks ago.

The National League East has also seen a fairly competitive race become a laughing stock. The Atlanta Braves have taken their relatively small lead and stretched it to 15.5 games over Washington. The Nationals feel like they still have a shot at the playoffs despite being 9.5 out in the wild-card race.

The National League Central is still an amazingly tight race with the same three teams battling that have battled all season. Pittsburgh has led the division over the last few weeks but is struggling having lost seven of nine. They have a one game lead over St. Louis and a lead of 2.5 over Cincinnati.

In the American League Central, the Detroit Tigers have pulled away from Cleveland since the All-Star break when they lead by three games. They have stretched their lead over the Indians to seven games and 8.5 over Kansas City whose surge seems to have faded a bit.

Not much has changed in the AL West where Texas holds a half game lead over Oakland. The Rangers and Athletics have six games remaining with each other. Three in Oakland and three in Arlington.

And finally, the American League East remains a fairly tight race although the Yankees are struggling to maintain a shot for the postseason. Boston has a one game lead over Tampa and a 4.5 game lead over Baltimore. The Bronx Bombers are 7.5 back and are six back in the wild-card race.

Burnett looks to bounce back from a less than solid performance in his last outing.

As the season winds down there are a couple of big series starting today. Here’s a look…

Pittsburgh at San Diego (-150/+120) – The Padres are out of the playoff race but should be credited with having hung in as long as they did. This series is about the Pirates though and whether they can get the bats going. The pitching has been outstanding all season but aces Jeff Locke and A.J. Burnett are coming off poor outings. The Bucs are approaching the 82-win total which they haven’t seen in over 20 years. That cannot be their focus however. I like the Pirates in this series.

Arizona at Cincinnati (+165/-205) – Both teams enter this series having won seven of their last ten games. The D-Backs are struggling to keep up with the Dodgers but are just five out in the wild-card with the Reds sitting directly above them. We know where the Reds are currently and what’s at stake for them. They currently have one of the two wild-card spots with the other belonging to fellow Central rival St. Louis. The Reds are 37-20 at home and I like them in this series against Arizona who is below .500 on the road.

Tampa Bay at Baltimore (-110/-120) – If the season ended today, the Rays would have one of the wild-card spots while the Orioles would be three games out. Tampa Bay has been pretty good on the road at 29-29 while Baltimore is nine games over .500 at 35-26. This is the last time these two will hook up until a huge four-game series in Tampa Bay in late September. 14-3 Chris Tillman takes the hill in the opener for Baltimore, but I like the Rays to get two of three.

Braves Are Dinged Up; Games to Wager Tonight

How will the loss of Hudson affect the Braves for the rest of the season?

If you haven’t yet heard the news from last night’s game between the New York Mets and Atlanta Braves then let me fill you in. The Braves won 8-2 behind another excellent performance by Tim Hudson who won his fourth straight start. The bad news for Hudson is that in eighth inning he suffered a broken ankle on a really flukey play at first.

Hudson is expected to undergo surgery once the swelling goes down and his return is uncertain at this time.

The injury occurred when the Mets’ Eric Young Jr. hit a grounder that bounced off the chest of first baseman Freddie Freeman. Hudson bolted to cover first and had his foot on the bag when Young, hustling down the line, stepped on his foot turning in a direction it really isn’t supposed to go.

Hudson will become the second Braves’ starting pitcher this week to go on the Disabled List this week. Paul Maholm has a bruised wrist and was put on the 15-Day DL on Monday.

The question now is, can the Braves survive? These aren’t just two average starters either. Hudson is 8-7 with an ERA of 3.97 and a WHIP of 1.19. Maholm is 9-9 with an ERA above four and a WHIP of 1.39. Both guys are important cogs in an Atlanta pitching rotation that ranks second in the National League in pitching.

In terms of who fills these two roles, that’s up in the air at the time of this writing. Right-hander Brandon Beachy continues to make progress from Tommy John surgery with starts in the minors. He pitched well in his most recent outing at Triple-A Gwinnett. I would expect him to be up with the Braves sooner rather than later.

The Braves lead the NL East by eight games over Philadelphia and nine over Washington. Atlanta will survive the injuries to make the playoffs because of their lead and because the Phillies may very well have a huge fire sale to dump salary. The Nationals don’t appear to be ready to right the ship so Atlanta will enter the playoffs, but if Hudson isn’t available, that will be a huge blow to their chances in those playoffs.

Gonzalez takes the hill tonight trying to keep the Nats alive in the NL East.

Coming Up Tonight in the Big Leagues

Pittsburgh Pirates (A.J. Burnett) at Washington Nationals (Gio Gonzalez) – Burnett is 1-5 in his last six starts dating back to early May. Not great at all, but his ERA and WHIP are both respectable at 3.07 and 1.22 respectively. Gonzalez has been a nice bright spot for the Nats. He hasn’t lost a decision since May 7th and stands at 7-3 on the year with an ERA of 2.89. The number tonight is 7 (over -120/under -110).

