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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, August 6, 2012 at 1:03 PM

Ace Justin Verlander leads the Detroit Tigers into battle tonight against Ivan Nova and the New York Yankees on ESPN’s Monday Night Baseball in what’s turned out to be a huge series in the American League playoff picture. Detroit has surged into great position since the All-Star Break, while the aura of invincibility has worn off the Yankees because of injuries to several players.

In fact, Detroit has been the better team over the last 20 games (13-7 to 9-11) and the last 30 games (20-10 to 16-14). A dramatic weekend vs. fading Cleveland has them within 1.5 games of first place Chicago in the AL Central, but now also has them holding one of the two Wildcard positions along with Oakland. There’s no margin for error with the Los Angeles Angels just a half game back. But,  several weeks ago, Detroit wasn’t playing like a team that was going to have a serious shot at the Wildcard. They’ve moved past the AL East WC threats, and now are neck and neck with those from the AL West.

Will this be two ships passing in the night? That may sound extreme. Just remember that Detroit is the HOME team…the Yankees are still hurt….and that the Yanks just got swept on the road by Oakland in another recent road challenge when they were healthier. New York is 5.5 games better than Detroit in the full season standings. If the Tigers take three of four, that goes down to 3.5 games. Should the Tigers pull off a sweep…the race for best record and the general playoff picture could become even more interesting than it already is.

Probable pitching matchups handicappers will be dealing with:

 

MONDAY (televised by ESPN)

Yankees: Nova 4.53 ERA

Tigers: Verlander 2.63 ERA

Clear edge to Verlander obviously, who’s a Cy Young candidate once again. Nova was getting a lot of early respect because run support was inflating his won-lost record. Nova’s ERA is now just that of a generic innings muncher. Of course, Verlander is -175 on the current number…so Vegas oddsmakers are anticipating your affection for Verlander.

 

TUESDAY (on the MLB Network)

Yankees: Hughes 3.96 ERA

Tigers: Porcello 4.65 ERA

Both pitchers are capable of extremes in either direction. Porcello’s “pitch-to-contact” approach can be dangerous against a big hitting team like the Yankees. But, he’s better off with that here in Detroit than he would be in the Bronx. Truly a volatile affair.

 

WEDNESDAY

Yankees: Sabathia 3.53 ERA

Tigers: Sanchez 3.93 ERA

Of course, that ERA for Sanchez was greatly helped by pitching over in the weaker National League for most of the season. He was acquired from the Miami Marlins two starts ago. He struggled in his Detroit debut vs. Toronto, but did come back with a good outing against struggling Cleveland. He’s definitely the Wildcard here. You know what you’re going to get from C.C. And, what you know could be enough to push the Yanks over the top in this one.

 

THURSDAY AFTERNOON

Yankees: Kuroda 3.19 ERA

Tigers: Fister 3.52 ERA

Great pitching matchup to end the series in a spot that could favor the pitchers. It’s a day game after a night game, and it’s a double getaway spot with New York travelling to Toronto afterward, while Detroit catches a plane for Texas. The Yanks have to be pleased that they get both Sabathia and Kuroda to the mound in this important series. The same is true for Detroit with Verlander and Fister. These are the pitchers you’re going to see in important playoff games in a couple of months (if Detroit qualifies). This series will certainly have a playoff feel to it. This might be a spot to consider the Under, particularly if game conditions are helping.

Our VSM legends will likely get involved in these matchups the next few days. Other marquee series this week are Texas/Boston, LA Angels/Oakland, and San Francisco/St. Louis. We know you’re excited about the return of football. We are too! Just remember that football doesn’t return until Thursday…and you can be making big bucks until then in the bases.

Monday highlights…

*Kelso Sturgeon won his 25-Unit Hall of Fame play Sunday Night on New Orleans minus the points over Arizona, and cashed ANOTHER huge 100-Unit release in the bases on St. Louis over Milwaukee. He’s now 17-4 on his last 21 major plays. We spotted that trend early, and have been encouraging you to ride the wave of winners ever since! Monday, get Kelso’s 100-Unit High Roller play for only $20 here at the website.

*Jim Hurley is 14-4 on his top Consensus plays through July and early August. Get Monday’s Consensus Casher for just $15. Included are two BONUS plays from NETWORK’S red hot Hit and Run Club. That service is 27-12 since mid-July.  

*Jim Feist has his MLB Shocker of the Month for August posted right now. Get it and two bonus plays from the King of Monday Nights for just $20.

Don’t forget to check the VSM hope page every day for big play announcements from the greatest minds in handicapping. Expanded details are available daily on the “Buy Picks” pulldown page. Hot handicappers are always waiting to hear from you!

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