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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, October 8, 2012 at 7:30 AM

Friday’s joy of surviving the Wildcard play-in game has been replaced very quickly by a harsh reality for the St. Louis Cardinals and Baltimore Orioles. If they don’t win playoff games at home Monday vs. the Washington Nationals and New York Yankees respectively, then their seasons are basically over.

In fact, losing Sunday’s openers was so brutal in this current format that their seasons may be over now!

*Though St. Louis and Baltimore got to open at home, that was just for TWO games before the final THREE (if necessary) would be played at their opponents sites. Sunday’s loses meant both the Cards and Orioles would have to win three of their final four knowing that at least two of those victories would have to come on the road.

*They would also be dealing with opponent’s who had been able to line up their rotations for prime effectiveness, rather than use an important arm in an early Wildcard survival game.

Anything can happen in baseball, as we’ve seen time and time again over the years. But that “anything” must be something special for the Cards and Orioles to survive to their respective league championship series.

Here are today’s pitching matchups…

WASHINGTON AT ST. LOUIS (Monday at 4:37 p.m. on TBS)

Zimmerman: 2.94 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, .251 opponents’ batting average

Garcia: 3.92 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, .289 opponents’ batting average

With all the hoopla about Steven Strasburg, it was easy for many to forget that Washington almost has a full rotation of aces! Gio Gonzalez only allowed one hit while on the mound in the series opener. Now, Zimmerman brings his solid stuff to Game Two. Garcia is capable of having a more dominant game than those numbers suggest. He was dealing with injuries this year, and often has ace caliber stuff when he’s on. That being said, he’ll have to be on to match Zimmeran.

Let’s note that this starting time will bring shadows into play on the field in St. Louis. You heard some of the hitters complaining about that in Sunday’s low scoring game. Same starting time today for a series that isn’t quite marquee enough to earn prime time consideration just yet.

In Sunday’s series opener: Washington won 3-2, outhitting the Cardinals 8-3, then getting help with two unearned runs in the top of the 8th inning. St. Louis scoring came on a wild pitch and a sac fly. Tough day for hitters vs. elite starters and fired up bullpens.

NY YANKEES AT BALTIMORE (Monday at 8:07 p.m. on TBS)

Pettitte: 2.87 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, .232 opponents’ batting average

Chen: 4.02 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, .250 opponents’ batting average

Pettitte had great numbers this year. But, because of extended time on the Disabled List, he only made 12 starts. He probably wouldn’t have been quite that good across the board over 30 starts or so. But, he’s obviously a known quantity so there won’t be any surprises for the Orioles or handicappers. Chen was prone to allowing some big hits…which is why you see a higher ERA there than you do with Garcia in the earlier game even though Chen bests Garcia in WHIP and opposition batting average. Obviously the Yanks have a lot of big bats. Chen will have to pitch carefully.

The stats show an edge to New York. Baltimore has the better of the two bullpens (though you couldn’t tell that in Sunday Night’s 9th inning meltdown!). Chen will try to match Pettitte through the first half of the game, then hope his teammates can use some of their patented late game heroics to even the series.

In Sunday’s series opener: the Yankees outhit the Orioles 10-8, but also drew 7 walks compared to only one for Baltimore. That meant an advantage of 17-9 in baserunners. The top six hitters in Baltimore’s lineup went 3 of 23 vs. CC. Sabathia.  

Our VSM handicappers are planning big things for Monday in both baseball and the Monday Night Football game matching the Houston Texans and NY Jets. Please check the home page of this website throughout the day for big play bulletins. More details on what’s available will go up on the “Buy Picks” page once the selections are officially posted late Monday morning. Be sure you purchase your plays before that late afternoon MLB matchup in St. Louis.

Congratulations to all of you who signed up for this past weekend’s monsters. A special shout out to “The Dean of Sports Handicapping” Kelso Sturgeon for winning his 200-Unit College Game of the Year on Fresno State over Colorado State. Also one to Wayne Allyn Root who nailed a 30-point cover in his College Pinnacle Game of the Year on Cal over UCLA. Nobody knows Western football like THE KING OF LAS VEGAS!

Throughout the month of October…with the busy baseball and football schedules…check in DAILY to find the best plays on the Las Vegas board. Hot handicappers are always waiting to hear from you!

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