Just four days ago no American League team had booked its place in the postseason. Now we know all five competitors. We just don’t know who enters as division winners and who enters as Wild Cards.
Meanwhile, with much of the National League postseason having been booked for nearly two weeks, there’s still one place to play for with just two games left to play. It’s down to the Cardinals to hold off the Dodgers in this one.
When you wake tomorrow (Wednesday), all of this could be sorted. That means tonight could be your last chance for meaningful MLB betting. Well, until the postseason begins on Friday with the inaugural second Wild Card round.
Boston Red Sox @ New York Yankees
(7:05 PM ET)
Pitching matchup: Jon Lester (9-14, 4.94 ERA) Vs. David Phelps (4-4, 3.34 ERA)
Following Monday night’s win, New York (93-67, 49-30 home) needs just one win to secure the AL East title. The Yankees have two tries against the Red Sox to record that win.
Whilst Boston (69-91, 34-47 road) has little to play for – finishing above Toronto? – spoiling the Yankees’ division hopes would be just fine by the Bean Town faithful.
Lester will be grateful for the end of the season, along with a lot of Red Sox players, although a win tonight would at least give him a winning record (2-1) against the Yankees this season.
Phelps will also be looking for a 2-1 record over the Sox as he replaces the struggling Ivan Nova – not what the Yankees need heading into play this weekend.
Over the next two games, Curtis Granderson (40) needs one homerun to tie last season’s output and two for a career best.
Take: NEW YORK — everybody wants the race with Baltimore to go down to game 162 but the Yankees will spoil with a win tonight, before reorganizing the rotation.
Baltimore Orioles @ Tampa Bay Rays
(7:10 PM ET)
Pitching matchup: Miguel Gonzalez (8-4, 3.45 ERA) Vs. James Shields (15-9, 3.62 ERA)
With Tampa Bay (89-71, 45-34 home) eliminated from the postseason race on Sunday, last night’s 5-3 win over Baltimore (92-68, 45-34 road) did nothing but hand the Yankees a lead in the AL East.
Baltimore now needs to win to avoid playing the one-game playoff against Oakland/Texas on Friday. With ‘Big Game James’ on the mound it doesn’t look good for the Orioles, who counter with Miguel Gonzalez.
That being said, Baltimore has made a habit of winning in the unlikeliest of circumstances this season and Tuesday looks like another chance for fans to ‘Buck-le Up’.
Take: BALTIMORE — the Yankees may well take the AL East but a win is important if the Orioles are to host the Wild Card game on Friday. A loss would mean a long trip out west.
Texas Rangers @ Oakland Athletics
(10:05 PM ET)
Pitching matchup: Matt Harrison (18-10, 3.26 ERA) Vs. Travis Blackley (5-4, 4.25 ERA)
They’ve threatened it for months but it now looks like Oakland (92-68, 48-31 home) could actually snatch the AL West crown from Texas (93-67, 43-36 road).
Last night’s 4-3 win over the Rangers put the A’s just one game back with two to play. Texas didn’t expect to be playing back-against-the-wall baseball this late in the season but it’s been a funny old year.
Matt Harrison’s uneven season has still spawned an impressive 18 wins, but the A’s will know that they can get at him. Blackley got beat up last time out against the Yankees so he has the potential to either lockdown and take charge, or mentally slip a step and blow this one. Trying to pick between these two is an absolute crap shoot.
Take: OAKLAND –This one deserves to go down to the last day of the season, not least because seeing two competitors face each other on the final day is about as perfect as it gets. Texas, by the skin of their teeth, will get out with the division though.
Cincinnati Reds @ St. Louis Cardinals
(8:15 PM ET)
Pitching matchup: Mat Latos (13-4, 3.52 ERA) Vs. Chris Carpenter (0-1, 3.27 ERA)
St. Louis (87-73, 49-30 home) has had command of the second Wild Card spot since mid-August. Just one win puts the Cardinals back in the postseason with a chance to repeat.
You’d forgive Cincinnati (96-64, 46-33 road) for resting up and getting ready for Sunday’s NLDS opener with San Francisco. That’s not going to happen though. The Reds want homefield advantage throughout and to do so they must better Washington’s record over two games.
Chris Carpenter will take the mound in his third start, having been injured most of the season. It’s a bold move putting a ‘cold’ pitcher out there, and it will be a decision that could decide the Cards’ fate.
Take: CINCINNATI — Mat Latos and Co. will want to finish strong and will be too much for St. Louis tonight. St. Louis needn’t worry though…
San Francisco Giants @ Los Angeles Dodgers
(10:10 PM ET)
Pitching matchup: Barry Zito (14-8, 4.19 ERA) Vs. Chris Capuano (12-11, 3.69 ERA)
By hook or by crook, the Dodgers (85-75, 44-35 home) have somehow managed to stay in the postseason hunt until the very end. Granted, there was a time where it looked like this series would decide the division, but L.A. will take an in any way they can get it.
San Francisco (93-67 45-34 road) meanwhile has nothing to play for. The Giants know they’ll be visiting Washington or Cincinnati on Saturday, and that’s all they need to know. However…
You don’t think the Giants would revel in eliminating the Dodgers from contention? Of course they would. That’s what rivalries are all about. And with Barry Zito on the mound, that’s what’s likely to happen.
Take: SAN FRANCISCO — Los Angeles’ six-game win streak comes to an end with bitter consequences, made worse that the Giants are postseason bound.