Memorial Day MLB Update and NBA Finals
IT'S MEMORIAL DAY AND SO, IT'S TIME TO WEIGH IN ON ALL SIX DIVISIONAL "RACES" ...
Major-League Baseball historians love to find date/time landmarks in the schedule to take inventory of things. Case in point, Memorial Day.
It's always been fun to examine how MLB divisional races are shaping up when we get to the final Monday in May and so this holiday gives folks a time to check in on all three divisions in the National League along with all three divisional races in the American League.
Just to have some fun here, we'll present some predictions on just how the current divisional leaders will stand at year's end.
Philadelphia (31-22) enters the Memorial Day holiday sporting a 2.5-game lead over Atlanta but sporting a slew of weak spots including lack of power (the Phils rank 22nd in the bigs in home runs with 60) and the club's 4.01 team ERA is a bit wobbly. Odds are unless Philadelphia adds at least one high-quality starting pitcher, they're not gonna be able to hold off the Bravos or maybe even the New York Mets whose starting pitching has been woeful, but could get better if RHP Noah Syndergaard ever gets his act straight. Odds on Philadelphia winning the NL East ... Call it even money but first team to 90+ wins gets the job done.
Chicago (30-21) - The Cubs have restored order in this rock-hard division following a dreadful start and manager Joe Maddon gets a boat-load of credit for getting the bullpen straightened out while the defense has tightened up. Now, the Cubs must stay healthy as 3B Kris Bryant is key and you can look for a personal power surge once he gets past his upper body injury: Odds on Chicago Cubs winning the NL Central ... We say the Cubbies are the favorites over Milwaukee, St. Louis and Pittsburgh but don't sleep on a Cardinals' team that was a second-half superpower a year ago.
Los Angeles Dodgers (35-18) - Turn out the lights, the party's over as the late /great "Dandy" Don Meredith used to say on Monday Night Football (go ahead and google him, guys and gals!) as the Dodgers own a seven-game lead over both Arizona and San Diego as we zoom into Memorial Day's games. Consider that LA is 19-6 at home this year and a spiffy 13-5 against the NL West. One key stat for Dave Roberts' crew: The big four of LHP Clayton Kershaw, LHP Hyun-Jim Ryu, RHP Walker Buehler and RHP Kenta Maeda are a combined 21-4 with 1.73 ERA. Yikes! Odds on Los Angeles Dodgers winning the NL West ... We rate the Dodgers as 1-to-15 favs to clinch this division and don't be shocked if they wrap up it by Labor Day.
New York Yankees (34-18) - Three cheers for a Yankees club that's been patchwork all year long (no Aaron Judge, no Giancarlo Stanton, no Didi Gregorious for almost the whole first two months) and still headed into the here-and-now Memorial Day holiday sporting a two-game lead over Tampa Bay and a bloated 6.5-game lead over defending champ Boston. The Yankees have new heroes every game but special" love" goes out to 1B Luke Voit (13 HR, 37 RBI) and INF DJ LeMahieu (.371 on-base percentage, team-best 57 hits). Odds on New York Yankees winning the AL East ... Gotta say the Yanks, Rays and Red Sox are all in the mix, so we'll place 2-to-1 odds on each of the teams to win this two-tiered division.
Minnesota (36-16) - Here's the only team in the bigs sporting a double-digit lead in its division while comin' into Memorial Day and memo to the rest of the rather putrid AL Central ... things are bound to get worse before they get better for the likes of Cleveland, Chicago White Sox, Detroit and Kansas City (a quartet of teams that is a combined 34 games below .500). The Twins power up plenty with 102 dingers, by far the best in MLB. Odds on Minnesota winning the AL Central ... Call the Twins a 1-to-20 betting favorite to win the division but just 8-to-1 to win it all.
Houston (35-19) - Gotta say that the Astros are probably the best team in baseball from top to bottom but even playing .648 ball (that's on pace to win 105 games this year) doesn't make 'em a lead-pipe cinch to win the West ... haven't you noticed the Oakland A's right now own an MLB-best 9-game winning streak? The 'Stros are 20-7 at home and rank first in the majors in team batting average (.278) and second in runs scored (278). Odds on Houston winning the AL West ... We'll call 'em 1-to-7 favorites to cop this division but the A's could make Houston battle till the finish line.
NBA PLAYOFF UPDATE
Last Saturday, it was ... TORONTO 100, MILWAUKEE 94 - Raptors win series 4-2
No question that NBA folks are gonna long remember that the Toronto Raptors showed "no quit" while winning four in a row following a two-games-to-none deficit in the just-completed NBA Eastern Conference Finals ... but let's be square:
The Milwaukee Bucks gagged plenty while losing a season-worst four in a row - Milwaukee blew a 15-point lead in the Game 6 debacle that sent Toronto to a first-ever date in the NBA Finals - and whether it was the 12-of-34 shooting from beyond the three-point arc or the below-average 22-of-31 from the free-throw line - the bottom line is Mike Budenholzer's club choked big-time and never could get a handle on Raptors' superstar Kawhi Leonard (see 27 points / 17 rebounds / 7 assists in 41 uber-active minutes of game time).
Did the best team win this Eastern Conference Finals? We have our doubts but Budenholzer's lack of adjustments and Giannis Antetokounmpo's lack of late-game heart - where was he at the end of the close Games 3, 5 and 6? - will haunt the Bucks for a long time.
Note the Warriors are priced at -290, the Raptors are + 235 - but don't blame us for kicking some dirt on Milwaukee's grave.