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.

 

MLB Futures Update

The new-look Toronto Blue Jays remain the bookies' favorite to win the 2013 World Series.

In 47 days’ time, the Houston Astros and Texas Rangers will take to the baseball diamond at Minute Maid Park, raising the curtain on the 2013 Major League Baseball Season.

With pitchers and catchers arriving in Arizona and Florida this week for Spring Training, there’s still plenty of deals to be done before that first pitch is thrown – not to mention a cavalcade of storylines that still need to fully unravel – but Casino Review is going to take this time to look at the updated MLB futures, and how they could still be impacted six weeks or so before the season proper gets underway.

Currently No. 1 on the MLB futures list is Toronto. Since November’s mega-trade with the Miami Marlins, the Blue Jays have held firm at the top of bookmakers list.

The retooled Blue Jays will welcome the likes of Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson, Melky Cabrera, and 2012 Cy Young award-winner, R.A. Dickey to the fold when the team takes to the Rogers Centre field for its first game on Apr. 2.

Whilst the collection of talent – the likes of which the Blue Jays have never seen before, even during its World Series winning season of 1992 and 1993 – has wowed bookmakers to the tune of 7/1 odds to win the World Series, bettors need only take a look at this season’s Los Angeles Lakers, or last year’s Miami Marlins for that matter, to see how this could blow up in their face.

Toronto is 7/2 to win the AL pennant at this time.

No. 2 on the MLB futures list is Washington. The Nationals are considered 8/1 to win the World Series next season, and 15/4 to win the NL pennant.

After enjoying the franchise’s best season since moving to D.C., Washington had the luxury this winter of sticking with what brought it to the dance. Aside from the usual tinkering and sorting that goes along with the offseason, the team did add closer Rafael Soriano to the bullpen, at the cost of a two-year, $28 million contract. That instantly makes the Nationals a better side.

At 8/1 to win the World Series, the Los Angeles Dodgers sit level with Washington on the World Series futures list, but the Southern California side narrowly trails the Nationals in terms of the NL pennant. The Dodgers are considered 4/1 to win the National League.

Like the Blue Jays, the Dodgers were involved in a blockbuster trade last year, only in this case it happened during the season. The arrival of Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford might not have come in time for the Dodgers to catch San Francisco in the NL West, but odds makers like the side’s chances from the off this season.

The MLB futures’ top five is rounded out by Detroit and the Los Angeles Angels, both of whom are considered 9/1 to win the World Series, and 9/2 to win the AL pennant.

After winning the AL pennant in 2012, the Tigers haven’t made a huge splash in the market this offseason, but with it expected that Victor Martinez should return from injury (ACL) this season in the DH spot, odds makers like the Motor City side to contend again. It doesn’t harm that AL MVP and Triple Crown-winner Miguel Cabrera will be back at third base.

The Angels did make a splash this winter, signing free agent Josh Hamilton from under the noses of the Texas Rangers. Hamilton – who has suffered alcohol dependency issues – is a risk but one the Angels and bookmakers like, especially when the long ball hitter is next to Albert Pujols.

We’ve included a breakdown of all odds pertaining to the World Series, American League and National League below, but here are a few more noteworthy observations.

World Series champion San Francisco finds itself in joint sixth spot on the World Series futures (14/1) alongside Atlanta, Cincinnati, the New York Yankees and Texas. The Giants are tied with Atlanta in fourth place on the NL futures (7/1) behind Washington, the Dodgers, and Cincinnati (6/1).

The Yankees and Rangers (both 13/2) are tied for fourth spot in the AL with plenty of questions surrounding the organizations, not least in New York’s case the uncertainty surrounding the health and possible PED usage of Alex Rodriguez.

At the other end of the futures list, Houston is the least favored team in terms of the World Series (200/1) and, in its first season in the league, the AL pennant (75/1).

After shipping the majority of its high-priced talent north to Toronto, Miami finds itself at the bottom of the NL list, alongside the Chicago Cubs and Colorado Rockies at 50/1. Each of those sides, as well as Minnesota and the New York Mets, is considered 100/1 to win the World Series.

 

Odds to Win 2013 World Series

Toronto Blue Jays 7/1

Los Angeles Dodgers 8/1

Washington Nationals 8/1

Detroit Tigers 9/1

Los Angeles Angels 9/1

Atlanta Braves 14/1

Cincinnati Reds 14/1

New York Yankees 14/1

San Francisco Giants 14/1

Texas Rangers 14/1

Philadelphia Phillies 18/1

St. Louis Cardinals 20/1

Tampa Bay Rays 25/1

Boston Red Sox 30/1

Oakland Athletics 33/1

Baltimore Orioles 40/1

Chicago White Sox 40/1

Milwaukee Brewers 40/1

Arizona Diamondbacks 50/1

Kansas City Royals 50/1

Pittsburgh Pirates 50/1

Cleveland Indians 75/1

San Diego Padres 75/1

Seattle Mariners 75/1

Chicago Cubs 100/1

Colorado Rockies 100/1

Miami Marlins 100/1

Minnesota Twins 100/1

New York Mets 100/1

Houston Astros 200/1

 

Odds to Win 2013 AL Pennant

Toronto Blue Jays 7/2

Detroit Tigers 9/2

Los Angeles Angels 9/2

New York Yankees 13/2

Texas Rangers 13/2

Tampa Bay Rays 12/1

Boston Red Sox 14/1

Oakland Athletics 16/1

Baltimore Orioles 20/1

Chicago White Sox 20/1

Kansas City Royals 25/1

Cleveland Indians 40/1

Seattle Mariners 40/1

Minnesota Twins 50/1

Houston Astros 75/1

 

Odds to Win 2013 NL Pennant

Washington Nationals 15/4

Los Angeles Dodgers 4/1

Cincinnati Reds 6/1

Atlanta Braves 7/1

San Francisco Giants 7/1

Philadelphia Phillies 17/2

St. Louis Cardinals 9/1

Milwaukee Brewers 18/1

Arizona Diamondbacks 25/1

Pittsburgh Pirates 25/1

New York Mets 40/1

San Diego Padres 40/1

Chicago Cubs 50/1

Colorado Rockies 50/1

Miami Marlins 50/1

All odds supplied by Bovada.

