Anyone who thought that when baseball added a second wild-card spot it was a bad idea simply needs to look at this weekend and how potentially crazy things could get as proof that it was a spectacular idea, one of Bud Selig's last good ones. I don't have a dog in the fight between the Houston Astros, Los Angeles Angels and Minnesota Twins for the AL's second wild-card spot. Don't have a preference for which team makes it. The Angels bring star power, while the Astros and Twins are at least a year ahead of schedule in terms of contending. MLB smartly will start every game at the same time on Sunday. We could have a three-way tie after that day and then two playoff games just to get the second wild-card spot. I really want to see that. Here's how a three-way tie would work: After clubs have been assigned their A, B and C designations, Club A would host Club B. The winner of the game would then host Club C to determine the Wild Card Club. It's still too early to determine which teams are A, B or C. This is my final Five To Follow for the 2015 season. Hope it helped you build your bankroll.
Blue Jays at Rays (-121, 7.5)
Barring an unlikely setback Friday in a simulated game, Blue Jays shortstop Troy Tulowitzki will play Saturday for the first time since suffering a cracked left shoulder blade on Sept. 12. So that gives him two games to shake off the rust before the ALDS. Tulowitzki was batting .232 with five home runs and a .682 OPS over 39 games with the Jays prior to the injury. Toronto still has the AL's top seed to play for. It starts Marco Estrada (13-8, 3.15) here. He has allowed three runs or fewer in 11 of his last 12 outings while posting a 2.63 ERA over that stretch. Estrada has pitched 21 innings vs. the Rays this year (two starts, two in relief) and has not allowed run. It's Rays All-Star Chris Archer (12-13, 3.26). He had largely dominated Toronto in four previous starts this year but was crushed for nine runs and 10 hits over 3.2 innings at the Blue Jays in his last start. Edwin Encarnacion is only 4-for-34 off him but does have three homers. Jose Bautista is 4-for-31.
Key trends: The Jays are 6-1 in their past seven on Saturday. The Rays are 0-4 in Archer's past four vs. teams with a winning record. The "over/under" is 6-1 in Archer's past seven overall. The under is 3-1-1 in Archer's past five vs. Toronto.
Early lean: Archer will bounce back. Take Rays and under.
Astros at Diamondbacks (+146, 8.5)
Houston could clinch the wild-card spot in this game depending on what it does Friday night as well what the Angels and Twins do. The Astros took a one-game lead over Los Angeles and Minnesota into Friday. Houston goes with Collin McHugh (18-7, 3.98) here. He is 6-4 with a 4.26 ERA in 15 road starts this year. He beat visiting Arizona on Aug. 2, allowing one run over seven innings. Arizona's Jeremy Hellickson (9-11, 4.60) has lost his past three. He lost in Houston on Aug. 1, allowing seven runs over 3.1 innings. Jose Altuve is 1-for-3 off him. Likely AL Rookie of the Year Carlos Correa 1-for-2 with a homer. Again, no DH here for Houston.
Key trends: The Astros are 2-5 in McHugh's past seven road starts vs. teams with a losing record. Arizona is 1-4 in Hellickson's past five vs. teams with a winning record. The under is 9-1 in McHugh's past 10 against teams with a losing record. The over is 4-1 in Hellickson's past five on Saturday.
Early lean: Astros and over.
Angels at Rangers (TBA)
It's possible that Los Angeles is eliminated with a defeat here -- if the Angels lost on Friday night and Houston won. The Angels turn to All-Star lefty Hector Santiago (9-9, 3.52) in this one. He has been shaky of late, with a 7.94 ERA in 11.1 innings over his past three starts. Yet L.A. has won his past five overall. Santiago is 3-0 with a 1.48 ERA in five starts vs. Texas in 2015. The Rangers have clinched a playoff spot and had a magic number of one to clinch the AL West entering Friday. So if they do a bunch of celebrating and rest regulars in this one, that's a total slap in the face to the Astros and Twins. The Rangers' Colby Lewis (17-9, 4.53) was rocked last time out, allowing six runs over 4.2 innings vs. Detroit. Lewis is 1-3 with an 8.31 ERA in four starts vs. the Halos.
Key trends: The Angels are 2-5 in Santiago's past seven on the road. Texas is 8-2 in Lewis' past 10 at home vs. teams with a winning record. The over is 7-1-1 in Lewis' past nine at home vs. L.A.
Early lean: Angels -- go big on them if Rangers clinched AL West on Friday -- and over.
Nationals at Mets (-128, 6.5)
Great pitching matchup in an otherwise meaningless game - well, the Mets still want to lock down the No. 2 seed ahead of the Dodgers and could with a win here. It's Matt Harvey (13-7, 2.80) for the Mets and when you talk of Harvey, you have to mention his innings limit. He already has topped his season limit of 180 with 183.1. And the Mets have said he will only make one start in the NLDS no matter what. Harvey will not be allowed more than 70 pitches in this game. He is 2-1 with a 2.73 ERA this season in five starts vs. Washington. He owns Bryce Harper, who is 0-for-20 with seven punchouts against Harvey. It's Max Scherzer (13-12, 2.91) for Washington. He has had a fine first season with the Nats, although faded a bit as season went on. Scherzer is 0-2 despite a 2.61 ERA in three starts vs. New York this year. Michael Cuddyer is 6-for-24 career off him with two dingers.
Key trends: Washington is 1-4 in Scherzer's past five against teams with a winning record. The under is 9-3-1 in his past 13 on the road.
Early lean: Since Harvey won't be in there long, take Nats. Definitely under.
Padres at Dodgers (-250, 6.5)
San Diego has already shut down outfielder Matt Kemp and is set to do the same with Wil Myers, who has been injured most of the season as it is. Thus, we might see a no-hitter against that weak lineup by MLB ERA leader Zack Greinke on Saturday as he makes his final audition for the NL Cy Young Award. I'm not sure if Greinke (18-3, 1.68) will be on an innings limit ahead of his next start, most likely Game 2 of the NLDS against the Mets. By the way, this could be Greinke's final regular-season start in a Dodgers uniform as he will opt out of his contract this offseason and become a free agent. Think he will get paid? Greinke is 1-1 with a 1.26 ERA in four starts vs. the Padres this year. It's lefty Robbie Erlin (1-1, 6.30) for San Diego. He has made only two starts this year and not against the Dodgers.
Key trends: The Dodgers are 10-4 in their past 14 at home vs. lefties. The over is 4-1 in Erlin's past five on the road. The over is 4-0 in L.A's past four against a lefty.
Early lean: Dodgers on runline and under.
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