College and Pro Football are on the Docket as Well as the World Series

CFB Trophy
CFB Trophy
The committee that decides who plays for this trophy unveils their first final four this week.

Saturday brings me to the blog and to the fact that I can’t believe we have less one week until we hit November. Didn’t college football just kick off? Do you believe the first week of the season was actually in August? I was always told that time goes faster the older we get but I didn’t exactly expect a supersonic jet ride.

Today I’m catching my breath with thoughts on college and pro football as well as the Fall Classic which may actually end before November gets here believe it or not.

College Football

This Tuesday the 13-person college football playoff committee meets and reveals their top four teams. The committee is now actually down to 12 as Archie Manning had to step aside due to health issues. I for one am about as excited for this as I am a root canal but it creates talking points though doesn’t it?

Let’s be real here; there is still a lot that can happen and perhaps some of that chaos will continue today with Ole Miss and Mississippi State both on the road in the SEC. One of the top people I lean on for college football insight is Stewart Mandel who now writes for Fox Sports after years with Sports Illustrated.

Mandel argued this week that it’s very possible that two of the five major power conferences will get shut out in the ‘final four’ and he isn’t wrong. But I question the politics that will be involved by the committee. Mandel believes the Big Ten and Pac-12 will be on the outside looking in even with a potential one-loss Ohio State or Michigan State or even Oregon.

No one argues the SEC and more specifically the SEC West is the most dominant conference in football but there are two questions that come from this. First is whether or not the teams will knock each other off so badly that no one is left with less than two losses and secondly will there be ‘SEC overkill’ in the eyes of the committee.

Remember, good match-ups are great for the fans but they are even more important for the television networks. How would a final four of Ole Miss, Mississippi State, TCU and Florida State look versus let’s say a final four of Florida State, Notre Dame, Alabama and Auburn?

Don’t ever dismiss the politics in collegiate athletics my friends.

Ned Yost has leaned heavily on his bullpen and rightfully so.

The World Series

The Kansas City Royals took a 2-1 lead last night in the World Series with a 3-2 win over the Giants in San Francisco last night. For the second straight game the Royals’ bullpen shut down the Giants which has become a trend throughout the season and now into the playoffs. It’s a very common theme where the Royals get a lead and take that lead into the sixth inning.

In effect, Manager Ned Yost has shortened official nine-inning games to essentially games that are just six or seven innings. This isn’t new; the Yankees did it during the great run of five World Series titles when the bullpen would take over and then hand the ball to John Wetteland and then Mariano Rivera. If the Giants are going to stay in this series they must get out early or this thing will be over in five.

Pro Football

Remember my preseason picks? Ya, that selection of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a wild-card team isn’t looking so good now is it? The Bucs have been competitive in most of their games but for the most part it has been nothing like I thought it would under new coach Lovie Smith.


Royals, Tigers are Ships Passing in the Night

Billy Butler and the Royals are in the World Series and strangely enough they are similar to the team they lost the division too.

Sports brings out the best in people and while it can often bring out the worst too, it’s moments like Wednesday evening in Kansas City that make sports great. After 29 years the Kansas City Royals are returning to the World Series.

This is a team with no superstars which probably makes them even more enticing to the common fan and what I find most interesting about them is that they almost seem to be the very team they have pursued in the American League Central.

George Brett was a part of those great KC teams in the 70's and 80's and now gets to enjoy this as well.

What I mean is that eight years ago, the Detroit Tigers stumbled into the playoffs for the first time since 1987. They had the division wrapped up until these Royals came to Detroit and swept them forcing Detroit into the wild-card spot. While the Tigers had more “stars” then these current Royals do, the feeling around the Motor City in 2006 was total pandemonium.

The same craziness was on display in Kansas City Wednesday night as the Royals swept the Baltimore Orioles in four games. The Royals, who lost the division to Detroit by just one game, have now won eight straight playoff games. A dramatic, extra-inning win over Oakland in the play-in game, followed by a three-game sweep of the best team in the American League in the Angels.