MLB Okays Marlins-Jays Mega Deal

After just one year in Miami, Jose Reyes (along with several of his team mates) will take to the field in Toronto next season, a move that has seen the Blue Jays rise in bookmakers' eyes.

Monday saw Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig put his official seal of approval on the mega trade between the Miami Marlins and Toronto Blue Jays.

Almost a week after the trade was first reported, Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson are now officially members of the Blue Jays organization. Meanwhile, Toronto’s front office has been busy making a number of other signings.

Miami Offloads Unwanted Talent

First reported last Wednesday, after finishing the season with a 69-93 record and dead last in the NL East, the Miami Marlins agreed a deal with the Toronto Blue Jays that would send five of its biggest names north of the border.

The deal, which was agreed between the two sides during the Winter Baseball Owners’ Meetings, proposed the following moves:

Toronto obtains: Emilio Bonifacio (IF/OF), John Buck (C), Mark Buehrle (LHP), Josh Johnson (RHP), Jose Reyes (SS)

Miami obtains: Henderson Alvarez (RHP), Anthony DeSclafani (RHP), Yunel Escobar (SS), Adeiny Hechavarria (IF),Jake Marisnick (OF), Jeff Mathis (C), Justin Nicolino (LHP)

Miami’s move to purge itself of the big contracts of Buehrle and Reyes – both debutants following last summer’s spending extravaganza – as well as long-time Marlin Johnson, was met by controversy in South Florida, where taxpayers are responsible for 80 percent of the brand new $634 million Marlins Park.

Some went so far as to call for commissioner Selig to veto the deal in the ‘interests of baseball’, something that was given consideration.

Monday however saw Selig sign off on the deal, stating that, “[the move] does not violate any express rule of Major League Baseball and does not otherwise warrant the exercise of any of my powers to prevent its completion.”

It’s unlikely that we’ll ever know if Selig really believed the deal to be fully aboveboard or whether he was simply looking to avoid the fallback of getting involved in a deal that was not his to be involved with, as happened to the NBA’s David Stern during the Chris Paul saga last year.

What we do know is that, pending medicals, those eleven players will be donning new uniforms come spring training.

Jays Continue to Fish

Not content with luring Reyes and Co. from the Marlins, the Blue Jays confirmed that a deal had been inked with free agent outfielder Melky Cabrera on Monday.

The two-year deal comes after Cabrera was suspended for 50 games for violating Major League Baseball’s drug policy, testing positive for the use of testosterone. Cabrera was eligible to return ahead of the postseason, but San Francisco chose to leave the outfielder in limbo as it went on to win the World Series.

Before his suspension, Cabrera had led the National League in hitting with a .346 average.

Cabrera now joins a homerun hitting lineup that includes the aforementioned Reyes as well as Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion.

Gibbons Welcomed Back

The Toronto front office also announced on Tuesday that it had filled the manager position vacated by John Farrell, who accepted the same position in Boston after two seasons with the Jays.

Farrell’s successor will be John Gibbons, who previously managed the side between 2004 and 2008.

Gibbons replaced Carlos Tosca midway through the 2004 season, compiling a 20-30 record in his first partial season. Gibbons picked up the American League Manager of the Year award in 2005 and managed the Jays to two winning seasons (2006, 2007). He was relieved of his duties in June 2008 having led the club to a 35-39 record.

Gibbons’ all-time record with the Jays is 350-350.

Gibbons has since worked as a bench coach in Kansas City and a manager in San Diego’s farm system.

Running Up the Rankings

With so much activity taking place in Southern Ontario, it should come as no surprise to learn that there has been a lot of movement in the MLB Futures.

Before news of the mega deal broke last week, Toronto – who has not been to the postseason since winning a second consecutive World Series in 1993 – was considered 35/1 to take the big prize at the end of the 2013 season.

The news ushered in new odds of 14/1. News that Cabrera will be plying his trade north of the border this season have seen these odds shorten once again, with the Jays now considered 11/1 – the same as the New York Yankees – to win the World Series.

Miami has subsequently gone the other way following its payroll purge. 40/1 odds have skyrocketed to 100/1, a figure on par with Colorado and Minnesota. Only one side is considered less likely to win it all: Houston (200/1).

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

Eight days will decide it all.

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

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

 

National League Wrap Up Close

Wednesday has a schedule chock full of important games.

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

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

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

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

 

AL Central Race Couldn’t Be Closer

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

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

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

 

AL East To Go Down to the Wire

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

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

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

 

AL Wild Card Looking Clearer

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

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

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

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

Monday Night Football Vs. Baseball Contenders

 

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

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

NFL: Green Bay Packers @ Seattle Seahawks

(8:30 PM ET)

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

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

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

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

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

Seattle hasn’t beaten Green Bay since November 2006.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

7:05 PM ET / 8:10 PM ET

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

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

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

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

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

 

MLB: Baltimore Orioles @ Toronto Blue Jays

4:05 PM ET / 7:05 PM ET

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

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

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

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 Getting Tighter

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

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

New York Yankees @ Tampa Bay Rays

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

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

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

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

Baltimore Orioles @ Toronto Blue Jays

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

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

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim @ Oakland Athletics

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

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

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

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

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

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