Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, August 13, 2012 at 1:16 PM
The standings page at ESPN’s website says the Texas Rangers are 94.9% to reach the American League playoffs, while the New York Yankees are 95.8% to join them. That’s about as sure as it gets in the middle of August in Major League Baseball…which means tonight’s national TV game on ESPN matching those two teams is likely to be a preview of the American League postseason,.
Maybe the two teams won’t end up playing each other. Or, maybe they’ll continue at their “Best in the AL” pace and meet up eventually in the ALCS to determine who goes to the World Series. Whatever the case, this four game series will give you a sense of what to expect come October because two of the best teams in baseball are squaring off and both are intent on sending messages.
This series will be heavily showcased on TV the next few days. In fact, ALL FOUR GAMES will either run on the ESPN family of networks or the MLB Network. Let’s run through the probable pitching matchups and the TV listings.
MONDAY (on ESPN2)
Texas: Dempster (6-5, 2.65 ERA)
NYY: Phelps (spot starter)
This is the best chance for the Rangers to dominate a game. Actually, it’s the best chance for either team to dominate a game! C.C. Sabathia of the Yanks will miss the series because he’s on the Disabled List again. Phelps moves in as an emergency starter from the bullpen. Dempster has now had two starts with the Rangers after being thrown in the pressure cooker. He was awful at home, but rebounded well at Fenway last week. This is a very tough spot for any pitcher…facing the Yankees lineup with that short right field porch in the Bronx. We’ll learn a lot about Dempster here…and about the role he may or may not be able to play in October. Big jump in competition from what he was used to in the inferior league.
TUESDAY (on MLB Network)
Texas: Harrison (13-6, 3.31 ERA)
NYY: Kuroda (10-8, 3.24 ERA)
This is the pitcher’s duel of the series, with defacto aces going head to head. Kuroda should have a better record than he does. He’s just not getting the run support he deserves. Harrison HAS been getting run support, which is why those won-lost records are so different. The ERA tells you that these two guys have been pretty even this year. This is the game that will most likely have a classic playoff feel to it because quality arms are matched up together.
WEDNESDAY (on ESPN)
Texas: Feldman (6-7, 4.64 ERA)
NYY: Garcia (6-8, 4.65 ERA)
Wow, virtual clones! Both guys are better than those numbers to a degree because each has to pitch his home games in a hitter’s park. Of course, they’ll be throwing in a hitter’s park tonight…and then again at home in the playoffs…so those numbers probably do foreshadow what’s ahead fairly well. Put either guy in Oakland or Seattle…and they’re going to seem more like a rotation contributor. You should be thinking about the Over here given those ERA’s and the fact that this isn’t a get-away game. That won’t come until tomorrow’s matinee finale. The hitter’s will be focused. The pitchers will have their hand full. Given the virtual coin-toss elements of the pitching matchups Tuesday and Wednesday, seeing either team SWEEP those games might be a big hint about what’s to come in October.
THURSDAY AFTERNOON (on MLB Network)
Texas: Holland (7-6, 4.92 ERA)
NYY: Nova (11-6, 4.70 ERA)
Hey, how about that…another game with every even pitching! Nova’s been getting his own run support, and then a lot of what should have been going to Kuroda. He’s not an 11-6 pitcher by any means, but sometimes fortune smiles on certain pitchers. What seemed to be a decent indicator series for the future is now a fantastic indicator series for the future. Handicappers couldn’t have hoped for more telling pitching matchups than what we got…well, unless Sabathia was healthy for tonight’s opener against Dempster.
Great series…be sure you make smart choices on a day-by-day basis, then learn what you can for a potential ALCS showdown in October!
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