While those 2006 Tigers didn’t sweep their first two opponents, they did defeat the New York Yankees three games to one and then beat the Oakland A’s four games to win the AL Pennant. Despite the two losses, the momentum never the left the Tigers much in the same way it hasn’t left the Royals.

Both organizations were very competitive throughout the 1980’s. The Tigers won the 1984 World Series while Kansas City won the ’85 Fall Classic over favored St. Louis. The Royals had actually advanced to the World Series in 1980 before losing to the Philadelphia Phillies. Ironically in ’84, the Tigers defeated the Royals to advance to the World Series.

The Tigers would also win the American League East in 1987 but lost to the Minnesota Twins in the ALCS. While the Royals playoff run ended in 1985 with the title. They did have great success in the 1970’s with division titles in ’76, ’77 and ’78. All three of those years the Royals lost the ALCS to the Yankees.

With both the Tigers and Royals having good success from the 1970’s through the ’80’s, the decade plus that followed was anything but successful. The Royals struggled to stay below 90 losses at times while the Tigers would actually reach total futility in losing more games than any American League team in history in 2003.

Today these two teams may in fact be two ships passing in the night. The Tigers are likely to lose Cy Young winning pitcher Max Scherer as well as Victor Martinez in free agency. Miguel Caberera looked mortal in 2014 as he dealt with injuries and while some of the youth was good, the Tigers overall took a step back.

The Royals may be peaking at the right time with a great blend of seasoned veterans and young players who are a great fit together. Kansas City also has tremendous bullpen strength which is a great foundation for the future. Look no further than the Yankees during late 1990’s and 2000’s.

For all I know, the Royals will do just as the 2006 Tigers did in the World Series which was completely tank but this team just seems different. Win or lose, I think we are starting to see the changing of the guard in the American League Central.

Baseball Playoffs Plus Michigan Continues to Struggle

Salvador Perez and the Royals are on to the AL Championship Series.

For the 40 plus years I’ve been alive the playoffs in Major League Baseball have changed significantly but the one thing that has never changed is what wins games in the postseason. If you can get great pitching and timely hitting then you are more than likely going to win yourself a championship or two.

It’s very clear that I underestimated both the Kansas City Royals and the Baltimore Orioles who used this exact formula to advance to the American League Championship Series. Kansas City dispatched the American League’s best team in the Angels of Anaheim in a three-game sweep that was never close.

The Orioles rode very solid pitching and took advantage of a horrible Detroit bullpen to sweep the AL Central Champions in three games. Baltimore defeated Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander and David Price to accomplish the feat. No easy task but they got hits at just the right time and stayed patient as Tigers’ Manager Brad Ausmus was forced to go to his bullpen.

As for the Royals, they just might be that team of destiny we hear so much about. After squeezing into the wild-card, they then needed 12 innings to knock off Oakland in the play-in game. From there, the Royals used their pitching to almost completely shut down the powerful Angels’ offense.

I had both of these teams losing in the divisional rounds. I figured Detroit would ride its’ offense and starting pitching to a 3-1 victory and I believed the same of the Angels but the old truths about the playoffs haunted me as they did them. Of course I also had Washington beating the Giants (SF leads 2-0) and the Dodgers beating the Cardinals (series tied at 1) so I’m pretty sure I know absolutely nothing about baseball in 2014.

Michigan had no answer for Rutgers' Gary Nova in yet another loss.

More Mayhem at Michigan

Lost in much of the craziness that was college football weekend week six was the fact that Michigan dropped yet another game. This time it was a loss to new Big Ten member Rutgers in New Jersey. While I’ll say that I thought the Wolverines got jobbed a bit on their final drive in which a catch on the sidelines was ruled ‘not a catch,’ Michigan did itself no favors.

The defense has been thought of as the savior of this team but they were exposed all evening by the Scarlet Knights’ quarterback Gary Nova who threw for three touchdowns and over 400 yards. The offense at times looked better under Devin Gardner who took over at quarterback after giving way to Shane Morris last week.

