Monday was Labor Day, one of the last big regular-season days of the year in Major League Baseball, so it's a good time to check out updated division odds at Bovada. And you can only bet on three of them because the Cubs are lapping the field in the NL Central, and the Nationals and Rangers are going to win the NL East and AL West, respectively, barring a collapse of epic proportions. The most interesting race has to be in the AL East with Toronto holding a one-game lead over Boston and three over the Orioles as of Monday. The Jays are -110 favorites, with the Red Sox at +120 and O's at +650. I like Boston there. In the AL Central, the Indians are -2500 and have a 5.5-game lead over Detroit (+1000). The Tribe should hang on. And in the NL West, the Dodgers (-250) have a three-game lead over the Giants (+170), but I like San Francisco at that price.
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Astros at Indians (-170, 8)
Potential ALDS preview? The Indians are battling for the best record in the American League, and of course the top seed in each league faces the wild-card winner in the division series. Houston is right there in the wild-card mix. I didn't think Corey Kluber deserved the 2014 Cy Young Award, but he won it in a close vote over Felix Hernandez. Kluber (15-8, 3.09) might add a second Cy Young if he keeps rolling. He hasn't personally lost since July 3, and the Tribe have won his past seven. Kluber beat the Twins on Wednesday, allowing three runs over eight innings and striking out 11. He has pitched at least six innings in 10 straight starts and has a 1.94 ERA in them. Kluber was really inconsistent the first two months of the season, and he pitched in Houston on May 9 and allowed five runs in a season-low 2.2 innings in a loss. Jose Altuve is 4-for-15 career off him. Carlos Correa is 1-for-5. Houston's Dallas Keuchel (9-12, 4.55), last year's Cy Young winner, was supposed to start Saturday but the team pushed him back again as he was dealing with some arm fatigue. Keuchel hasn't faced the Tribe this year. Mike Napoli is 4-for-9 with a homer off him. Coco Crisp is 7-for-26 with three doubles.
Key trends: The Astros are 0-6 in Keuchel's past six with at least nine days of rest. The Indians are 4-0 in Kluber's past four vs. the AL West. The "over/under" has gone under in four of Kluber's past five vs. teams with a winning record.
Early lean: Indians and under.
Blue Jays at Yankees (+146, 9)
Hard to believe that New York is still in the wild-card race with all of the veterans being traded or cut loose. The Bombers could be a good team next year if they can add one very good starting pitcher. Here, the Yankees go with rookie Luis Cessa (4-0, 4.17). He has three straight quality starts -- his first three in the majors; he had pitched some in relief previously -- and New York has won them all. Cessa gave up three earned in six innings last time out in Kansas City. Cessa has thrown a scoreless inning vs. the Jays this year. Toronto's Aaron Sanchez (13-2, 2.88) had a 10-day layoff ahead of his last start to keep his innings down and he won in Baltimore, allowing an unearned run and five hits in six innings. Sanchez is 1-0 with a 0.71 ERA in two starts this year against the Yankees. Brian McCann is 1-for-7 off him with a homer. Mark Teixeira is 0-for-8.
Key trends: The Jays are 7-1 in Sanchez's past eight vs. the AL East. The under is 5-1 in his past six on the road.
Early lean: Blue Jays and under.
Mets at Reds (+107, 9)
It's the Mets, so of course I have to talk potential injury, and this time it's to pitcher Jacob deGrom, who was scheduled to go here. DeGrom (7-8, 3.04) had a third straight shaky start and loss Thursday in Miami, allowing three runs and walking four over five innings. The team is skipping him due to inflammation in his forearm. I've said it before and I'll say it again: these are the dangers you risk when you build with young pitching instead of young hitters like the Cubs did. So it's Rafael Montero (0-0, 3.68) here. His third big-league appearance and first start this season was Aug. 29 vs. the Marlins, and he shut them out on two hits over five innings but did walk six. He has never faced the Reds. Cincinnati goes with lefty Brandon Finnegan (8-10, 4.19). He lost at the Angels on Wednesday, allowing two runs and five hits over seven innings. He took a no-decision at the Mets on April 26, allowing three runs and five hits over 6.1 innings. Yoenis Cespedes is 1-for-5 off him with a homer.
Key trends: The Mets are 4-1 in Finnegan's past five vs. teams with a winning record. The over is 4-1 in his past five at home.
Early lean: Reds and over.
Diamondbacks at Dodgers (-174, 8.5)
At this point of the season for disappointing Arizona, it should all be about getting Shelby Miller right for next season. Miller (2-10, 6.81) has been arguably the worst pitcher in baseball. .He was sent down to the minors in mid-July to work out his issues and returned Wednesday in San Francisco and pitched well, allowing two runs and six hits over six innings, albeit in a loss. Miller had allowed at least five runs in his previous three starts. He hasn't faced the Dodgers this year. Adrian Gonzalez is 4-for-7 off him with a homer. Chase Utley is 4-for-12. L.A. has lost four straight starts by Ross Stripling (3-6, 4.15), who is only in the rotation because of all those Dodgers pitchers injured. Stripling lost in Colorado on Wednesday in giving up three runs and nine hits over six innings. He has two appearances (one start) against Arizona in 2016 and has a 3.72 ERA in 9.2 innings. Paul Goldschmidt is 0-for-4 off him. Jake Lamb is 1-for-3 with an RBI.
Key trends: The Diamondbacks are 0-6 in Miller's past six vs. teams with a winning record. The Dodgers are 0-5 in Stripling's past five vs. teams with a losing record. The over is 6-2-1 in Miller's past nine vs. the NL West. The under is 6-1 in Stripling's past seven at home.
Early lean: Diamondbacks and over.
Red Sox at Padres (+176, 8.5)
The only interleague series of the early week and thus Boston loses the DH. So will David Ortiz sit all series or get a start at first base in a game? And will the Padres honor him even though he rarely played in that city? Of course, Boston and San Diego made a pretty big trade in July with the Padres sending their best pitcher, Drew Pomeranz, who was to start Monday's series opener, to Boston for the Sox's top pitching prospect, Anderson Espinoza, who is still a while from the majors but throws triple-digit heat. Here, Boston was to start knuckleballer Steven Wright (13-6, 3.33), but he hasn't been sharp in two starts since returning from the DL and is still dealing with shoulder issues. So Clay Buchholz (5-10, 5.20) gets the call. His last three appearances have been in relief. Buchholz last started on Aug. 23 at Tampa Bay and allowed a run and five hits with nine strikeouts in a win. Only a few Padres have seen him. Wil Myers is 0-for-3. The Friars go with Paul Clemens (2-4, 4.93), who lasted only three innings last time out vs. Atlanta and allowed two runs with four hits and four walks. A few Red Sox have faced him. Ortiz is 1-for-1 with a homer. Chris Young is 1-for-3.
Key trends: The Red Sox are 2-6 in Buchholz's past eight starts. The under is 5-1 in his past six.
Early lean: Red Sox and under.
Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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