Oakland's charge to top takes a one-day break

By Jeff Fogle  (VSiN City newsletter) 

August 19, 2018 10:38 PM

Astros and A’s now neck-and-neck in the AL West. Plus, only one “Magnificent 7” baseball team is in the black . . . Stat notes from the NFL and CFL . . . and playoff brackets in the WNBA. Mondays are always crowded in VSiN City!

MLB Bulletin: A’s climb to peak of Mt. Astro before taking a step back Sunday

As well as the Oakland A’s had been playing for weeks, it still seemed impossible that they could catch the Houston Astros from behind in the AL West race. Houston was too good. Oakland would have to play almost perfect baseball while hoping for an Astros slump.

Done and done! At least through Saturday. Here’s a quick recap of their three-game weekends series played in Oakland. 

Friday: Oakland (plus 130) beat Houston 4-3 (TB plus W 20-17)

Close one, whether you focus on runs or Total Bases Plus Walks. Edwin Jackson pitched well again. That has to be one of the shockers of the year…in a year of shockers. Jackson’s ERA is now 2.58 this season, with a WHIP of 1.06. He’s made 10 starts. Oakland won eight of them. 

Edwin Jackson beat Charlie Morton. 

Saturday: Oakland (pick-em) beat Houston 7-1 (TB Plus W 21-6)

A rout, with the dormant Houston bats only managing two hits on the day (one a homer). Four different A’s had TWO doubles apiece. Offensive balance very important when the elites battle each other. This was the game that brought Oakland dead even. The A’s had to go 40-13 from mid-June to pull it off, while Houston was 7-13 its last 20 at this moment in time. Maybe this was Oakland’s touch of glory before sliding back down the hill. Time will tell. Trevor Cahill was the winner. His ERA is 3.12 this season, his WHIP 1.04. Oakland has won his last seven starts. 

Sunday: Houston (-170) won at Oakland 9-4 (TB plus W 31-19)

Teapot was ready to boil over after a couple of Unders. Neither Justin Verlander nor Sean Manaea had a good game. Eight combined homers between the two teams. Houston stops the bleeding, and regains a one-game lead at the top of the standings. 

Oakland may have an immediate chance to get back even this week. The A’s host unimpressive Texas for three games before heading to mediocre Minnesota for four. Houston plays three at contending Seattle, then three in Anaheim against the LA Angels. 

Note that an even straight-up record does NOT mean about even in terms of investments. Oakland is plus 30 units this season because expectations were so low. A’s should reach their Regular Season Win Total this week, long before September even gets here. Houston is minus 12 units. More on that in a moment.  


MLB: Pennant races in shorthand

The easiest way to mentally absorb the pennant races is to use a shorthand that captures games above .500. We talked about that last week. Here’s a quick look at records through Sunday’s action. 

NL East: Atlanta plus 13, Philadelphia plus 12, Washington -1

NL Central: Chicago plus 19, Milwaukee plus 12, St. Louis plus 11, Pittsburgh plus 1 

NL West: Arizona plus 13, Colorado plus 12, LA Dodgers plus 9

You can see at a glance that we have three interesting divisional races. The Wildcard is a logjam, as ALL THREE second-place teams are 12 games over. 500. St. Louis is 11 over. That puts the defending NL champion LA Dodgers in FIFTH place in the Wildcard race!

AL East: Boston plus 51, NY Yankees plus 32 

AL Central: Cleveland plus 19

AL West: Houston plus 26, Oakland plus 24, Seattle plus 17

No logjams here. Only mystery involves the AL West…who will win the division, and who will play the NY Yankees in the Wildcard game. Wildcard winner will definitely face Boston in the first round (best 3-of-5). AL West winner will definitely play Cleveland.  

MLB: “Magnificent 7” now down FORTY betting units in 2018. Only Boston profitable 

Time to check in again on the seven teams projected by betting markets to top 90 victories this season. Brent Musburger dubbed them “the Magnificent 7” back in March. We’ve been charting their progress every Monday through the season.  

