As we enter the enter the final weekend of the 2017 season, nine teams have clinched playoff berths, with the Rockies in the driver's seat for the second National League wild card. Several other playoff-bound clubs are jostling for better seeding.
Please note, there is a pair of matinees with the Yankees entertaining the Blue Jays at 1:15 p.m. ET along with the Reds visiting Wrigley Field in the traditional Friday afternoon game when the Cubs are home.
Pitchers to stream
Jake Odorizzi (R), 48 percent ownership in ESPN leagues, Tampa Bay Rays vs. Baltimore Orioles: Odorizzi has been an enigma all season. He started off pitching well for a couple of months, then struggled for three months before bouncing back in September. These results tracked his velocity and spin rate fairly closely. Perhaps Odorizzi was working through an injury or tweaked his mechanics. Whatever he did, it worked as I personally wrote him off around the All-Star break when his velocity had significantly dropped. He's throwing as hard as he has thrown all season down the stretch, with the numbers to prove it. His last start comes against the strikeout-prone Orioles. Look for Odorizzi to go out on a high note.
Matthew Boyd (L), 12 percent, Detroit Tigers at Minnesota Twins: No, this isn't an error. I didn't mean to type Kyle Gibson facing the Tigers. This is more narrative than numbers, though Boyd is teasing the potential many thought he possessed coming into the season with a strong September, featuring a 1.99 ERA and 0.98 WHIP. The grinding Twins finally clinched a trip east for the wild-card game, and although they want to stay sharp for the Tuesday contest, they'll likely give their regulars some time off.
Ben Lively (R), 8 percent, Philadelphia Phillies vs. New York Mets: Need a win? This is more about my lack of confidence in Matt Harvey. He has nothing, and even though the Phillies offense is among the weakest, I still see them giving Lively ample support to sneak out a win.
Pitchers to avoid
Masahiro Tanaka (R), 87 percent, New York Yankees vs. Toronto Blue Jays: Tanaka has been in this space a few times this year, due to his inconsistent performance. This visit isn't a performance concern, but instead a warning his innings may be limited or he may be scratched if the Red Sox have clinched the AL East.
Desperate for a save or two? We're digging deep here but Juan Minaya has three saves for the White Sox the past week. The Pale Hose close the season versus Cleveland. The Indians are still embroiled with the Astros for best record in the American League, but if that's decided before Saturday, Cleveland could spell its regulars, giving White Sox a chance to sneak away with a couple wins, closed out by Minaya.
Projected game scores
GS is the projected game score for the pitcher. A "*" means that the pitcher lacks requisite career major league data to produce an accurate rating; these are the author's ratings.
Wilson Ramos (R), 30 percent, Tampa Bay Rays vs. Baltimore Orioles (LHP Wade Miley): When the Rays acquired Ramos, they knew he would miss a large chunk of the first half. The hope was he'd be ready for the second half, serving as a launching pad into a full 2018 campaign. Though he started out sluggishly when first coming off the disabled list, for the last month or so Ramos has displayed the talent the Rays paid for with a two-year contract. Facing a weak southpaw, Ramos is in a favorable spot to finish strong.
C.J. Cron (R), 8 percent, Los Angeles Angels vs. Seattle Mariners (LHP Marco Gonzales): The Angles haven't faced many southpaws down the stretch, but when they have, Cron has moved up to the meat of the order. Gonzales hasn't allowed a homer in his previous 15 1/3 innings, but Cron has the pop to change that with one swing.
Willie Calhoun (L), 3 percent, Texas Rangers vs. Oakland Athletics (RHP Raul Alcantara): Calhoun has been playing outfield, but qualifies at second in most leagues based on his minor league eligibility. With Carlos Gomez likely out for the season, Calhoun is in line to pick up a couple of starts, especially with a righty on the hill.
J.P. Crawford (L), 3 percent, Philadelphia Phillies vs. New York Mets (RHP Matt Harvey): If I'm going to call out Harvey, I better follow through with some of the hitters set up to do the damage. Crawford, Nick Williams, Freddy Galvis and Cesar Hernandez are all available in over half of ESPN leagues and can all feast on Harvey's lifeless offerings.
Marcus Semien (R), 19 percent, Oakland Athletics at Texas Rangers (LHP Martin Perez): Even though they have a couple of young players to look at, the Athletics continue to play Semien, hitting him at leadoff. He, along with Ryon Healy and Matt Chapman are sitting pretty facing a lefty with a 1.55 WHIP in 179 innings -- that's a lot of base runners.
Greg Bird (L), 18 percent, New York Yankees vs. Toronto Blue Jays (RHP Joe Biagini): Even if the Yankees' division hopes are dashed, Bird will likely play as the club needs his power stroke locked in as they hard into the postseason.
Neil Walker (B), 14 percent, Milwaukee Brewers at St. Louis Cardinals (RHP John Gant): While they may be on the verge of elimination, the Brewers will still have a chance at game time. Walker, Stephen Vogt and Brett Phillips will all enjoy the platoon edge against a righty making his second start after spending most of the month working out of the Cardinals bullpen.
David Peralta (L), 36 percent, Arizona Diamondbacks at Kansas City Royals (RHP Ian Kennedy): Peralta has to be among the hitters most often cited this season. While I try to share the spotlight with other deserving hitters, we're down to the nitty gritty and his setup is too good to ignore. Kennedy is one of the most homer-prone hurlers in the league. Even in Kauffman Stadium, Peralta has the stroke to take advantage from the left side.
Ian Desmond (R), 32 percent, Colorado Rockies vs. Los Angeles Dodgers (LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu): Multiple trips to the disabled list have curtailed Desmond's first foray with the Rockies, but he's healthy now and ending the season hitting well. Colorado may be playing to clinch; look for Desmond to stay hot, having already hit a pair of homers the past week.
Denard Span (L), 5 percent, San Francisco Giants vs. San Diego Padres (RHP Jordan Lyles): While he's not a burner, Span has the ability to steal a base, as evidenced by three swipes the past two weeks. Chasing steals is tough, but Span is almost universally available and isn't afraid to run.
Hitter matchup ratings
Notes: Hitter ratings account for the opposing starting pitcher's history (three years' worth, as well as the past 21 days) and ballpark factors. "LH" and "RH" ratings account only for left- and right-handed batters, respectively. Weighted on-base average (wOBA) is the primary statistic used in the calculation. Ratings range from 1 to 10, with 10 representing the best possible matchup, statistically speaking, and 1 representing the worst. So, for example, a 10 is a must-start rating, whereas a 1 should be avoided (if possible); a 1-2 is poor, 3-4 is fair, 5-6 is average, 7-8 is very good and 9-10 is excellent.