Several enormous series kickoff tonight, as the two top teams in each league begin division battles for first place. In the American League the Red Sox and Rays hook up for the second series in as many weeks, while in the National League the Cardinals head to Pittsburgh reeling from their sweep at the hands of Atlanta. The Cards still have the best record in all of baseball, but lead the Pirates by just a scant game and a half.
These two series are enormous for the four team involved obviously, but it also provides a long-awaited opportunity for teams like the Orioles and Reds to finally make up some ground on the division leaders; assuming they beat each other up in an evenly-matched series.
Let’s start the week off right and on a winning note.
Los Angeles Angels at Texas Rangers (Total: 8)
Jered Weaver (5-5, 2.98 ERA) vs. Matt Garza (1-0, 0.68 ERA)
To say things have gone from bad to worse for the Angels is probably a bit understated. More accurately would be to say things have gone from “worse” to insanely awful. Albert Pujols suffered a foot injury this weekend, and early reports are that the slugger will miss the remainder of the season. Despite all the talent amassed in Anaheim, the Angels enter tonight’s game seven games behind the Rangers and a whopping 13 games behind division-leading Oakland. There are two months to go in the season, but it feels reasonable to say the Angels are dead in the water.
Meanwhile, Texas continues to slide further behind the A’s, but the answer to their problems might just be taking the mound tonight. The addition of Garza gives them another legitimate top of the rotation pitcher to join Darvish and makes them a dangerous team in October… assuming they can get there.
Garza’s first appearance for the Rangers was fantastic; 7.1 innings of scoreless baseball with just 5 base runners allowed. Even with the absence of Pujols from the lineup, the Angels will give him a test tonight, but I like Garza to once again pitch well. I also expect the Ranger crowd to be continuously merciless to the returning Josh Hamilton just as they were on his first visit.
Meanwhile, Jered Weaver appears to have found his top form lately as well. He is 2-1 with a 1.77 ERA and WHIP of just 0.98 in his last three outings. Like Anaheim, Texas has a potent lineup, but good pitching usually contains good hitting more than the other way around. The runline is 8, which feels awfully high given the current state of offense in the major leagues and the caliber of the pitchers taking the mound.
Free Pick: Run TOTAL UNDER 8