Heading into the All-Star break, the New York Yankees and Houston Astros enjoy sizable leads in their divisions. New York leads the AL East by 13 games, while Houston enjoys a nine-game lead in the AL West.
And while it seems that some playoff spots are already decided, the hunt for the wild card remains a very fluid race.
MLB’s recent labor agreement includes playoff expansion from 10 to 12 teams. Each league will now have a third wild-card team, which should keep things interesting down the stretch.
For example, the American League has seven teams in the wild-card race that are separated by no more than five games.
We’ll look at two possible matchups we could see in the postseason and assess which team might be better suited to survive and advance.
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Predictions for the American League Wild Card and pennant
Mariners vs. Blue Jays (WC)
The Seattle Mariners moved into the wild-card spot after winning 14 straight games. At 51-42, Seattle currently has the longest winning streak in MLB.
Seattle is led by its pitching, which ranks fifth with a 3.53 ERA, and would face Toronto in the wild-card round if the playoffs started today.
The Mariners are 5-2 against the Blue Jays and even pulled off a four-game series sweep at home during their recent winning streak. The Mariners currently hold home-field advantage against the Blue Jays in the wild-card round.
Blue Jays starting pitcher Hyun-jin Ryu is the only significant injury for either team. Ryu is done for the season after suffering an ulnar collateral ligament injury. While I think either team will ultimately lose in the ALDS, I like the Mariners to come ahead should both clubs meet in the wild-card round.
Prediction: Mariners to advance
Yankees vs. Astros (ALCS)
At 64-28, the Yankees have a 4¹/₂ -game lead over the Astros for the best record in the AL. New York also has the best record in baseball and the shortest odds on the board to win the World Series at +325. Should these teams meet in the postseason, it likely won’t be until the ALCS.
New York heads into the break after crushing the Red Sox 27-3 over the past two games. The winning streak snapped a 1-5 stretch which was the worst run for the Yankees all season.
However, while the Yankees have looked formidable against most clubs, they’ve lost three of five games they played with the Astros thus far this season. We won’t have to wait too long for another meeting between the two as they’ll play a doubleheader in Houston once the season resumes on Thursday.
Both teams are dealing with some potentially key injuries as Yankees pitcher Luis Severino went down with what’s described as a “low-grade lat strain.” Although, Severino suffered a similar injury in April 2019 and didn’t return until September that season.
The Astros are currently without slugger Yordan Alvarez. Alvarez is on the 10-day IL with a hand injury. However, there’s much more optimism surrounding his injury as Alvarez was able to participate in some light hitting on Sunday.
The Astros should also get back starting pitcher Lance McCullers Jr. McCullers went 13-5 with a 3.16 ERA in 2021. The right-hander would be a solid addition to an Astros team that ranks second in MLB with a 3.15 ERA.
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American League pennant prediction
- Astros to win ALCS (+200) BetMGM
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