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AccuScore: Freeway Series could drive races

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AccuScore simulates every game of the season thousands of times to generate the exact winning percentage for each team in each game. It also simulates the entire season 10,000 times to calculate the precise odds of each team making the playoffs. Each week AccuScore focuses on a key series that could have a major impact on playoff races around the league. Visit AccuScore.com for more details on MLB simulations.

This Angels-Dodgers series may be more about bragging rights and getting a psychological edge over the cross-town rival than it has on either teams' playoff chances.

GAME-WINNING PERCENTAGES

The Angels are playing great baseball and have re-positioned themselves as favorites in the AL West. The Dodgers will likely lead the NL West all season. There are a number of intriguing match-ups based on starting pitching, but the AccuScore simulations clearly favor the Angels in each of them.

GAME WIN %

LAD

LAA

GAME 1: Billingsley vs. Saunders

40%

60%

GAME 2: Weaver vs. Weaver

32%

68%

GAME 3: Kershaw vs. Lackey

35%

65%

AVERAGE

36%

64%

Billingsley leads the NL in wins, but he is only winning 40% of simulations against Joe Saunders(notes). Saunders has come close to matching is stellar 2008 season and even though Billingsley has the better ERA and opponent batting average, he is helped out by playing in the NL and facing the pitcher rather than the DH. Game 2 will likely feature a match-up of brothers - Jeff Weaver(notes) vs. Jered Weaver(notes). Jeff Weaver has pitched well this year as a spot starter and out of the bullpen with a 3.72 ERA, but he has not come close to what younger brother Jered Weaver has done this year. Jered Weaver has held opponents to a .203 average and he has a cut his ERA by more than half in 2009 (2.08) vs. 2008 (4.33). Weaver is winning nearly 70 percent of Game 2 simulations.

Finally, John Lackey(notes) may be on the back-end of his career and right now his ERA is a sky-high 6.10. However, he is coming off a solid 10K performance vs the Giants. Clayton Kershaw(notes) has held batters to a .217 average, but his relatively low 1.67 K/BB ratio has hurt him. He did not allow an earned run in his last start. Both Kershaw and Lackey have been inconsistent this season and it would not be surprising if this game ended with a score of 1-0 or a score of 10-9. That said, the simulations favor the veteran at home 65 percent of the time.

CHANCE OF A SWEEP

The Angels have a clear advantage in "sweep probability". They are sweeping the Dodgers 27 percent of the simulations which is more than six times as high as the Dodgers' 4%. In other words, if the Angels do not win at least two of three this weekend they have to view the series as a massive disappointment. The Dodgers meanwhile can only win in this situation. A sweep at the hands of the Angels would not feel good, but they can still go on to win 95+ games and cruise to the playoffs no matter what.

PLAYOFF CHANCES

SERIES OUTCOME

%CHANCE

LAD

LAA

Dodgers Sweep Angels

4%

84%

47%

Angels Win 1 Game

25%

81%

50%

Angels Win 2 Games

44%

79%

54%

Angels Sweep Dodgers

27%

77%

56%

This is an interleague match-up so sweeps in either team's favor are not as devastating to the "sweepee" or as beneficial to the "sweeper" as it would be between two division rivals or teams competing for a Wild Card spot. In this case, the Angels have a lot more to lose. The Angels' winning streak and the fact that they have played six fewer home games than AL West competitor, Texas, has helped them take the lead in AccuScore's season forecast to win the AL West. The Angels have a 46 percent chance of winning the division and a 52 percent chance of making the playoffs. The Angels have a pretty high chance of sweeping the Dodgers (27 percent), but if they do they only improve their playoff chances to 56 percent. However, if they get swept by the Dodgers, the Angels' playoff odds dip below 50 percent to 47 percent.

The Dodgers are forecasted to hold onto the best record in the league and have a 74 percent chance of winning the division and a sky-high 80 percent chance of making the playoffs. If they get swept and the Giants sweep Texas they would still have a 5.5-game lead in the AL West. The Dodgers would make a huge statement if they swept the Angels, but in terms of statistical impact on their post-season chances they would only improve their odds by +4 percent to 84 percent. At the same time, a sweep at the hands of the Angels would still leave them with a league-high 77 percent chance of making the playoffs.