I'm not a Yankees fan at all. But if they somehow make the playoffs, then Brian Cashman deserves to be MLB's Executive of the Year and Joe Girardi the AL Manager of the Year. Everyone thought the Yankees were punting on 2016 at the trade deadline in dumping Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller and Carlos Beltran while also forcing Alex Rodriguez into retirement. Frankly, Cashman said as much. But the kids the Bombers have brought up have all been great for the most part, and they enter the weekend just two games out of the second wild-card spot. Catcher Gary Sanchez has been arguably the best hitter in MLB since being called up. On Thursday, first baseman Tyler Austin became the first Yankees rookie since Melky Cabrera in 2006 to hit a walk-off homer. Austin also became the first player in the modern era to hit a home run in his first at-bat, hit a home run on his birthday and hit a walk-off home run within the first three home runs of his major-league career. I highly doubt the Yankees make it as they have a tough schedule remaining, but this team should be a force in 2017.
Red Sox at Blue Jays (-138, 9)
A 1:05 p.m. ET first pitch north of the border. These two teams close the regular season with three games in Boston, and that's likely to be a massively important series as the clubs battle for the AL East title and perhaps a wild-card spot or two. I think the bloom is off the rose for Blue Jays lefty J.A. Happ (17-4, 3.34) as he is winless in his past three starts to kick away his Cy Young chances. Happ lasted just 2.2 innings Sunday at Tampa Bay, giving up three runs and six hits. He has a 5.91 ERA in his past four starts. Happ has faced Boston once this year, winning way back on April 18 and allowing a run over seven innings. Xander Bogaerts is 1-for-12 career off him. Dustin Pedroia is 5-for-23 with two doubles and a homer. Boston lefty Eduardo Rodriguez (2-6, 4.83) comes off the best start of his young career, throwing 7.2 no-hit innings in Oakland. He would go eight shutout innings and allow just one hit. Rodriguez lost to Toronto on June 5 as he was tagged for five runs in 5.2 innings. Russell Martin is 3-for-5 off him with a homer.
Key trends: The Red Sox are 2-6 in Rodriguez's past eight vs. teams with a winning record. The Jays are 7-1 in Happ's past eight vs. the AL East. The "over/under" has gone under in eight or Rodriguez's past nine. The under is 6-2 in Happ's past eight at home vs. teams with a winning record.
Early lean: Blue Jays and over.
Cubs at Astros (+119, 8)
Also a 1:05 p.m. ET start and the Cubs again add the designated hitter for this interleague matchup. Monitor the status of star Astros shortstop Carlos Correa as he's dealing with shoulder inflammation. He left the team in Cleveland on Wednesday to get the shoulder checked out back in Houston. I'm sure Cubs pitcher John Lackey (9-7, 3.36) wouldn't mind terribly if Correa sat this one out. Lackey returned from about three weeks on the DL Sunday against San Francisco and took a no-decision in allowing one earned run and one hit over five innings. Lackey is from Texas, so this should have some extra meaning. Jose Altuve is 1-for-9 career against him. Houston's Collin McHugh (9-10, 4.96) was lucky to get a no-decision in his last start as he was knocked around for five runs and seven hits in 4.1 innings in Texas. He has pitched less than five innings in six starts this season. Not many Cubs have seen him. Chris Coghlan is 3-for-4 with three RBIs.
Key trends: The Cubs are 4-1 in Lackey's past five. The Astros are 6-0 in McHugh's past six interleague starts. The under is 5-2 in Lackey's past seven. The under is 4-1-1 in McHugh's past six at home.
Early lean: Cubs and under.
Phillies at Nationals (-285, 7.5)
No-hitter alert! Your NL Cy Young favorite right now is Washington's Max Scherzer (16-7, 2.88) as he leads the NL in innings (197.0), strikeouts (243) and WHIP (0.92). Scherzer won a fourth straight decision Monday against Atlanta, allowing two runs and seven hits over seven. He has a 2.18 ERA since June 1. Scherzer is 3-0 with a 2.48 ERA with 36 strikeouts in four starts against the Phillies this year. Ryan Howard is 2-for-21 career off him with 13 strikeouts. Maikel Franco is 1-for-15. Philadelphia's Jerad Eickhoff (10-13, 3.86) is working on three straight quality outings. He won in Miami last time out, allowing two runs over six innings with no walks. Washington got three runs off him in six innings on Aug. 30 in Eickoff's only start vs. the Nationals this season. Daniel Murphy is 1-for-9 off him with a double. Jayson Werth is 2-for-6 with a homer.
Key trends: The Phils are 1-4 in Eickhoff's past five vs. the NL East. The Nationals are 6-0 Scherzer's past six vs. teams with a losing record. The under is 7-1 in Scherzer's past eight at home.
Early lean: Nationals (on runline) and under.
Orioles at Tigers (-135, 9.5)
Detroit gets a potentially huge boost to its playoff hopes on Saturday in the return of pitcher Jordan Zimmermann (9-5, 4.44) from the disabled list. He missed a little more than a month earlier in the season, returned to make a start on Aug. 4 vs. the White Sox, was blasted for six runs in 1.2 innings and went right back on the DL. Zimmermann gave up two home runs in a rehab start for Triple-A Toledo on Monday, throwing 80 pitches. If the Tigers get the Zimmermann from the first two months or so of the season, they are in great shape. He hasn't faced Baltimore this year. Chris Davis is 3-for-6 off him with a homer. Steve Pearce is 4-for-11 with two doubles and two homers. The Orioles' Ubaldo Jimenez (6-11, 6.19) has really turned his season around with three straight quality outings since being returned to the rotation. He threw a complete game on Monday at Tampa Bay. Jimenez took a no-decision vs. Detroit on May 12, allowing five runs in five innings. Victor Martinez is 11-for-31 off him with four homers and 12 RBIs.
Key trends: The Orioles are 2-9 in Jimenez's past 11 on the road. The Tigers are 1-5 in Zimmermann's past six vs. teams with a winning record. The over is 7-2 in Jimenez's past nine vs. teams with a winning record.
Early lean: Tigers and over.
Dodgers at Marlins (+156, 7.5)
It's a good news/bad news situation this week for the Dodgers in their rotation. Scott Kazmir left his rehab start after just two-thirds of an inning on Wednesday, so it doesn't sound like he'll be back this season. But at least Clayton Kershaw returned from his long DL stint on Friday. Kershaw and fellow lefty Rich Hill (11-3, 1.94) could make a tough 1-2 punch in the playoffs. Never thought I'd say that about the journeyman Hill, who has had an amazing career turnaround. Hill shut out the Padres on one hit over six innings Saturday and hasn't given up a run in 12 innings as a Dodger. He hasn't faced Miami this year. Ichiro is 3-for-11 off him with two doubles career. Miami's Tom Koehler (9-10, 3.87) comes off six scoreless innings in Cleveland but took an no-decision. He beat Kershaw in L.A. on April 26, allowing three runs over five innings. Justin Turner is 5-for-11 off him with a homer.
Key trends: The Marlins are 1-6 in Koehler's past seven on Saturday. The under is 7-1 in his past eight vs. the NL West.
Early lean: Dodgers and under.
Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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