NBA Playoffs
Breaking down the divisional races

By Andy Roth
Contributing Editor

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    New York, NY (Sports Network) - With only 21 days left to the regular season, three divisional races could very well go right down to the wire. The Yankees lead the Rays by a half-game in the AL East. The Phillies are one game up on the Braves in the NL West, while the Padres and Giants are deadlocked atop the NL West, with the Rockies just 1 1/2 games back.

    Here's a look at the remaining schedule for each team and how I see the races shaking out.


    YANKEES - 7 home, 12 road (3 at Rays; 3 at Orioles; 4 vs Rays; 3 vs Red Sox; 3 at Blue Jays; 3 at Red Sox)

    RAYS - 12 home, 8 road (3 vs Yankees; 3 vs Angels; 4 at Yankees; 3 vs Mariners; 3 vs Orioles; 4 at Royals)

    The seven head-to-head games will be much more critical for the Yankees than the Rays, with Tampa having a decided edge with the rest of the schedule. The Bronx Bombers have to play 12 of their remaining 19 games on the road, where they've been decidedly worse this season (38-31) than at home (49-25). And what may be an even bigger problem for the Yankees is that they have 6 games left with their biggest rival, the Red Sox, while Tampa Bay has the luxury of playing the lowly Mariners three times and closing out the season with four games against the Royals.

    Projected Winner: Rays


    PHILLIES - 9 home, 9 road (3 at Marlins; 3 vs Nationals; 3 vs Braves; 3 vs Mets; 3 at Nationals; 3 at Braves

    BRAVES - 9 home, 9 road (3 vs Nationals; 3 at Mets; 3 at Phillies; 3 at Nationals; 3 vs Marlins; 3 vs Phillies)

    These two teams basically have the same schedule, so the head-to-head matchup will carry more weight in this race. The Phillies are playing much better than the Braves as we head down the stretch, having won 13 of their last 17, while Atlanta is 9-11 over its last 20 games. Philadelphia also has the more reliable starting pitching, with Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels at the front end of its rotation.

    Projected Winner: Phillies


    GIANTS - 12 home, 6 road (3 vs Dodgers; 3 vs Brewers; 3 at Cubs; 3 at Rockies; 3 vs Diamondbacks; 3 vs Padres)

    PADRES - 7 home, 13 road (3 at Rockies; 4 at Cardinals; 3 at Dodgers; 3 vs Reds; 4 vs Cubs; 3 at Giants)

    ROCKIES - 9 home, 9 Road (3 vs Padres; 3 at Dodgers; 3 at Diamondbacks; 3 vs Giants; 3 vs Dodgers; 3 at Cardinals)

    The Giants clearly have the edge as far as the schedule is concerned, and also have Tim Lincecum looking more like his old Cy Young self. The Rockies are currently the hottest team among the three teams, having won ten straight, while the Padres seem ready to fold and have to play their next ten games on the road.

    Projected Winner: Giants


    The Yankees reportedly will send Javier Vazquez back to the bullpen with Andy Pettitte on target to return from the disabled list this Sunday in Baltimore. Pettitte has one more minor league rehab start on Tuesday. Vazquez has had a rollercoaster season in his second stint with Yankees, pitching to an 11-10 mark with a 5.09 ERA.

    Roy Oswalt continues to pay major dividends for the Phillies. Oswalt pitched a complete-game four-hit shutout over the Mets on Sunday for his sixth straight win. Oswalt is 6-1 with a 1.91 ERA since being dealt from Houston to Philadelphia on July 29, and the Phils are 8-1 in his nine starts.

    CC Sabathia (19-6, 3.14 ERA) and David Price (17-6, 2.87 ERA) square off against each other tonight in Tampa in the opener of a crucial three-game series between the Yankees and Rays. Tonight's performances could very well push one of these pitchers into the lead for the coveted pitching award, although, as I stated last week, I believe the AL's best pitcher has been Felix Hernandez (11-11, 2.39 ERA).

    Andy Roth covered the Knicks for NBC Radio and AP Radio for eleven years and was an NBA Columnist for Celtics Pride Magazine for two years. He's covered many of the major sporting events, including the Super Bowl, World Series, NBA Finals, U.S. Open Tennis and Golf.

    Copyright 2010

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