We are down to the final six weeks of the regular season, and both leagues have plenty of tight and exciting races still to sort through. One of the more interesting is the continuing drama unfolding in the American League Central as the heavily favored Tigers and upstart Royals are heading rapidly in opposite directions. The Royals went from wildcard hopefuls to a 1 ½ game lead in the division and their sights firmly set on making their first postseason berth in decades the old fashioned way rather than having everything left to the chance of a one game wildcard toss-up.
Meanwhile, the wildcard race in the NL is getting interesting as well. With the Giants free-fall never ending, the fact they are only 1 ½ games ahead of the Braves and Pirates feels tenuous at best, this race is far from over…
Let’s start the new week off with a bang and see if we can notch a Monday winner.
Today’s Free Pick:
Kansas City Royals -161 at Minnesota Twins +151 (Total: 8.5)
Jason Vargas (9-5, 3.27 ERA) vs. Trevor May (0-1, 12.46 ERA)
The Twins Trevor May will make just his second start after a disastrous first start and an equally control-wavering relief appearance, and all he will be asked to do is beat the hottest team in baseball, the Kansas City Royals. Sounds easy enough.
Meanwhile, Kansas City will try to tack a half game onto their 1 ½ game lead over the Tigers by sending Jason Vargas to the bump. Vargas is fresh off one of the best performances of his career, a three-hit shutout of the heavy-hitting Oakland A’s. Vargas will do his best to repeat the performance today against a much lighter lineup – one made even lighter by the fact that Josh Willingham now plays for the visiting Royals.
Vargas is 2-0 with an 0.86 ERA in three starts against the Twins this season. I expect him to fare well tonight at Target Field and would be surprised if he didn’t personally earn the win tonight. Kansas City has won 12 of 14 games and 20 of 26 overall, and is absolutely exploding with confidence. Willingham is settling in, Alex Gordon is on fire and Billy Butler is finally hitting again. This lineup is better than most casual fans realize (.260 BA, 4.34 R/9), and their pitching has been fantastic. I like them to win easily tonight, and am doubling up on this pick. I like ‘em at -161, but see some great value with them roughing up an inexperienced and struggling pitcher early, making them a nice runline value at -105.