Just four weeks remain in the Major League Baseball season, and both wild-card races are looking to go down the wire. In the American League, the Red Sox (76-60) are two games up for the first wild card entering Monday's action with the Tigers and Orioles, both at 74-62, tied for the second spot.
The Tigers moved into a tie for the second AL wild card with a big 5-1 week that resulted in another 4.3 units in profits for bettors. For the season, Detroit is now the second-most profitable bet in baseball at +16.3 units.
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Three other clubs are also in contention for an AL wild-card spot entering the final month: the Astros (2 GB), Yankees (3.5 GB) and Royals (4 GB).
The NL wild card looks down to a three-team race. The Giants are 1.5 games up of the Cardinals for the first spot and 2.5 games up of the surging Mets. The Marlins and Pirates (see below) playoff pushes have hit the skids with a combined nine straight losses, likely torpedoing their postseason hopes.
Here's this week's look at the hottest and coldest bets in baseball.
Hottest Bets in Baseball (8/29 through 9/4)
Atlanta Braves (6-0, +6.3 Units)
The last-place Braves have a largely re-tooled lineup from the start of the season, with the most prominent of these changes being the addition of Matt Kemp to the middle of the order. Largely as a result of this improved firepower, Atlanta swept both the Padres at home and the Phillies on the road last week to improve to 9-2 in their last 11 games. The Braves have been playing better than .500 baseball since the start of August, making them a potential live underdog play moving forward.
Atlanta doesn't figure to be favored at all this week as they travel to take on the Nationals for three games then return home for a three-game set versus the Mets.
Cleveland Indians (6-0, +6.0 Units)
The Indians last week swept both the Twins and Marlins in three-game series to open a 5.5-game lead over the Tigers in the AL Central.
Starting pitcher Corey Kluber (15-8, 3.09 ERA), who beat the Twins on Wednesday, went a perfect 6-0 in August to earn AL Pitcher of the Month honors. Manager Terry Francona has the Tribe playing their best baseball of the season entering the stretch drive. Given this is a team largely lacking experience in meaningful late-season games, the steady hand of a World Series-winning skipper figures to be an asset.
This week Cleveland hosts the Astros for four games than travels to Minnesota for a three-game weekend set.
Other hot MLB bets: Detroit Tigers (5-1, +4.3 Units), Texas Rangers (5-1, +3.8 Units)
Coldest MLB Bets (8/29 through 9/5)
Pittsburgh Pirates (0-6, -8.3 Units)
The Pirates were swept three games by the Cubs at Wrigley and then dropped all three games as a heavy favorite in each to the Brewers at home. This has dropped them to 3.5 games out of the final NL wild-card spot.
Pittsburgh's bats went cold last week as they were shut out three times, including twice by the Brewers over the weekend. The bullpen also struggled as closer Tony Watson blew a save against the Cubs and two other relievers also posted losses in the winless stretch.
There was some good news last week as it was revealed injured ace Gerrit Cole could return to the rotation soon. Still, time seems to be running out on the Pirates bid for a third straight wild card.
Pittsburgh is home this week for three games against the Cardinals followed by a four-game set versus the Reds.
Philadelphia Phillies (0-6, -6.6 Units)
The Phillies were swept three games at home by both the Nationals and Braves last week, dropping them to 2-10 in their past 12 games.
Philadelphia, which has scored the fewest runs in MLB this season, batted just .170 last week while scoring two or fewer runs four different times. Furthermore, it was revealed that promising 24-year-old starter Vince Velasquez (8-6, 4.12 ERA) is being shut down after throwing a career-high 131 innings this season. This looks to be the definition of a team playing out the string.
This week the Phillies hit the road for three games against the Marlins followed by a three-game weekend set against the Nats.
Other cold MLB bets: Miami Marlins (1-6, -4.4 Units), Seattle Mariners (1-5, -4.4 Units)
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