We have only a month and a half left to play before the MLB postseason, and there are still a few questions waiting to be answered.
The playoff picture in the NL is relatively clear, though the surging St. Louis Cardinals are starting to make things interesting. With the Chicago Cubs still not taking off, that division has four teams within three games. The AL, meanwhile, is less decided. The division winners seem to be locked in, but the Wild Card is a mystery. In fact, there are only five teams in the AL with a positive run differential and one of them—the Texas Rangers—are five games under .500 and well behind in the Wild Card race. Given that, there’s a ton of mediocrity vying for the final spot.
With so much undecided, there are a lot of meaningful games still to be played this season, including many this week. There are several intriguing matchups to pick from in our MLB Pick ‘Em Contests with a ton of great picks just waiting to be taken.
MLB Pick For Monday, August 14: Arizona Diamondbacks over Houston Astros
The Houston Astros maintain a massive 13-game lead in the AL West and have the division locked down. They even have a significant edge in capturing home-field advantage up until the World Series. Given the 71-43 record as of Friday, it would seem Houston is cruising and should be heavy favorites in most of its games, but questions in the rotation linger.
In Monday’s series opener, the Astros bring Collin McHugh to the hill opposite of the Diamondbacks’ Zack Greinke. McHugh is a good, but not great, pitcher still getting his footing after missing most of the season. He’s made only four starts but has yet to record a win and has already been dinged with four home runs and eight walks. Greinke, meanwhile, enters the game with a 13-5 record and 3.14 ERA as an All-Star and reigning team ace.
While Greinke matches up well with McHugh, he is coming off back-to-back non-Greinke-like starts, allowing three runs in 6.2 innings against a hot-hitting Dodgers club and giving up six runs in six innings to the Cubs in a start before.
Houston, like the Dodgers, is an offensive juggernaut. The team is on pace for record-setting offensive production, but injuries have slowed the offense a bit.
Carlos Correa was an MVP candidate before his injury, and he remains out. George Springer is back and Jose Altuve is still dominating, but Correa is a big bat missing day in and day out.
Meanwhile, the Diamondbacks have a more than formidable lineup of their own with Paul Goldschmidt, Jake Lamb and J.D. Martinez a powerful trio in the middle. A.J. Pollock and David Peralta help deepen the lineup.
With the game in Arizona, where the D-Backs are 37-20, look for Goldschmidt and gang to take advantage of the pitching mismatch and deliver a win. This team has all the components needed for a winning team, and while Houston matches up on offense and in the ‘pen, it’s the Diamondbacks with the upper-hand on the mound for the first handful of innings.
MLB Pick For Tuesday, August 15: Seattle Mariners over Baltimore Orioles
The Mariners and Orioles are two of the teams still in the tightly contested AL Wild Card race where nobody is seemingly grabbing onto the opportunity. They will play Tuesday in the middle game of a three-game head-to-head series that could have a significant impact on the direction of this race.
Based on rosters, the Mariners should be the better team. They have several big offensive contributors—of course, so do the ‘Birds—but they also have several starting pitchers that are much more reliable than the arms the O’s trot out there every day.
Starting pitching has been the Achilles’ heel for both teams to this point, but for the Orioles it’s been ineffectiveness of their planned starters. For the Mariners, the issue has been injured arms.
While King Felix is back on the DL, Seattle’s new ace toes the rubber in Tuesday’s game with James Paxton looking to shut down Baltimore.
The Orioles have a powerful lineup. Jonathan Schoop is having a huge year, and Manny Machado has picked up the pace significantly since the start of July. The two youngsters form a strong heart of the order while veterans like Adam Jones, Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo fill out a surprisingly deep lineup.
While anybody on the O’s can launch a homer at any given time, this is an offense that can be shut down by good pitching. And James Paxton is a good pitcher.
The southpaw is 12-3 with a 2.78 ERA in his 20 starts. He had been virtually unhittable in his first several starts of the second half, though Seattle did drop its first game with him on the hill since June 27 in his last outing, where he allowed three runs in 6.1 innings.
Paxton should have fun with a powerful, but flawed, Orioles lineup. Meanwhile, on the other side, the Orioles will send former Mariners lefty Wade Miley to the mound. He did pitch well in his last start to beat the A’s, but the M’s have a great offense and Miley’s had terrible command all year. He’s just 6-9 with a 5.19 ERA, due largely to a league-leading 69 walks.
MLB Pick For Thursday, August 17: Minnesota Twins over Cleveland Indians
The Twins were buyers and then sellers at the deadline, yet they still find themselves in the mix in the AL Wild Card hunt. They’ll look to Jose Berrios to make the start in this one.
The young right-hander is 10-5 with a 3.86 ERA, though he’s regressed over the last month and a half. He allowed five runs over five innings to Texas in his last start and has allowed four or more runs in six of his last eight. In his last contest against Cleveland, however, he went 7.2 innings and allowed just one run.
Berrios has had a couple of one-run outings recently as well and has certainly seen more action recently than Mike Clevinger who has pitched a single inning in August as of Friday. He’ll get a start over the weekend but was pulled from the rotation after back-to-back bad outings where he allowed 10 runs over 7.1 combined innings.
Both starters have struggled lately, but Berrios brings the better stuff to the table. The Indians do have the superior bullpen—of course—but Andrew Miller missing from the ranks doesn’t help.
At the plate, the Indians have the names, but the Twins can plate runs with the best of them thanks to a solid young core and solid veterans like Brian Dozier and Joe Mauer.