We are officially heading down the home stretch in major league baseball. As we begin the turn into September, several division races still hang precariously in the balance. Anaheim’s series win over Texas pulled them to within three games of the defending American League champs. They failed to win last night, with ace Jared Weaver looking a little tired going on three day’s rest, but still did enough over the weekend to leave themselves closely lurking.
In the “other” West, the National League, Arizona continues to surprise and has put a little distance between themselves and the defending National League Champion Giants. They have extended their lead to four games and are edging closer and closer to a very improbably division crown.
TODAY’S MLB PICKS:
Philadelphia Phillies -145 @ Cincinnati Reds -+135 (Total: 8 )
C. Hamels (13-7, 2.62) vs. H. Bailey (7-5, 4.44)
The last time Cole Hamels pitched at great American Ballpark he threw a five-hit shutout that ended the Reds very brief playoff appearance last October. Hamels saw to it that the Reds still haven’t won a single playoff game in sixteen seasons. Tonight, he will look to continue his dominance over a Reds team that enters tonight winners of four straight games and above .500 for the first time in nearly two months.
Hamels, who will be making his return from the 15-Day DL tonight, has owned the Reds. He has a lifetime 8-0 record against them, and has held one of the league’s top offenses to a microscopic .168 batting average. His is 4-0 lifetime in Great American Ballpark, with a 1.34 ERA.
The Reds will counter with Homer Bailey, who has been serviceable but inconsistent throughout much of the season. Like the three seasons before it, this year’s campaign has included a stint on the DL, and Bailey has never been able to settle into a prolonged groove. Bailey has never faced the Phillies in his own ballpark, but is 0-2 with a 7.00 ERA in his four starts at Citizens Park.
The Reds are hot, but Hamels should be able to throw some chill their way. His history against the Reds is hard to argue with, and it makes -145 a pretty reasonable price when contrasted with his unfailing lifetime dominance against Cincinnati. Phillies to WIN is my official pick tonight.
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Minnesota Twins +180 @ Chicago White Sox -200 (TOTAL: 9)
K. Slowey (0-2, 6.84) vs. M. Buehrle (10-6, 3.19)
It’s getting pretty close to over in Chicago, but if they are going to mount one last stand in the American League Central, it is good to be starting it with ace Mark Buehrle on the hill. Buehrle has been one of the more overlooked performers in this season highlighted by dynamic starting pitching. Verlander, Weaver and Sabathia get all the headlines, and deservedly so, but Buehrle has been fantastic all season; no more so than against the Twins.
Buehrle has dominated the Twinkies all year, posting a ridiculous 0.39 ERA against them. And it isn’t a new phenomenon, as he will be seeking his 27th career victory over Minnesota tonight on the South Side. No currently active pitcher has more wins against any single opponent.
Countering for the Twins is Kevin Slowey, who has had some recent struggles to be polite. In his two starts since being recalled from the minors, Slowey has posted a 9.58 ERA, predicatably losing both starts. It has been a miserable season; one that can’t end soon enough for the spoiled fans of Minnesota who have enjoyed a decade or so of top-tier baseball, despite having a significantly lower payroll than many of their chief rivals.
The Twins have dropped 21 of 27 games, and just continue to sputter along miserably. Former MVP Justin Morneau is hitting in the mid .100’s, and no one has ever filled in the hitting gap.
Here’s the stat I’m basing tonight’s pick on. In each of Minnesota’s last nine losses they have lost by two or more runs, with the average margin being more than four. That provides a nice opportunity tonight to load up on the -1.5 runline and get the nearly sure-thing White Sox with their ace on the hill. The only thing that makes me even slightly hesitant to bet the house is how much I LOVE this line…
Take the Sox, and enjoy an easy Monday night.