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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Sunday, August 14, 2011 at 11:41 PM

Major League playoff contenders have been winning a lot more than they’ve been losing lately. But, a few teams did fall Sunday in a way that impacted the pennant races.

 

*Boston lost for the second straight day to lowly Seattle, and watched their lead over the New York Yankees in the AL East shrink to half a game. The Yanks were rained out at home vs. Tampa Bay.

 

*Detroit lost 8-5 at Baltimore, as the Tigers continue to have trouble finding consistency with pitchers other than Justin Verlander. Newly acquired Doug Fister allowed 12 hits and eight runs in 5.2 innings. Detroit managed to win the first two games of the series even with Brad Penny and Max Scherzer allowing eight earned runs in 12.1 innings (5.84 ERA). Current AL Central runner-up Cleveland saw its scheduled game against Minnesota join the busy rainout list.

 

*The Los Angeles Angels blew a 4-3 lead in the 9th inning and lost at Toronto 5-4. That coupled with a 7-6 road win for the Texas Rangers extended the Texas lead in the AL West to four full games. Those teams start a HUGE four-game series Monday Night in Anaheim.

 

*Both Arizona and San Francisco won in the NL West. Both Milwaukee and St. Louis won in the NL Central, leaving those races unchanged.

 

The top two teams in the five tightest divisions went 16-8 this weekend, which equated to 16 winners and 11.25 losses once you adjusted for the Vegas moneylines. Even though the market knows these teams are in “must-win” situations and have inflated the prices some, contenders in the tight races have still been offering moneyline value in total (thanks in large part to three-game sweeps by Milwaukee and Texas and a two-game sweep by Cleveland). Don’t try fading some of these contenders until they show signs of running out of gas!

 

We wanted to update the standings tonight with an eye on home/road schedule splits to this point in the season. There are a couple of divisions where the newspaper standings are a bit misleading because the teams haven’t played equivalent schedules. We’ll leave out the NL East because the Phillies have that one locked up barring a complete collapse.

 

NL CENTRAL: Milwaukee leads by 5 games

Milwaukee: 59 home games, 62 road games

St. Louis: 59 home games, 62 road games

 

No difference here. The Cards are going to have to pick up the pace quickly, or home the Brewers go into a sustained slump.

 

NL WEST: Arizona leads by 2 games

Arizona: 62 home games, 59 road games

San Francisco: 60 home games, 61 road games

 

Arizona’s had slightly the best of it in terms of home games. You can see how close this race is once you pencil in the equalizers. Arizona embarks on a brutal road trip that begins Tuesday in Philadelphia, then ends this weekend in Atlanta. This will be discussed more in the Wednesday edition of Jim Hurley’s Network Notebook. The Diamondbacks may establish this week whether they’re a true contender, or a pretender in a soft division.

 

AL EAST: Boston leads by 0.5 games

Boston: 59 home games, 60 road games

Yankees: 64 home games, 54 road games

 

The Yanks have enjoyed a friendly split all year. It won’t even out until much later in the season. This suggests that the Red Sox are a bit further ahead in the game than the standings would suggest. Though, the Yankees have been playing so well lately on the road that they could win the vast majority of the equalizers.

 

AL CENTRAL: Detroit leads by 2.5 games

Detroit: 58 home games, 62 road games

Cleveland: 58 home games, 59 road games

 

The Tribe has obviously played three fewer games for the season right now…and those three are road games. Given a 27-32 road record this year, it’s tough to assume they sweep those to forge a tie.

 

AL WEST: Texas leads by 4 games

Texas: 62 home games, 59 road games

Angels: 57 home games, 64 road games

 

This is where things get interesting. The Halos have taken the worst of it in the schedule split so far. They have SEVEN extra home games coming up. Those four this week vs. Texas obviously loom very large. Should Texas win the series, the Rangers would take a big bite out of that differential while extending their lead. Should the Angels win three of four or sweep…then we’ve really got a dogfight.

 

Monday Night’s pennant race games:

Texas at the LA Angels

NY Yankees at Kansas City

San Francisco at Atlanta on ESPN2

LA Dodgers at Milwaukee

St. Louis at Pittsburgh

Minnesota at Detroit

 

Important series that start Tuesday:

Arizona at Philadelphia

Tampa Bay at Boston

Cleveland at the Chicago White Sox (who are 4 out of first)

 

Look for continuing coverage of the pennant races every night here at the website (and football on the football nights!). Our late night Monday report will also crunch some numbers from the NY Jets/Houston Texans game in the NFL on ESPN’s Monday Night Football. During the day Monday…the Network Notebook picks back up with its NFL divisional previews by focusing on the AFC East. That will help get you ready for the Jets game on TV. You never know when a new blog entry is going to pop up…so check back again in the afternoon!

 

Thanks very much for being a VSM reader. If you have any comments about pennant race baseball that you think will assist Vegas sports bettors, feel free to post those below. See ya’ Monday!

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