Current records entering the new week…

Boston 88-37…plus 33 units after a 3-2 week

NY Yankees 78-46…minus 0.5 units after a 4-3 week

Chicago Cubs 71-52…minus 0.5 units after a 3-3 week

Cleveland 71-52…minus 11 units after a 5-1 week

Houston 75-49…minus 12 units after a 2-3 week

LA Dodgers 67-58…minus 24.5 units after a 3-3 week

Washington 62-63…minus 25 units after a 2-5 week

We’re back to a scenario where only Boston is showing a profit. The composite is down 40.5 units for the season…with the disappointing LA Dodgers and wilting Washington Nationals sporting the biggest anvils. 

Washington will probably miss the playoffs. The Dodgers are certainly in danger of that given struggles of the past two weeks. 

Another reminder that it’s VERY difficult to make money as a baseball bettor asking the teams who are “supposed” to win to out-perform the market. 

One M7 meeting this week, and it’s a potential playoff preview in the American League.

Magnificent 7 Head-to-Head

Cleveland (71-52) at Boston (88-37) (starts Monday)

Cleveland is playing better recently, so it will be interesting to see if it can get any results at Fenway. 

As we look at other contenders…we’re going to weed out the “tweeners” who have been within arm’s reach of the .500 mark for awhile. We had been looking at games involving “teams with winning records.” Squads like Washington, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Tampa Bay, and the LA Angels aren’t relevant at the moment. We’ll include any of those again if they get hot and contend for a Wildcard. Let’s look at series matching “contenders.”

Early Week Series Matching Contenders

St. Louis (68-57) at the LA Dodgers (67-58) (starts Monday)

Houston (75-49) at Seattle (71-54) (starts Monday)

St. Louis stays in the headlines. Still the best team in the NL since the All-Star Break. As tight as the picture is at the moment, neither the Cards nor Dodgers can afford a bad series. 

Late Week Series Matching Winning Teams

St. Louis (68-57) at Colorado (68-56) (starts Friday)

Seattle (71-54) at Arizona (69-56) (starts Friday)

Gut check week for St. Louis. Road trips to NL West contenders. Also one for Seattle, who’s most in danger of falling off the pace in the American League. 

NFL Preseason: Catching up with key team stats from exhibition action

A lot of games to run through since we were last together. We’ll keep comments brief on a jam-packed day. 

NY Giants (-4) 30, Detroit 17 (Friday)

Total Yardage: NY Giants 299, Detroit 308

Turnovers: NY Giants 0, Detroit 1

Matthew Stafford threw five passes, and Eli Manning didn’t play. So, not exactly an indicator game for next week’s dress rehearsals or the regular season. Giants had a 12-yard TD drive, which helped inflate the final score. 

Kansas City (-1) 28, Atlanta 14 (Friday)

Total Yardage: Kansas City 347, Atlanta 288

Turnovers: Kansas City 1, Atlanta 2

Big second half from a Kansas City QB rotation (Henne, McGloin) that wants to hang around. Falcons won the first half 14-10 when starters were more prominent. Chiefs had an interception return TD. 

Carolina (-3) 27, Miami 20 (Friday) 

Total Yardage: Miami 334, Carolina 405

Turnovers: Miami 1, Carolina 2

Carolina was more impressive than the final score made it sound. Extra turnover hurt. Panthers won yards-per-play 6.8 to 5.1, and had TD drives of 80-85-92-61 yards.  

Buffalo (plus 3) 19, Cleveland 17 (Friday)

Total Yardage: Buffalo 285, Cleveland 245

Turnovers: Buffalo 0, Cleveland 0

AJ McCarron struggled, then suffered a hairline fracture of his collarbone that’s going to keep him out of action for awhile. He didn’t look like he was about to win a starting job anyway. Browns just 11-24-0-83 passing. Mostly ugly for both, outside of Carlos Hyde running like Jim Brown and Leroy Kelly for the Browns on the opening drive. 

Arizona (plus 6) 20, New Orleans 15 (Friday)

Total Yardage: Arizona 276, New Orleans 307

Turnovers: Arizona 0, New Orleans 4

Second straight week Arizona won because of turnovers. Offense has yet to impress (though Sam Bradford was sharp in limited action. Saints only passed for 124 yards on 27 attempts. Drew Brees didn’t play.

