How hard do you think the books are rooting for the New York Yankees this week? The Yanks were the preseason favorites to win the American League East, but that race will go down to the wire with the surprising Baltimore Orioles, who were huge long shots to win the division back in the spring. Currently on Sportsbook.ag, the O’s are +150 to win the division with New York at -200.
It was quite a weekend for the Orioles as they swept the Red Sox and finished 13-5 vs. Boston this season while clinching their first playoff berth in 15 years. It's the first time that Baltimore registered as many as 13 wins in one season against the Red Sox since 1970. (Boston has its first 90-loss season since 1966)
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However, the Orioles’ charter flight to Tampa was forced to make an emergency landing in Jacksonville Sunday night after smoke was coming out of the oven in the kitchen area of the plane. Thankfully, all was fine and the players reboarded the plane after it was inspected. Baltimore and New York enter this week tied atop the AL East. The Orioles, who haven’t been alone in first since early June, play three at the Rays, who are still alive as of Monday for a wild-card spot but barely. Tampa Bay is a -165 series favorite on BetOnline. The Yankees are home for three vs. those Red Sox and are huge -350 series favorites, according to MLB odds.
New York should get a big boost with the return of first baseman Mark Teixeira on Monday. In the 30 games he has missed since originally suffering a strained calf, the Yanks are just 17-13. If Teixeira plays Monday as expected, it would be just the second time both he and Alex Rodriguez have been in the Yankees' lineup since July 24.
Should the Orioles and Yankees tie for the division, the tiebreaking game would be played in Baltimore because the O's hold a better AL East record. The two clubs tied for the season series, which is the first tiebreaker. Baltimore is still hoping to get back ace Jason Hammel for the playoffs. Hammel (8-6, 3.43 ERA) has been out with a knee injury but will throw at the team’s fall instructional league complex in Sarasota on Monday with hopes of being ready for the playoffs. Outfielder Nick Markakis (thumb) could be ready if the Orioles reach the ALCS.
The winner of the AL East likely will face the Detroit Tigers in the Division Series, while the runner-up would have a one-game wild-card playoff most likely vs. Oakland. Obviously, no club wants to play a one-game playoff, but in some respects it might be better to avoid the Tigers and perhaps face the Rangers in the ALDS if the O’s/Yankees beat the A’s. Detroit is starting to play up to the level many expected, Miguel Cabrera is raking and Detroit will have a rested Justin Verlander ready for Game 1 and also potentially Game 4 or 5.
The Rangers, who are +500 World Series favorites with Washington on Sportsbook.ag, don’t have an ace like that. Plus, key Texas set-up man Mike Adams might miss the rest of the season. Adams said Sunday that he has been diagnosed with a case of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, a condition where a rib bone pushes against a nerve and causes numbness or pain in the arm or shoulder. Adams has been told to rest 7-10 days but he says he hopes to pitch through the pain in the postseason. In addition, star Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre left Sunday’s game with a shoulder strain. He certainly will play through that, but if it flares up again ….
In the National League, there’s not much drama. The second wild-card spot could be clinched as soon as Monday by the Cardinals, meaning they would visit Atlanta and likely face unbeatable Kris Medlen on Friday in that one-game playoff. The Nationals and Reds are currently tied for the NL’s best record. Washington would hold the tiebreaker for the No. 1 overall seed thanks to winning five of seven regular-season games with Cincinnati.
The Reds are in St. Louis for three games to close the season and are +125 series dogs on BetOnline. Washington hosts the Phillies for three games (no series line as of this writing) and isn’t scheduled to face either Roy Halladay or Cole Hamels. Whichever club finishes No. 2 would face the Giants in the NLDS, and San Francisco would have a rested Matt Cain for the opener (San Francisco also has announced that struggling Tim Lincecum would get at least one playoff start; his fastest pitch Sunday was just 91.2 mph). The Nats, Giants and Reds are all currently +270 on Sportsbook.ag to win the NL pennant.
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