The last few weeks of the MLB season always feel like a chore. Even with some very interesting wild card battles going on, I’ve long reached the point where I’m just ready for the playoffs to begin. Yes, some of that is due in large part to my Chicago White Sox having the division wrapped up for over a month, but this is how I feel every September, regardless of where the White Sox are.
Wait, let me clarify what I just said: the White Sox have had the AL Central wrapped up for over a month realistically, not mathematically. No, they’ll officially clinch the division sometime this weekend when they begin a four-game series against the Cleveland Indians, who currently sit 10.5 games behind them in the division. The series brings the possibility of an interesting scenario.
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All the White Sox have to do is beat Cleveland once to clinch the division, and the series starts tomorrow with a doubleheader. That means if the White Sox win the first game of the doubleheader, they’ll clinch the division and still have another game to play that day. So what do they do? Do they hold the full celebration following the win and then play Game 2 while possibly drunk? Or do they delay the celebration until after Game 2?
I’m rooting for playing Game 2 drunk because that would make it a lot more interesting to watch.
- Tua Tagovailoa will not play for the Dolphins this weekend.
- Justin Fields will start for the Chicago Bears.
- Jason La Canfora broke down the 2-0 and 0-2 NFL teams.
- The latest on College Football Playoff expansion.
Onto tonight’s festivities.
All times Eastern, and all odds via Caesars Sportsbook
🔥 The Hot Ticket
⚾ Mariners at Athletics, 9:40 p.m. | TV: MLB.TV
The Pick: Under 8.5 (-115): Are you ready to snuggle up on the couch beneath a cool, marine layer? I am. As is always the case in The Bay Area at night, and as I’ve gone over here roughly seven billion times, Oakland is the most pitcher-friendly park in baseball, and the effect is only magnified in the evening. So we’re already expecting a low-scoring game between anybody, but when you consider what’s at stake for both teams, it only adds confidence to the play.
Oakland and Seattle are tied in the standings, and both are three games out of the final wild card spot currently occupied by Toronto. Both teams are running out of time to catch the Blue Jays, and neither can afford to lose games. The playoffs have already begun for both, and they will approach tonight’s game that way.
The pitching matchup helps somewhat, too. Neither Seattle’s Chris Flexen nor Oakland’s Cole Irvin are strikeout pitchers. Both Flexen’s 16.4% K-rate and Irvin’s 15.9% are well below league average. But neither pitcher walks many hitters, and both have home run rates well below league average as well. That makes it more likely that both offenses will have to string together hits to push runs across the board.
Key Trend: The under is 5-0 in the last five meetings and 4-0 in the last four in Oakland.
💰 Here’s what SportsLine is saying about the game: The Advanced Computer Model doesn’t like much of anything in this game, but SportsLine expert Micah Roberts sees a lot of value in one MLB underdog tonight.
💰 The Picks
Mets at Red Sox, 7:10 p.m. | TV: ESPN
The Pick: Chris Sale Over 6.5 strikeouts (+100) — Sale was awesome in his first three starts of the season, striking out 21 over 15.1 innings while allowing only four runs, but he’s come back down to earth a bit since. In his last three starts, he’s struck out only 10 in 14.2 innings. This isn’t too surprising, considering Sale is just coming back from Tommy John surgery, and his arm hasn’t built up to full strength yet.
That said, I do see value here tonight. Part of the reason Sale’s strikeouts have dropped is he’s been increasing his slider usage while decreasing fastball usage, and he’s still finding his slider. If he finds it tonight, he could breeze past this total by the fourth inning. The Mets rank 19th in baseball in K% (23.6%) on the season, but that number has spiked to 25.1% over the last two weeks as they play out the string. With Sale gearing up as part of a playoff push and the Mets with little to play for, I like our odds of getting to seven strikeouts tonight.
Key Trend: There is no useful trend here other than the Mets stink.
NY Red Bulls vs. New York City FC, 8 p.m. | TV: ESPN+
The Pick: NY Red Bulls (+215) — You know it’s a packed slate when I’m putting MLS into the newsletter. OK, seriously, I could’ve gone with another baseball play that I kind of liked. But I’m going with this play, which I think there’s more value on.
If you look at the MLS standings — and who doesn’t? — you see that the Red Bulls are one of the worst teams in the East while NYC FC is in third, but the Red Bulls’ place in the standings is a bit misleading. First of all, they’ve played fewer matches so far than anybody else. More importantly, they have a goal differential of +1 on the season, and their expected goals (xG) differential of -0.05 per match ranks eighth in the East and 15th overall.
They aren’t as bad as their record suggests, and they’ve been much better at home (xG differential of +0.11 per match) than on the road (-0.19). NYC FC has also been much better at home than on the road this season. Looking at both these teams, there’s value to be found on the Red Bulls at this price, as they’re a much stronger team than it suggests. It’s well worth a flyer.
Of course, if you’d rather not be betting MLS on a Wednesday night, I understand.
Key Trend: Red Bulls average 1.64 points per match at home compared to 0.67 on the road.
🔒 SportsLine Pick of the Day: Mike McClure’s proven golf model has returned nearly $10,000 since last June and now he’s locked in his best bets for the 2021 Ryder Cup.
⚽ Serie-ously A-wesome Parlay
Yeah, we’re implementing bad puns into the newsletter now. Deal with it. This is a parlay for Thursday’s Serie A action — all of which can be seen on Paramount+ — and it pays +138.
- Napoli or Draw (-500)
- Lazio or Draw (-300)
- Roma (-205)