The MLB Wild Card races are heating up as we near the end of August. Both the AL and NL spots are up for grabs. The Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies and New York Yankees have all fallen back to the pack, while some surprise teams like the Los Angeles Angels, Minnesota Twins and Miami Marlins are now in the hunt.
Outside of postseason races, there are certainly other interesting storylines in MLB, too. Giancarlo Stanton’s power surge has him within reach of the 61-homer mark of Roger Maris. That’s another fun thing to track in the season’s final month. Given so many great matchups, there are plenty of solid options in our MLB Pick ‘Em Contests up for grabs this week.
MLB Pick for Monday, August 28: Cleveland Indians over New York Yankees
The Yankees were 7-2 in their last nine games before they lost to the Tigers on Thursday. The loss was more than just a setback in the standings, as Gary Sanchez and others took suspensions in a game that got out of hand fast and continued to spiral.
Sanchez is likely to challenge the suspension, but his absence from the lineup on Monday would be huge. He’s essentially been carrying this team on offense and is on an even better pace this August than he was as a rookie in his sensational debut a season ago.
After a lull, the New York offense is picking up and that’s positive for a team that’s suddenly lost plenty of ground in the AL Wild Card race and now sees the AL East as essentially out of grasp.
The Indians have been playing great baseball, too. Cleveland split a series against the Red Sox this past week, toppling Chris Sale on Thursday to do so. After that series, they had won 10 out of their last 14 games. They split their last series with the Yankees, but they won the start by Corey Kluber, who will take the mound on Monday.
Kluber could be considered a Cy Young frontrunner if not for Chris Sale. He’s 12-4 with a 2.65 ERA and 0.910 WHIP. He’s already tossed four complete games, including two shutouts. Even if he doesn’t go as deep on Monday, he’s got a killer bullpen behind him—even without Andrew Miller.
Kluber’s last start against the Yankees was one of his complete games. He allowed a single run and three hits in that games while walking one and striking out 11.
On the other side, the Yankees will start Luis Severino, who is a solid pitcher. The All-Star has a 4.3 rWAR this year and is 11-5 with a 3.10 ERA and 1.10 WHIP, but it’s hard to beat Kluber. He’s also thrown 156.2 innings, well above his previous career high, so fatigue is a factor. His last two starts, however, doesn’t bear that out.
Even if Severino can keep pace with Kluber, the Indians bullpen wins this one. The Yankees’ pen has all the names, but while Dellin Betances and David Robertson are strong setup options, they haven’t been invincible. On top of that, Aroldis Chapman has been struggling with command for quite some time now.
MLB Pick for Wednesday, August 30: Arizona Diamondbacks over Los Angeles Dodgers
Going into the weekend, the Dodgers were already at 90 wins and a lock to win the NL West. The team has home-field advantage in the bag, giving them little to play for outside of pride, motivation and an outside shot at the best record in baseball history. Of course, that’s still plenty of motivation, but the Diamondbacks have more on the line as they’re still in threat of missing out on the postseason or, at the very least, taking on the Rockies at Coors in a one-game play-in. Those are both things they’d like to avoid.
It’s hard to pick against the Dodgers in any situation, but Wednesday’s game may be just the spot to take the favorable odds on the other side. Los Angeles has absolutely dominated at home and while the Dodgers are still better than most on the road, they’re at least beatable away from Dodger Stadium. Arizona, meanwhile, is 39-23 at home.
In addition, the D-Backs have held their own against the Dodgers this year. They’re 5-8, but in their 13 head-to-head games, the Dodgers have only outscored the Diamondbacks by a single run, 59-58.
Moving on to the pitching matchup, the Dodgers will send Hyun-Jin Ryu to the bump opposite of Arizona’s Robbie Ray. The D-Back has the better ERA at 3.06, and he has the more dominant arm. He’s striking out 11.6 per nine innings, though he has been hurt here and there by the walk.
Of course, there’s always risk going against the Dodgers. L.A. is the best team in the NL against southpaws, while Arizona is batting .235 against lefties. Arizona does have a few reinforcements including an added right-handed bat in J.D. Martinez. Los Angeles is also the team that was terrible against lefties last year with the biggest difference being Cody Bellinger, who is now on the DL. Besides, Ray held the Dodgers to one run in six innings the last time he faced them, striking out 13.
MLB Pick for Thursday, August 31: Washington Nationals over Milwaukee Brewers
The Brewers just won’t go away, but they also don’t seem to be gathering much steam either. The faltering Diamondbacks and Rockies are bringing the NL Wild Card race closer to them, and the Chicago Cubs haven’t been able to take advantage of a weak division. Thus, the team is in the thick of things both in the division and Wild Card.
There’s little question the Brew Crew has something to play for, but do they have the talent to match up with the Nationals?
Washington has the NL East wrapped up despite the surging Marlins, but this team needs to get healthy and given its dismal postseason record has plenty left to play for this year.
The Nats got Max Scherzer back, and Trea Turner won’t be far behind. He’s probably still out for this game, however. Of course, Bryce Harper is out, too, which is certainly helpful for Milwaukee.
Zach Davies gets this start and is 14-7 on the year, but he’s done most of his best pitching on the road. The right-hander is pitching to a 5.97 ERA and 1.63 WHIP at home. That won’t get it done against the best offensive team in the NL, limited by injuries or not.
On the other side, this matchup will feature Gio Gonzalez for the Nationals, who—with all the other injuries—has been Washington’s best pitcher in terms of production and health. The southpaw is 12-5 with a 2.39 ERA and 1.12 WHP. He’s also only allowed one total earned run over his last four games. In that time, he’s thrown 27.2 innings, allowing 15 hits, seven walks and striking out 23.