The loss drops Michigan to 2-4 overall and to 0-2 in the Big Ten for the first time since dirt was discovered. It’s no longer a matter of ‘if’ Brady Hoke is fired as the head coach but rather a matter of ‘when.’ The man who hired him, athletic director Dave Brandon problem shouldn’t fare any better but he may survive if he handles the transition to a new coach properly.

Things are almost falling into line too perfectly for the marriage of former Wolverine QB Jim Harbaugh and the school. Several reports this weekend confirmed that this appears to be Harbaugh’s last year with the 49ers as players are apparently unhappy with him. It’s also no secret he doesn’t get along with the team’s general manager either.

While Harbaugh burned some bridges with many at Michigan in recent years, I believe he would be welcomed back. Usually when these stars align this well something comes along to ruin the pattern but time will tell for now.


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.

The Latest Odds on American League Division Winners

Edwin Encarncion leads the league with 24 homers but can he lead the Blue Jays to an East Division Title?

The latest odds from our friends at Bovada are out on Major League Baseball’s division winners. Today I’ll be looking at the American League. I’ll give you a breakdown on whether the current leaders are safe bets and whether or not there are teams to consider that could be serious contenders down the stretch.

AL East

Toronto +140

NY Yankees +200

Baltimore +250

Boston +800

Tampa Bay +6600

The Blue Jays have played well in stretches but they’ve also benefited from disappointing seasons from the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays. What will be interesting is whether the Red Sox will feel they are close enough to a playoff a spot a month from now to warrant making some moves.

The Rays have already started discussions about moving pitching ace David Price according to ESPN’s Buster Olney but the Rays haven’t gone that far yet. There’s very little chance Tampa Bay is going to make the playoffs so getting rid of Price sooner rather than later makes sense. St. Louis is rumored to be a leading contender to gain his services.

While Baltimore has been fairly impressive this season the real team to watch is New York. The biggest reason is that they will go out and get talent regardless of price to make a return to the playoffs. At this point, I like New York to catch the Jays for the division.

Anibal Sanchez has been great for Detroit since his arrival.

AL Central

Detroit -400

Kansas City +350

Cleveland +800

Chicago +5000

Minnesota +5000

Just when I start to think the Tigers are going to let everyone back in the AL Central Division race then rip off more wins. This is exactly what the Tigers have done as they’ve won seven straight heading into last night’s action. It wasn’t that long ago they lost three of four to the Royals and found themselves in second place.

Detroit now has a 4.5 game lead and Kansas City has stumbled going just 4-6 in their last ten games. Cleveland is 6.5 back but I’m just not sure how serious to take the Indians. They lack consistent starting pitching and while the team is fourth in the AL in hitting, it just hasn’t been enough.

Minnesota is 8.5 back and has lost three straight. This isn’t surprising because the youth movement is on in the Twin Cities and everyone knows it. The White Sox are a little different. They might even be disappointing to put it mildly and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Manager Robin Ventura in some hot water as the season progresses.

I think the Tigers will have some issues especially in the bullpen in the second half of the season, but I like them as a lock for the division title.

AL West

Oakland -250

LA Angels +225

Seattle +750

Texas +5000

Houston +20,000

I’m going to tell you right now that I’m not taking the Astros to catch the Oakland A’s but I like the improvement that is happening in Houston.

Speaking of Oakland, they have a 3.5 game lead over the Angels right now in the West. Both teams have gone 7-3 over their last ten games but the Angels have won six straight games. The A’s lead the American League in both hitting and pitching so it’s no surprise they are leading the West. The Angels aren’t far behind in either category so I like this race to continue into the early fall.

Seattle has managed to stay close and is just 6.5 games back but will they have the horses to contend down the stretch? Texas has been hit too hard by injuries and has had really poor pitching. I don’t see them being a factor.

I believe Oakland will hang onto this division but I also like the Angels to get a Wild-Card.


Keys to Betting Baseball as the Summer Heats Up

Billy Butler and the Royals have been red-hot and now find themselves in first place in the AL Central.