With both guys having solid ERAs, I like the under tonight. The Nats get the ‘W’ and avoid the sweep.

New York Yankees (Hiroki Kuroda) at Texas Rangers (Derek Holland) – Kuroda has been very solid for the Yanks going 9-6 with an excellent ERA of 2.65 and a really good WHIP of 1.04. Holland has been no slouch either for the Rangers. He sits at 8-5 with an ERA of 3.10 and a WHIP of 1.26.

Both teams are below .500 over their last ten games and both are in danger of slipping out of their respective races. The Yankees are seven games back of the Red Sox and the Rangers have dipped to three behind the Athletics. Neither team can afford to fall further back even with the Wild-Card possibilities.

The over/under tonight is -115/-115 with the number at eight. Much like the Pirates/Nats game above, both guys have very good ERAs which leans me toward the under here and a win for the Yanks behind Kuroda.

Props for MLB’s Second Half

Despite Davis leading in homers, Cabrera is on pace for another epic season and another MVP award.

There are many people who find baseball to be long. From the games themselves to the season in general, baseball has always been known as a marathon, not a sprint. Although it has changed greatly over the decades from the amount of teams to the amount of playoff teams, baseball still provides us with some great opportunities to wager.

This season is no different as there are some great divisional races and some very enticing individual races to choose from so let’s take a look at some of the ones I think will offer you some great action.

Team Props

Will the Red Sox Make the Playoffs? Yes -700/No +400 Boston is the top-hitting team in the American League and in the middle of the pack in pitching. This team obviously enjoys playing for skipper John Farrell and I see them in the postseason.

Will the Yankess Make the Playoffs? Yes +300/No -500 The captain, Derek Jeter, comes off the DL and immediately strains a quad. A-Rod is needed to provide offense but might face suspension for the PED investigation in South Florida. The Yanks just don’t have the horses.

Will the Tigers Make the Playoffs? Yes -1200/No +600 Let’s put it this way, if this team doesn’t make the postseason it will be one of the most colossal failures in recent baseball history considering the payroll. With Cleveland the only competition however, Detroit will get in.

Will the Nationals Make the Playoffs? Yes +200/No -300 I made a prediction last week that if the Nats don’t come out strong in the first three weeks then I think Davey Johnson becomes the first managerial dismissal of 2013. While that may or may not be true, the Nats are underachieveing and will not make the playoffs.

Can Grilli continue his bullpen magie and get the Buccos to the Postseason?

Will the Pirates Make the Playoffs? Yes -300/No +200 The toughest call of all is right here because of their recent second-half failings but this team appears to be different. I think they’ll add a bat to go with their top pitching and I will predict they make the playoffs for the first time since 1992.

Will the Athletics Make the Playoffs? Yes -600/No +400 Oakland and rival Texas are the top two pitching outfits in the AL and the Rangers hold a slight advantage in hitting. The Rangers are more likely to make a move that adds more at the trade deadline. I really like the A’s but I’m leaning towards no here.

Player Props

AL Cy Young Odds – Max Scherzer 3/2, Clay Buchholz 9/2, Felix Hernandez 11/2, Yu Darvish 15/2, Bartolo Colon 10/1, Justin Verlander 12/1

I would actually favor Scherzer, Buchholz and Verlander here as my top three because of the excellent offenses that support them. Verlander is warming up of late after a very un-Verlander-like start so don’t rule him out. Scherzer usually gets dinged for a some runs every game but finds ways to win and I think that’ll continue for him as he wins his first.

NL Cy Young Odds – Adam Wainwright 3/1, Clayton Kershaw 3/1, Patrick Corbin 11/2, Matt Harvey 15/2, Jordan Zimmerman 8/1, Cliff Lee 9/1

All of these guys have WHIPs under 1.01 which is pretty darn amazing and Wainwright leads with 12 wins. Kershaw has been great despite an 8-6 record. Harvey is a great story, but he rack up enough wins. I think it comes down to Wainwright and Corbin who is 11-1. Take the name recognition and go with Wainwright.

AL MVP – Miguel Cabrera 4/9, Chris Davis 5/2, Mike Trout 13/2, Max Scherzer 25/1

The only way this is not Cabrera is if Davis hits more than 61 home runs and the Orioles make the playoffs. Cabrera is on another planet right now.

NL MVP – Yadier Molina 3/1, Paul Goldschmidt9/2, Joey Votto 11/2, Carlos Gonzalez 7/1

Molina leads in average, Gonzalez in home runs and Goldschmidt in RBIs. The mere fact that Molina is a catcher and leads the NL in batting is more than enough for him to be the MVP choice.