Which Pennant Race Contenders Are Playing Their Best in Their Biggest Games?

WHICH PENNANT RACE CONTENDERS

ARE PLAYING BEST IN THEIR BIGGEST GAMES?

We’re about to transition to a point on the sports calendar where we’ll be featuring almost exclusively football here in the NOTEBOOK. With that in mind, we wanted to make sure we had one “big picture” look at Major League baseball that will help guide you through the biggest games in the remaining pennant races…and give you a head start for the playoffs and World Series.

Today, we’re going to look at how the playoff contenders in both the American and National League have performed this season against teams currently with won-lost records of .500 or better. These are the truest tests of ability. Anybody can string together wins vs. bad teams…particularly THIS year with so many mediocrities in the league! What happens when the good teams play each other? If you can answer that, then you’re well positioned to pick winners in September and October.

We’ll start in the American League…because that’s the superior league overall and there are currently more contenders fighting to make the playoffs. Note that we’ll only look today at teams who have at least a 10% chance of reaching the postseason according to the standings page over at ESPN’s website. That leaves out the New York Yankees…who are currently below 5% even though they have a winning record.

AMERICAN LEAGUE CONTENDERS VS. BETTER THAN .500 OPPOSITION

Detroit 36-27

Baltimore 37-29

Texas 34-28

Boston 36-32

Kansas City 31-34 (better lately)

Oakland 26-29

Tampa Bay 33-39

Cleveland 28-39

Detroit’s recent domination of Cleveland helped them rise to the pack. Baltimore is a surprise ranking this high. The Orioles have had troubles with their rotation this year…which has kept them from winning as many games from bad teams as they should have. It would be something if the Orioles had one of the best records in baseball vs. quality but didn’t even make the playoffs!

Tampa Bay hit the skids recently with a horrible road trip against the contenders in the NL West. That blown game against the LA Dodgers hurt…but dropping so many other games hurt more! Can the Rays recover? They went from world-beaters to question marks very quickly.

Some of you may be surprised that Texas grades out so much better than Oakland in this measurement. The A’s are another team that’s dealing with inconsistencies in their starting rotation. That’s been hidden because they play their home games in a pitcher’s park that lowers their ERA’s artificially. “Moneyball” still hasn’t quite figured out how to outplay other top contenders yet.

Note that Kansas City visits Detroit this weekend for four games in three days. BIG SERIES!

NATIONAL LEAGUE CONTENDERS VS. BETTER THAN .500 OPPOSITION

Atlanta 22-15

Pittsburgh 25-21

LA Dodgers 24-22 (better with Puig)

Arizona 24-22

St. Louis 21-28

Cincinnati 20-30

Only six teams are in line for the five playoff spots in the Senior Circuit. And, Arizona may be drifting further into long-shot status if the Dodgers keep winning and the NL Central Wildcard threats can tread water.

Let’s start with the Braves. Atlanta has been amazing since losing their top starting pitcher to a broken ankle. That lit a fire under the team, as they realized they can’t take anything for granted. They also made a few lineup tweaks that had a bigger impact than imagined at the time. As a result, Atlanta is on the short list of World Series threats. They have played like champions the past month.

Of course, the Los Angeles Dodgers have as well. And, their record vs. top teams post-Yasiel Puig has been impressive. They took three out of four vs. the Reds. They took three out of four on the road at St. Louis. Then, they just swept Tampa Bay last weekend. They weren’t at all a playoff caliber team for the first two months of the season. Once they got the right bodies in the right places (out of the minors or off the Disabled List), they’ve been fantastic.

Given that Pittsburgh is unproven in crunch time…and the Cards and Reds are a combined 41-58 vs. winning teams…you have to assume that the Braves and Dodgers will come closest to controlling their own destiny in October. Hey, anything can happen in a short baseball series. The Cards and Reds have been much worse than is realized at “making things happen” this season against top competition.

Maybe St. Louis will change our minds about that in the last two games of their current series with Pittsburgh.

Smart bettors will keep building their bankrolls with baseball even as the football schedule increases. You can purchase game day BEST BETS from JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK right here at this website daily with your credit card. If you have any questions about baseball or football packages for the rest of 2013, call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453.

Back with you Thursday for three straight days of divisional previews. Please check the archives if you missed the first five. The remaining schedule:

Thursday: NFC South Preview to get you ready for Atlanta vs. Baltimore

Friday: NFC West Preview to get you ready for San Francisco vs. Kansas City

Saturday: NFC North Preview to get you ready for Green Bay vs. St. Louis

Hey…when you’re talking BEST OF THE BEST…you know that can only be JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!

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