While a handful of American League teams jockey for playoff berths, five men find themselves in the thick of a race for the AL home run title—but for only one of them would be it a historic achievement.
Detroit Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera on Monday night pulled ahead of Josh Hamilton in the home race, by hitting his 44th dinger of 2012. Cabrera also leads the American League with a .329 batting average, and 137 runs batted, putting himself in line to win all three categories for the first Triple Crown since 1967.
But for Cabrera to cement his place in history, he'll have to best not only Hamilton, but three other sluggers. What are his chances of making it? We asked John Avello, Executive Director of Race & Sports at Wynn Las Vegas to handicap the field ahead of Monday's action.
1. Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers, 44 HR, 7-to-5 Odds of Home Run Title: Hopes to become the first man to win the Triple Crown since Carl Yastrzemski of the Boston Red Sox in 1967, who went 8-for-11 with 1 home run and 6 RBI over the last three games that year, as he secured the Crown, and his team locked up a World Series berth.
"I have Cabrera on top at 7-to-5. Cabrera is tied with Hamilton at 43 (home runs), he has three games at Kansas City, the Tigers can clinch (the AL Central) with a win, but it's possible that they might have to play a little bit longer, exert a little more energy to win (their division). The knock on Cabrera's last three games is that he hasn’t hit a home run at Kansas City yet. With all that being said, if the Tigers don't win tonight, they're gonna have to continue to keep playing hard until they do."
2. Josh Hamilton, Texas Rangers, 43 HR, 8-to-5 Odds of Home Run Title: Hamilton recently missed five games with ocular keratitis, a dryness of his eyes that he attributed to caffeine consumption. Standing in his way are the Oakland A's, the second-fewest in the league this season, while the Rangers try to lock up the top seed in the playoffs.
"Hamilton, he's always hurt. He's got three games at Oakland, the pitching's a little bit tougher at Oakland. He does hit a home run probably more frequently than anybody else, one every 12.5 at bats or so. Against Oakland he's hit three home runs this year, but the road's a little more difficult with the pitching, and Oakland's still gonna have to give all they have to make the wild card--it looks like they will, but still, there's no reason to lay down."
3. Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto Blue Jays, 42 HR, 4-to-1 Odds of Home Run Title: Has never hit more than 26 homers in a season, he's playing at home against the Twins, who've allowed more bombs than any team except Encarnacion's own Blue Jays. A strained muscle kept him out of Monday's line-up.
"The third choice is Encarnacion. He's only one behind, and the part that makes his odds a little less is he has three games at Minnesota, and we all know how the ball flies outta there, and he does hit a home run maybe one every 13 at-bats or so."
T4. Adam Dunn, Chicago White Sox, 41 HR, 8-to-1 Odds of Home Run Title: Since 2004, only Albert Pujols has hit more home than the Big Donkey's 334. But Dunn's been cold of late, with only 3 HRs in his past 22 games dating back to Aug. 25.
"Although he's two back, he's got three games at Cleveland, he's got six home runs against Cleveland this year in 55 at bats. That's one every 9 at bats, where his average is one every 13. He's not gonna sit down, I see no reason not to go all-out, if the Tigers lose and the White Sox win, they'll still continue to play hard. Even if they don't, I don't know if he'll rest the last two games."
T4. Curtis Granderson, New York Yankee, 41 HR, 75-to1 Odds of Home Run Title: Once a five-tool player who did a little bit of everything, Granderson last year morphed into a one-dimensional masher, launching 41 homers, to finish second behind league-leader Jose Bautista.
"He's going against Boston. It's just a longshot for him to get there. In 54 at bats he's got five home runs against Boston—he's just too far back. I don’t know if he's gonna get any rest, cuz the Yankees, it's gonna go right down to the final game for them."
Asked who he thinks will win the home run title, Craig Calcaterra of Hardball Talk came to the same conclusion as Avello, but his analysis was decidedly more succinct.
"I'm thinking Miggy, because he's gonna be facing the Royals... and they stink."