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THIS WEEK'S SCHEDULE: At the White Sox for three, at the Athletics for four.
THE SKINNY: Perhaps the least respected team in playoff contention, consider this: The ho-hum Cleveland Indians thought so much of their chances to catch the Tigers in the AL Central, they went out and picked up Jim Thome for the stretch drive. Two weeks later? The Tigers are surging, they’ve beaten the Indians six straight times, and this so-called race is over.
The Tigers have the best pitcher in the AL -- Justin Verlander and his 22 wins -- a closer, Jose Valverde, with 43 saves, and there’s not a postseason team around that wants to face Miguel Cabrera (.329 average, 25 home runs, 96 RBIs, 97 runs through Sunday). The Tigers appear on a mission to finish September strong, and figure to give the league’s chalk playoff teams -- the Yankees and Red Sox -- a run for their money in October.
COLD TEAM: Boston Red Sox
THIS SEASON: 85-61
LAST WEEK: 1-6
THIS WEEK'S SCHEDULE: Home to the Blue Jays for two, home to the Rays for four.
THE SKINNY: With the kind of leadership and experience sitting in the Boston clubhouse these days, it is surprising to see this type of slide as most postseason teams are simply taking September to fine-tune things.
And let’s face it, as close as Tampa Bay is in the wild-card race, 3.5 games out through Sunday, it’s hard to imagine the Red Sox not making the tournament. That said, they are losing value at a concerning clip.
Maybe a healthy homestand and a day off on Monday will help right the ship, but as for now, all of Red Sox Nation has to be in worry mode. The Red Sox mounted just 12 runs in four games vs. the Rays to end the week, and will take a 2-9 September record into Tuesday’s series opener with Toronto.
OVER TEAM: Washington Nationals
O/U THIS SEASON: 71-67-6
O/U LAST WEEK: 5-1
THIS WEEK'S SCHEDULE: At the Mets for four, home to the Marlins for three.
THE SKINNY: The Nationals have gone all-out to make the .500 mark this season, and while they probably won’t get there, they have become a nice, little over team along the way.
Headed into Monday’s action, Washington games had reached double digits in runs six times in September, and the last two weekend games vs. Houston totaled 22 runs.
Get it while the getting’s good in Washington, though. While the schedule is soft, and ripe for overs this week, next week will be a different animal. That’s because Philadelphia and Atlanta are on the docket, so watch out. That might be the end of this little run. But you still have some time to enjoy it.
UNDER TEAM: Pittsburgh Pirates
O/U THIS SEASON: 71-71-4
O/U LAST WEEK: 2-4
THIS WEEK'S SCHEDULE: Home to the Cardinals for three, at the Dodgers for four.
THE SKINNY: The Pirates have slowly erased their great start, and with losses in bunches, they won’t even have much optimism at September’s end to carry over to spring training. But that’s not your problem. Coinciding with a flat-out awful stretch of baseball the last six weeks, has been a team that has cashed in an under or two along the way.
Headed into Monday’s series opener with St. Louis, the Pirates had scored three runs or less six times in September. Pittsburgh scored just five runs total in a three-game set with Florida over the weekend, and somehow didn’t get swept.
But there’s no off day for the Pirates until Sept. 22, and by the time they get there, they will have played 13 consecutive games. That should make for some tired hitters, and some more unders.