Red Sox Reeling
JIM HURLEY'S HANDICAPPING NOTEBOOK
BOSTON FALLS OUT OF FIRST PLACE JUST BEFORE BIG PHILLY SERIES
It was going to be a "battle of the best"when the Boston Red Sox visited the Philadelphia Phillies this week in Interleague play. Everyone recognized this was a possible World Series preview. ESPN locked down Wednesday's meeting for a national telecast.
But, stunningly, the Boston Red Sox stubbed multiple toes this past week and fell OUT of first place in the AL East. When this past weekend was in the books, it was the New York Yankees sitting in first place in that division. Boston was no longer best in the AL, or their division.
AL EAST THRU SUNDAY
NY Yankees: 45-31
Boston: 45-32 (a half-game back)
Tampa Bay: 44-34 (2 games behind the Yankes)
There's no margin for error in this division. Only two teams can reach the postseason every year even though these three are typically playoff caliber. The winner is the frontrunner to go to the World Series. The runner-up will very likely be the Wildcard team this year given the tepid races in the other two AL divisions. Third place might as well be Baltimore or Kansas City. No shot postseason glory.
As we mentioned quickly yesterday, it's been a stunning slump against the likes of San Diego and Pittsburgh that has dropped the Red Sox off the top of the ladder. They dropped two of three to each of those NL also-rans. Here's how the big three had fared in IL play through the weekend:
Tampa Bay: 9-3
NY Yankees: 8-4
That was enough for the Yankees to leapfrog the Red Sox. And, Tampa Bay surged back into the mix with the best record in the American League.
Things could get even MORE interesting the next few days because of the IL schedule.
BOSTON has to play on the road at Philadelphia. The Phillies are the best team in the NL thanks to their great frontline pitching. They're the current betting favorite to represent the senior circuit in the World Series. If you can't beat San Diego and Pittsburgh, are you ready to go to the city of Brotherly Love and take at least two of three?
NEW YORK is hosting Milwaukee. The Brewers are a first place team in the NL Central. Their weekend sweep of Minnesota got their ship righted amidst a heavy storm of tough IL matchups. The Yankees can't take this series for granted by any means. A strong performance for the hosts could expand the first place lead.
TAMPA BAY started a three-game set with Cincinnati last night. This is the weakest of the challenges within this AL trio in the current rotation. Cincinnati was a playoff team last year, but has mostly fizzed in recent weeks here in 2011. You know Tampa Bay would love to get some help from Philadelphia and Milwaukee while they try to take care of business at home.
So...the AL East race is tight now. It could be even tighter by Friday morning!
Here's what these three have on top this weekend, the final games of 2011 Interleague Play.
BOSTON: at struggling Houston
NEW YORK: at the suddenly promising New York Mets
TAMPA BAY: versus slumping St. Louis
At least Boston has a chance to coast home. The Yanks will be dealing with a motivated subway rival. Tampa Bay hopes the sleepy St. Louis bats stay in hibernation another week.
We believe it's very important to remind you that the AL East features a misleading home/road split for one of its major teams. We've mentioned this a few times, and it certainly bears repeating here as we update the division.
HOME ROAD SPLITS THROUGH LAST SUNDAY
New York: 43 home games, 33 road games
Boston: 38 home games, 39 road games
Tampa Bay: 36 home games, 42 road games
At some point the Yanks will have a LONG road trip that brings things back to even. They'll be +13 in home/road differential after the Milwaukee series! Boston is in a "what you see is what you get"spot right now. Tampa Bay will even up its rotation after the sixpack for the NL at home this week.
Naturally, we need to take a look at one of our pet indicator stats, Wins Minus Home Games Played:
WINS MINUS HOME GAMES
Tampa Bay +8
New York: +2
Well, that turns the division race upside down, doesn't it?! Once you adjust for context, the Yankees fall off the pace and Tampa Bay has surged past Boston thanks to a road sweep in Houston last weekend. Can we say this enough? This is a REALLY tight race! To the degree it's not as tight as it seems, it's the Yankees being further away from the playoffs than it seems at the moment unless they can play very well in the road games that will eventually even out their schedule.
We'll talk more about these teams this week as we wrap up Interleague Play. Wednesday's edition of the NOTEBOOK will preview that ESPN telecast of Boston/Philadelphia. Thursday we'll run stat summaries of the early Wednesday games and get caught up with teams like Tampa Bay, Atlanta, Arizona, and the LA Dodgers. Friday we'll review the day action from Thursday that is scheduled to include first place teams New York, Detroit, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, and San Francisco, as well as Boston (who may be back in first by then!)...and outline the coming weekend.
Saturday we'll preview the marquee TV matchups for the weekend, which include:
NY Yankees at NY Mets (Saturday on FOX, Sunday on TBS)
Chicago White Sox at Chicago Cubs (Saturday on FOX, Sunday on WGN)
LA Dodgers at LA Angels (Sunday on ESPN)
It's going to be a fun finale to Interleague 2011. And, when you've won 22 of 33, you don't want to take a single day off!
Be sure you're with us TONIGHT for more great action from JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK. The series we led with today are obviously on the radar. We're also looking at:
We've been striking all over the card each day, so Vegas never knows that JIM HURLEY is going to do next! Maybe it will be a live dog. Maybe it will be a cheap favorite who should be laying a much higher price. Maybe it will be a team that's looking ahead to the weekend a bit too soon. Maybe it will be a pitcher who's found his form after fixing a mechanical problem.
Our SCOUTS, our SOURCES, our STAT HANDICAPPERS, our TREND HISTORIANS, our COMPUTER PROGRAMMERS, and our WISE GUY CONNECTIONS in Las Vegas and offshore combined to form a HANDICAPPING JUGGERNAUT that can't be stopped! That's how you go 22 of 33 when many handicappers and bettors are struggling. That's how you win YEAR ROUND in all sports too. We're better than the oddsmakers at everything they do!
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Boston may or may not be in trouble in the AL East race given their recent form. They're sure not handling the injury to Carl Crawford very well. The New York Yankees may or may not be in trouble in the AL East given a friendly schedule that might have given a false sense of confidence. Tampa Bay? Just when you start to trust them they wobble.
The only certainty in sports is this. JIM HURLEY IS GOING TO MAKE YOU MONEY!
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