As I mentioned last weekend, we have arrived at the moment in in the sports’ world where the calendar is void of three of the four major professional sports in America. The NBA Finals and NHL Stanley Cup Finals are history and the NFL now heads into a relative dormant period before training camps get going.

That means all eyes turn to baseball and if you are going to do some wagering on what some still believe is America’s Pastime then you need to be aware of several things before you do.

Right now, any game that Verlander starts, I'm suggesting the over.

Pitching Match-Ups – These are vital for more than just the obvious win-loss records. If you’re going to take you’re baseball betting seriously then you need to look at recent trends as well. Typically most sites offer you the pitcher’s most recent three starts and I advise you pay special attention to those.

Last week, Justin Verlander was starting the opening game of an important four-game series at home against the Kansas City Royals. His record was a very un-Verlander like 6-6 but his recent starts revealed an even worse stretch where he’d given up six plus runs in his last three starts. With the Royals coming in on a seven-game winning streak, it was almost too easy to go with the Royals.

Verlander was again hit hard and was sent packing with another loss.

Over/Under – If you’re going to play the over/under on Major League Baseball games then obviously you need to see the pitching match-up section above. You will however need to go a step further and analyze the batting stats for each team as well. What made choosing against Verlander easy was his recent record, but also was the hot hitting of the Royals.

Taking it a step further, pay attention to the ball park the teams are playing in as well. Is it a stadium that gives up lots of home runs? Does it have a lot of foul territory? What is the ERA of visiting pitchers?

If you find yourself looking at a game where two very good pitchers at opposing one another then you are probably best suited to take the under. Conversely, if two guys who have struggled are taking the hill then the over is probably your best play.

Regardless of the pitchers, you still need to check out the pertinent stats from both the hitting and ball park perspectives.

Win/Loss Trends – I’m a big believer in looking at teams’ records over their last ten games. The problem is that too often we just want to take the win/loss record over that stretch and run with with but it isn’t that easy. You have to also consider the opposition that the team faced over that ten-game stretch.

If the Yankees for instance go 9-1 that’s great. But who did they play over that span? If they knocked off Oakland, Toronto and Detroit over that time then you have yourself a legitimate ten game stretch. If the Yankees are knocking off the sisters of the poor then you should probably reconsider a bit before wagering on them. This of course depends upon who the opponent is too.

The most important thing you can do if you’re going to wager a single MLB game or series is put in the time. Sports betting success does not come easy and requires time. Checking into the three things I mentioned above will help you considerably, but there is no end to the stats and trends you could and should consider.

Updating Baseball’s World Series Favorites

Tim Hudson leads the Giants in quality starts and has a 7-2 record this year.

We are a little less than a month away from Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game and already we have division leaders separating themselves from the pack. We also have races heating up that should last throughout the summer and right into September. The latest odds on who will take home the World Series Trophy are out from our friends at Bovada.

I’m telling who you should strongly consider and who you should say ‘no thanks’ to so let’s get to it.

San Francisco 11/2 – The Giants lead the National League West by five games over the LA Dodgers. Many are expecting LA to heat up again as they did last year this time but these Giants seem to have staying power. They aren’t in the top five in batting or pitching but they are doing all of the little things correctly. They are limiting opponents’ batting while taking advantage of opponents’ pitching later in games.

Oakland 6/1 – It’s not a secret as to why the Athletics are leading the American League West and are currently the AL’s top favorite to win the title. Oakland leads the Majors in both hitting and pitching. Pretty simple right? The A’s also have MLB’s best road record (tied with MIL at 23-14) which gives them the confidence they need to get things done in the playoffs.

Justin Verlander was rocked again this week and that has become the norm rather than the exception this season.

Detroit 16/2 – Lets get to the heart of this team right now; they are not winning the World Series. The last six weeks has proven that General Manager Dave Dombrowski has once again failed to address the bullpen problems and that will cost this team. Throw in the fact that Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer have been terribly inconsistent as starters and you’ve got a real problem. The Tigers fell out of first place last night for the first time all season and don’t be surprised if the slide continues.

