In some ways, this is the best week of the baseball season to bet. Because you can really take advantage of teams that have nothing to play for. An example: the National League playoff field is set. Well, the Dodgers haven't officially clinched the NL West as of Monday but are about to. They would thus have squat to play for the rest of the week. Ditto the Chicago Cubs, who are all but locked into the second wild-card spot in the NL. The Mets have already locked down the NL East and have no reason to even play this week. The Nationals are in-fighting and I'd bet against them all week -- they have quit. It's a bit different in the AL. We know the Blue Jays and Royals are in the postseason, but they are still battling for the top overall seed. The AL West is still a crapshoot between Texas, Houston and the Angels as is the final AL wild-card spot.
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Red Sox at Yankees (-189, 8)
This is your first ESPN game and thus will have live betting at sportsbooks. It's Rick Porcello (8-14, 5.04) for Boston. He is crazily overpaid as the Sox gave him a ridiculous extension at the beginning of the season. Porcello has been better in the second half of the season, though, with an ERA of 3.51. Porcello has faced the Yankees once this season and allowed one earned run over eight innings. Jacoby Ellsbury is 11-for-21 off him with four homers. Carlos Beltran is 7-for-15. It's Michael Pineda (12-8, 3.99) for the Yankees. They have won his past two and Pineda has allowed just one run over 11.1 innings. Pineda is 2-0 with a 1.42 ERA in two starts vs. the Yankees. Xander Bogaerts is 4-for-10 with three strikeouts off him. David Ortiz is 2-for-12 with five whiffs.
Key trends: The Red Sox are 2-8 in Porcello's past 10 vs. teams with a winning record. The "over/under" has gone under in seven of his past 10 vs. the AL East.
Early lean: Not sure why this is TBA. The pitchers have been set. Go Yankees.
A's at Angels (-158, 8)
The ESPN nightcap and will offer live betting at the books. The Angels have lost closer Huston Street for the rest of the regular season (and maybe the playoffs) due to a groin strain suffered on Saturday. Manager Mike Scioscia says he will go with a closer-by-committee. Trevor Gott, Fernando Salas, Mike Morin, Jose Alvarez and Cesar Ramos are all likely to be in the mix. The Angels go with Nick Tropeano (2-2, 4.35) here. He would make a fill-in start for Matt Shoemaker, who is dealing with a right forearm strain. But if for some reason the Angels have to use Tropeano out of the bullpen on Monday night then that would of course change things. It's Chris Bassitt (1-7, 3.07) for Oakland. He has pitched two scoreless innings this season against the Angels.
Key trends: The A's are 0-4 in Bassitt's past four starts. The over is 3-0-1 in Tropeano's past four overall.
Early lean: Angels and over.
Royals at White Sox (+114, 7.5)
Has any player cost himself more money this season than White Sox pitcher Jeff Samardzija? Well, maybe Washington's Ian Desmond, but no other pitcher has. Samardzija (10-13, 5.04) has been totally Jekyll and Hyde at times this season. Two starts ago, he was bombed for 10 runs and 11 hits in three innings against Oakland. Then last time out, he threw a complete-game one-hitter at Detroit. Samardzija is 0-3 with an 8.15 ERA this season against the Royals. Mike Moustakas is 3-for-9 with two homers and four RBIs off him. Jonny Gomes is 1-for-2 with a homer and three knocked in. It's Johnny Cueto (10-12, 3.45) for the Royals. He threw a second straight quality start last time out, allowing three runs over seven innings. He won for the first time since Aug. 15. Cueto lost to the White Sox on Sept. 6, allowing five runs in three innings.
Key trends: The Royals are 0-5 in Cueto's past five on the road. The White Sox have lost seven straight home starts by Samardzija. The over is 8-0 in Cueto's past eight. The over is 10-2 in Samardzija's past 12.
Early lean: White Sox and under.
Blue Jays at Orioles (+130, 8.5)
Toronto could clinch the AL East as soon as Tuesday depending on what they and the Yankees do on Monday and then Tuesday -- the Jays' magic number is four. Marcus Stroman (3-0, 1.89) gets the call here for Toronto. He has been great since making his season debut on Sept. 12 off torn ligaments in his knee that was supposed to end Stroman's season this spring. He hasn't faced the Orioles this season. Adam Jones is 2-for-3 with an RBI off him. The Orioles counter with Miguel Gonzalez (9-11, 4.85). He has been out since Aug. 30 due to a shoulder problem. Gonzalez beat the Jays in his lone start against them in 2015, shutting them out over 7.2 innings. Edwin Encarnacion is 3-for-25 with three homers and seven RBIs off him.
Key trends: The Jays are 4-0 in Stroman's past four vs. the AL East. The Orioles are 0-7 in Gonzalez's past seven vs. teams with a winning record. The under is 6-1 in his past seven vs. Toronto
Early lean: Blue Jays and under.
Dodgers at Giants (TBA)
Clearly the pitching matchup of the night as three-time Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw (15-7, 2.25) faces off against 2014 World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner. Kershaw won't win a fourth Cy Young this season but probably finishes third in the voting behind teammate Zack Greinke and the Cubs' Jake Arrieta. Kershaw was lifted after only five inning last time out and clearly wasn't happy about it. The lefty is 1-2 with a 2.76 ERA in four starts against the Giants this season -- Bumgarner (well, the Giants) not only has beaten him three times but also became the first pitcher to ever homer against Kershaw. Bumgarner (18-8, 2.88) still has the carrot of trying to win 20 games -- he would be lined up to start the regular-season finale. He's 2-1 with a 1.63 ERA in 27 2/3 innings against Los Angeles this season.
Key trends: The Dodgers are 7-3 in Kershaw's past 10 vs. teams with a winning record. The Giants are 7-1 in Bumgarner's past eight at home. The under is 5-0 in Bumgarner's past five vs. the Dodgers. The under is 11-1-1 in Kershaw's past 13 at the Giants.
Early lean: This is TBA because the Dodgers could clinch on Monday. Go Giants here if L.A. does so.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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