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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, September 10, 2012 at 12:41 PM

Along with the exciting NFL doubleheader on ESPN that will close out the first week of regular season action, the sports world also sees the start of a crucial four-game series between the Detroit Tigers and Chicago White Sox that could determine the ultimate winner of the American League Central Division.

Both the Tigers and White Sox have 23 games remaining, meaning there will only be 19 left after this series. Should the White Sox build significantly on their current lead, they can almost coast home by playing .500 ball the rest of the way. Should Detroit sweep the series to move back on top, they know that a very easy finishing kick would put them in the driver’s seat.

Here are the standings heading into Monday’s action:

 

AL CENTRAL

Chicago 75-64

Detroit 73-66 (2 games back)

Given the very solid recent play of Oakland, Baltimore, and Tampa Bay…combined with the relative slumps of these two teams by pennant race standards…it’s very unlikely that the AL Central runner-up will earn a Wildcard bid. It would take a fantastic finish to surge to something near 90-72 for a final record PLUS disappointing finishes for TWO of those three teams previously mentioned. For all intents and purposes…the Tigers and White Sox will be battling for survival through the rest of September. The winner gets a first round series in the playoffs. The loser watches the festivities on TV with the rest of us.

Here’s what these teams have remaining on the schedule after these four games in the Windy City.

DETROIT: at Cleveland (3), vs. Oakland (3), vs. Minnesota (3), vs. Kansas City (4), at Minnesota (3), at Kansas City (3) (What a cinch schedule?!)

CHICAGO: at Minnesota (3), at Kansas City (3), at LA Angels (3), vs. Cleveland (3), vs. Tampa Bay (4), at Cleveland (3) (Tougher because of Tampa Bay)

So, there IS a chance that the runner-up here could storm through their weak divisional sisters (Kansas
City, Cleveland, and Minnesota) to steal a Wildcard at the last second. Just remember that these teams haven’t been blasting that level of quality lately. The White Sox just dropped two of three at home to the Royals.

 

In a nutshell:

*If Chicago goes 3-1 or 4-0 in this series, the Sox will have pushed their lead to four or six games…which will give them room to maneuver against a slightly tougher closing schedule

*If Detroit goes 3-1 or 4-0 in this series, the Tigers will have pulled even or ahead with an easier schedule the rest of the way.

*If we split at 2-2…then it’s arguably a virtual toss-up from this point forward!

Here are the projected pitching matchups for this four-day battle…

 

TONIGHT

Detroit: Porcello (9-11, 4.58 ERA)

Chicago:  Quintana (5-4, 3.68 ERA)

Despite the edge in ERA, oddsmakers are giving respect to Porcello here. The line is Pick-em with a total of 9, which means Porcello would be a favorite on a neutral field and a medium-sized favorite at home. We’ll see tonight if Vegas is paying too much attention to name recognition and payroll size.

 

TUESDAY

Detroit: Fister (8-8, 3.54 ERA)

Chicago: Peavy (10-10, 3.22 ERA)

Great pitching matchup here. Peavy has a slightly bigger edge than the ERA’s would suggest in our view because he pitches his home games in a hitter’s park. Game conditions will matter a lot because of the styles of these pitchers. The White Sox know they need to do damage in these first two games because Detroit’s big guns are coming up next.

 

WEDNESDAY

Detroit: Scherzer (15-6, 3.85 ERA)

Chicago: Liriano (5-11, 5.09 ERA with CWS)

Scherzer has been on fire lately, as he’s knocked about a run off his full season ERA over his last six starts. He’s basically a second staff ace right now. The White Sox will be behind the eight ball in this matchup unless they can draw some walks and then go deep early off the visiting flamethrower. Best shot in the series for Detroit to get an easy win.

 

THURSDAY

Detroit: Verlander (13-8, 2.91 ERA)

Chicago: Sale (16-6, 2.88 ERA)

Wow…what a grand finale! This will feel like Game One of a playoff series even though it’s Game Four here. You have the staff aces going head-to-head in one of the most important games of the whole season. Think about the Under if game conditions aren’t helping hitters too much.

It’s already clear this is going to be a great series. And, it’s just part of a pennant race showcase this week that also includes Oakland at the LA Angels, Tampa Bay at Baltimore, , and Pittsburgh at Cincinnati. Fasten your seat belts!

We know you’ve jumped into the new football season with both feet. Just remember that pennant race baseball allows you to win seven days a week! Be sure you visit the website Tuesday and Wednesday for big play baseball bulletins. Here are some of the VSM highlights tonight:

*Kelso Sturgeon, fresh off a 100-Unit blowout winner on the Texans over the Dolphins Sunday, as well as a 50-Unit upset call on San Francisco over Green Bay…has posted a 50-Unit stunner and a bonus play in the MNF doubleheader. You get BOTH games on this $50 report. Kelso has won five straight 50-Unit plays in baseball. He has another one for you tonight for just $15 on a separate report. Major credit cards accepted.

*Jim Feist has been known for years as THE KING OF MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL. He went 4-1 on the NFL’s opening Sunday, and is now ready to strike on the first big Monday Night of the new season. Pay just $25 for the best side and total within tonight’s football doubleheader.

*Tony Salinas has been red hot on TV games recently. How about Arizona clobbering Oklahoma State this past Saturday Night?! Get the two biggest bets Tony has made himself in tonight’s football for just $20.

Be sure you visit the VSM home page every day for big play announcements. Additional information is available on the “Buy Picks” page, including details on full season packages for all of our industry legends. At VegasSportsMasters, hot handicappers are always waiting to hear from you!

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