Jacksonville (plus 3.5) 14, Minnesota 10 (Saturday)

Total Yardage: Jacksonville 283, Minnesota 238

Turnovers: Jacksonville 1, Minnesota 2

Jacksonville won on a four-yard TD drive. So…really a 10-7 yawner. Offenses were a combined 4 of 26 on third downs. Looked like neither offense was ready for a kickoff this early. 

LA Rams (plus 1) 19, Oakland 15 (Saturday)

Total Yardage: Oakland 223, LA Rams 215

Turnovers: Oakland 2, LA Rams 1

We mentioned Friday that this was the first of two Saturday games that were previews for regular season meetings. Both stayed Under. Horrible stats here. Neither Derek Carr nor Jared Goff played. Oakland won yards-per-play 4.3 to 3.5. Offenses combined to go 3 of 24 on third downs. A lot of busy punters this week across the league. 

Cincinnati (plus 2.5) 21, Dallas 13 (Saturday)

Total Yardage: Cincinnati 263, Dallas 262

Turnovers: Cincinnati 2, Dallas 0

Andy Dalton saw extended time, but the Bengals were scoreless at the half anyway. Jeff Driskell got points on the board down the stretch to rally for the win. Dallas was happy with Dak Prescott and called it night at the half. 

Houston (-3) 16, San Francisco 13 (Saturday)

Total Yardage: San Francisco 389, Houston 323

Turnovers: San Francisco 2, Houston 2

Wild ending to a crappy game. San Francisco kicked a late field goal to lead 13-10. Houston, after not doing anything all game, connected on a long pass for a TD (when SF defenders didn’t touch a receiver on the ground after a catch). Texans missed the extra point to push the point spread. Jimmy Garoppolo and Deshaun Watson looked as good as fans could hope in their time on the field. 

Tampa Bay (plus 3) 30, Tennessee 14 (Saturday)

Total Yardage: Tampa Bay 429, Tennessee 340

Turnovers: Tampa Bay 0, Tennessee 1

Good stuff from everyone who mattered BUT Ryan Fitzpatrick. Bad news for TB since he has to start the first few games at QB while Jameis Winston serves a suspension. 

Chicago (plus 3) 24, Denver 23 (Saturday)

Total Yardage: Chicago 328, Denver 296

Turnovers: Chicago 1, Denver 1

Mitchell Trubisky took a safety and threw an interception. So, he’s still a work in progress. Chase Daniel reminded everyone why he can be an August star with a second-half rally for the upset. Should note for Denver that young Chad Kelly continues to be much more impressive than Paxton Lynch in a backup role. From reports, true in practice and game action so far. 

LA Chargers (-3) 24, Seattle 14 (Saturday)

Total Yardage: Seattle 340, San Diego 322

Turnovers: Seattle 1, San Diego 0

The second “preview” of a regular season matchup. Russell Wilson moved the ball for Seattle, but couldn’t find the end zone. Chargers were much sharper this week than at Arizona in terms of executing while protecting the ball. 

One game left this week…and it’s Monday Night Footbal! We’ll run expanded numbers from Baltimore at Indianapolis (ESPN) in our Tuesday report. 

CFL: Calgary suffers first loss of the season!

We won’t go in schedule order this week because the most important result occurred Sunday night…

Saskatchewan (plus 6.5) 40, Calgary 27 

Total Yardage: Calgary 370, Saskatchewan 382

Yards-per-Play: Calgary 7.0, Saskatchewan 7.1

Rushing Yards: Calgary 95, Saskatchewan 112

Passing Stats: Calgary 22-36-1-275, Saskatchewan 25-34-0-270

Turnovers: Calgary 4, Saskatchewan 1

Home dog scored touchdowns on an interception return and a blocked punt return. That’s why you see even stats but a 13-point win. Calgary is no longer undefeated, falling to 7-1. Still the class of the league. But no pro football league lets you get away with four turnovers in a game. Saskatchewan is back to .500 at 4-4. Much more dynamic with Zach Collaros healthy again at quarterback. 