Toronto 8/1 – The Blue Jays have recently cooled off after an extremely hot run but they still lead the AL East by three and half games over second place New York and by four games over the Orioles. Toronto currently ranks third in batting which has been their overwhelming strength so far this season because their pitching isn’t exactly on par with the team’s overall performance. The Jays currently rank 22nd in the Majors in team pitching and if this team is to be taken seriously then that will have to improve.

LA Dodgers 9/1 – The Dodgers rank ninth in batting and 13th in pitching and have that five game deficit in the NL West. Colorado is in third, nine games out of first so I this division as a two-horse race. A lot was made of the Dodgers’ epic run last year (41-8 at one point) and that’s pertinent here because the Giants have lost four straight games while the Dodgers are in the midst of a 7-3 stretch in their last ten games. I think this will be one of the top two races down the stretch in Major League Baseball and if the pitching comes around more than look out.

St. Louis 9/1 – The Cardinals have won five straight games and have a streak of eight wins over their last ten games. After seeing the Milwaukee Brewers come flying out of the gate in the National League Central, the Cards have slowly made up ground behind their league-leading pitching staff. Pitching, as most of you know, can typically carry you further than top hitting. St.Louis still needs to improve upon their 25th position in the Majors in hitting if they are going to make another run to the World Series.

My top pick: Oakland

Team to run and hide from: Detroit

Time to Focus on Baseball Once Again

Jared Weaver takes the mound in Cleveland looking to keep the Angels close to the A's in the West.

The world of sports is cyclical. Some of us want to start the calendar on January first when the NHL, NBA, NFL, College Football and College Basketball are in full swing. Others like to call the opening day of baseball the true start to the sports calendar. This is when the NHL and NBA are gearing up for their playoffs while College Basketball is awaiting its’ Final Four.

Regardless of when you mark the start, the period we are now in is all about Major League Baseball. Oh sure, the World Cup is going on but that happens once every four years so I don’t count it.

What we can count on is today’s lines in the world of baseball.

LA Angels (-120) at Cleveland (EVEN), O/U 8.5Jared Weaver 7-5 vs. Trevor Bauer 1-3 The Angels head to Cleveland following a loss in Atlanta last night. They’ve gone 6-4 over their last ten games and remain 4.5 games behind West Division leader Oakland. The Indians are 5-5 in their last ten games, but have won two straight and have a 21-11 record at home.

Both pitchers went just five and a third innings in their last starts and they’ve both struggled in their last three games. Weaver is 1-2 with an ERA of 5.71 while Bauer is 0-1 with an ERA of 4.58.

The Angels and Indians rank third and fourth respectively in batting in the American League so I expect runs to be scored with both pitchers struggling. Take the Indians at home and I like the OVER as well.

Verlander has been quite average this season and that needs to change immediately for the Tigers.

Kansas City (+135) at Detroit (-155), O/U 8.5Jason Vargas 6-2 vs. Justin Verlander 6-6 This was a series that didn’t appear to be all that important a month or so ago as the Tigers had a five and half game lead and the Royals were struggling. That isn’t the case now as the Royals have won seven straight games and eight of their last ten. The Tigers have righted their ship a bit after some serious struggles. They’ve won two in a row and have gone 5-5 over their last ten.

Tigers’ ace Justin Verlander has been extremely disappointing this season going just 6-6. His ERA is a whopping 4.61 and over his last three starts is 6.64. While has been a bit better at home, it’s hard to ignore what’s happening here. His fastball is not what it was and his curve is not biting like it once did. Meanwhile, Vargas is 2-0 with an ERA under three in his last three outings.

Until Verlander proves he has his old stuff back, I have zero confidence in him. I like the Royals and take the OVER as well.

Texas (+150) at Oakland (-170), O/U 7.5Colby Lewis 4-4 vs. Drew Pomeranz 5-3 Can you call a series in June a BIG series? I certainly can. If the Tigers and Royals have a big one starting in Detroit today then this one in Oakland then this one certainly is. The Rangers are in fourth place in the AL West and they trail the Athletics by eight games.