Earlier in the week…

Ottawa (plus 6.5) 44, Winnipeg 21

Total Yardage: Ottawa 500, Winnipeg 420

Yards-per-Play: Ottawa 7.9, Winnipeg 7.6

Rushing Yards: Ottawa 139, Winnipeg 93

Passing Stats: Ottawa 29-39-0-361, Winnipeg 27-40-1-327

Turnovers: Ottawa 1, Winnipeg 2

Great result for the Redblacks. Eastern teams can be outclassed by the West, more than the market expects. Instead, this beast from the East gained 500 yards and covered by about 30 points! Ottawa is well clear of its division at 6-3 (second place is 3-5). Winnipeg falls to 5-4.

Toronto (plus 3) 24, British Columbia 23 

Total Yardage: B. Columbia 414, Toronto 366

Yards-per-Play: B. Columbia 7.7, Toronto 6.9

Rushing Yards: B. Columbia 116, Toronto 106

Passing Stats: B. Columbia 22-35-1-298, Toronto 18-29-0-260

Turnovers: B. Columbia 5, Toronto 1

Another thrilling win for McLeod Bethel-Football. Is that nickname catching on yet? Bethel-Thompson played the cleaner game while BC imploded as a road favorite. Toronto is 3-5, still behind Ottawa. BC also 3-5, but in the tougher half of the league. 

Edmonton (-19) 40, Montreal 24

Total Yardage: Montreal 275, Edmonton 560

Yards-per-Play: Montreal 7.4, Edmonton 8.2

Rushing Yards: Montreal 58, Edmonton 136

Passing Stats: Montreal 14-25-1-214, Edmonton 33-42-1-424

Turnovers: Montreal 1, Edmonton 2

Antonio Pipkin became the fifth quarterback to start a game for Montreal this season. Johnny Manziel was out with a concussion (one he played with late last week…no protocol until a few days later). Never heard of Pipkin? Maybe this will help. He played his college ball at Tiffin. Pipkin from Tiffin. Still nothing? Join the club. Pipkin did cover his first point spread as a starter because the line was a monstrous plus 19. Montreal falls to 1-8 on the season, and is still much worse than that record would suggest. Edmonton now 6-3 on the heels of Calgary.  

A quick review of our estimate of “market” Power Ratings in the CFL based on this past weekend’s point spreads…

87: Calgary

84: Edmonton, Winnipeg

81: Ottawa

80: Hamilton, British Columbia

78: Saskatchewan

74: Toronto 

68: Montreal

Still a couple of weeks before CFL probably gets squeezed off VSiN City pages. 

WNBA: Playoff matchups are set

Regular season is over. Here are the final records of the eight playoff qualifiers. 

Playoff Seeds and Records

1…Seattle 26-8

2…Atlanta 23-11

3…Washington 22-12

4…Connecticut 21-13

5…Los Angeles 19-15

6…Phoenix 20-14

7…Minnesota 18-16

8…Dallas 15-19

Las Vegas just missed at 14-20. But as we’ve mentioned a few times, the Aces weren’t remotely a “playoff caliber” team. Yes, it’s a shame that forfeit at Washington got in the way. But they were a big underdog in that game. Las Vegas was just 6-19 this season vs. teams who ultimately made the playoffs. That includes an 0-3 record against Dallas, who beat the Aces last Friday to end a long losing streak. 

Let’s look at this week’s playoff schedule…

Opening Round Knockouts on Tuesday

#8 Dallas at #5 Phoenix: 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2

#7 Minnesota at #6 Los Angeles: 10:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2

Quarterfinal Knockouts on Thursday

Worst remaining seed at #3 Washington: 6:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2

Other survivor at #4 Connecticut: 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2

Semifinals (best 3-of-5) begin on Sunday

Best survivor at #2 Atlanta: 3 p.m. ET on ESPN2

Worst survivor at #1 Seattle: 5 p.m. ET

Here’s our last guess at “market” Power Ratings in advance of the playoffs. We’ll continue to update them throughout…

88: Seattle 

84: Washington, Connecticut (home) Los Angeles (home)

83: Connecticut (road), Los Angeles (road) 

82: Atlanta, Phoenix, Minnesota

78: Dallas 

See you Tuesday. 

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