While the Rangers cannot look to gain back everything in one series, they can fall pretty much out of it should they be swept. The pressure in game one falls on Colby Lewis is 4-4 with an ERA of 5.72. In his last three starts he is 0-1 with an ERA that sounds more like an airliner at 7.47. His opponent is Drew Pomeranz who is 5-3 with an exceptional ERA of 1.90. His last three starts have seen him go 1-1 with an ERA of 2.79 which is still very good.

I think Lewis will pitch well tonight but I like Oakland behind Pomeranz and their solid offense which is tops in the AL. Take the UNDER tonight.

Good Match-Ups in Baseball Tonight

Justin Verlander takes the hill for Detroit tonight against the White Sox for the first time this season.

If you take a look at the schedule in Major League Baseball for this evening you’ll see C.C. Sabathia, Justin Verlander and rookie Gerrit Cole on the hill. That means more than just good viewing, it means some nice opportunities to collect on some wagers.

This is the time in the baseball season where fans start to panic about their team’s current state. They often forget that this is a marathon and not a sprint. Take the Detroit Tigers for example who increased their American League Central Division lead to 3.5 games last night with an extra-inning win over second-place Cleveland.

Two years ago on this date, the Tigers were a half-game back of the Indians. Detroit ended up winning the division by 15 games even though many fans were ready to jump off the Ambassador Bridge on July 9th. Last year, the Tigers were 3.5 games back of the Chicago White Sox and a half-game back of Cleveland. Detroit would in the division by three games and advance to the World Series.

Obviously there are fan bases to whom this doesn’t matter and I’m looking at you Houston. However, most of the division races are tight and will go down to the final month so fans need to stop worrying and let things play out for at least another month before anyone hits the panic button.

Tonight in the American League

C.C. Sabathia has pitched better of late for the Yankees.

Kansas City (James Shields) at New York Yankees (C.C. Sabathia)  7.5 -120 over/-110 under Shields has been the victim this season of a Royals’ line-up that just isn’t producing runs while Sabathia appears to be coming out of an early season swoon. Shields ERA is a respectable 3.23 while Sabathia is still hovering above four. I like the Yanks tonight but I’ll take the under.

Chicago White Sox (Jose Quintana) at Detroit Tigers (Justin Verlander) 8 -105 over/-125 under The division rivals meet for the first time this year and will play 18 more times after tonight. The 24-year old Quintana has gone since late May without a decision despite pitching pretty well with and ERA 3.69. Verlander is 9-6 with a very ‘un-Verlander-like’ ERA of 3.54. Despite the Sox being 14 games out, this is still a rivalry. I like the Tigers but I’ll take the over.

Interleague Play

Oakland (Dan Straily) at Pittsburgh (Gerrit Cole) 7.5 -115 over/-115 under You would have won a ton of money had you wagered when these two being in first place when they met in July but here they are. Cole has gone five or more innings in each of his first five big-league starts to earn a 4-1 record. Let’s see how he bounces back from his first loss. Straily is 5-2 and has not lost since May despite some very up and down outings. His 4.52 ERA is a concern and is exactly why I like the Pirates and the over tonight.

Tonight in the National League

LA Dodgers (Ricky Nolasco) at Arizona (Ian Kennedy) 8.5 -115 over/-115 under Nolasco makes his debut after being recently traded to the Dodgers from Miami. He’s won two of his last four starts with one no-decision mixed in there. His ERA is a decent 3.85 and he should get a little more offensive help in LA. Kennedy takes the hill for the NL West leading Diamondbacks. He hasn’t won a decision since June 1st and his ERA has ballooned to over five. I love the Dodgers tonight and the over.

New York Mets (Dillon Gee) at San Francisco (Barry Zito) 7.5 Even over/-130 under Gee has a win and a loss and two ND’s in his last four starts. His ERA was above five for much of the season but is now at 4.45. Zito is given the ball with the responsibility of keeping the defending champions alive. They have fallen to 6.5 games back and cannot lose any more ground. Zito has not won a decision since May 30th and the most he’s gone since early May is seven innings which he did once. I’m surprised the number isn’t higher here. Take the Giants and the over.