What little drama that remained prior to the start of the Major League Baseball playoffs played out on Monday.
Fans were treated to some bonus baseball as both the National League Central and Western Divisions required a Game 163 to determine a Division Champion. The drama of determining the NL playoff teams was diminished just a bit as all four teams that played Monday had already earned their way into the postseason. But the value of a Monday win would be the avoidance of having to play in the one game “loser goes home” Wild Card game the very next day.
Milwaukee won on the road at Wrigley Field in Chicago, defeating the Cubs 3-1 and winning not just the NL Central but also earning the top seed in the NL. The Brewers will face the winner of Tuesday’s Wild Card game that was hosted by the Cubs. Later Monday afternoon, the Dodgers hosted and defeated Colorado 5-2 to advance to the NLDS against Atlanta. The Rockies then made the trip from LA to Chicago to face the Cubs in Tuesday’s NL Wild Card game with the winner making the short trip to Milwaukee to take on the Brewers in the other NLDS.
Both NL Divisional Series are scheduled to start on Thursday and the two AL Divisional series on Friday.
The winner of Wednesday’s Wild Card game will face top-seeded Boston in one ALDS with second-seeded Houston opposing Cleveland in the other ALDS.
The Yankees took two of three games from Oakland when the teams met in New York in early May with Oakland taking two of three from the Yanks when the teams met in Oakland in early September. Thus the home team won four of six meetings and two of the three games in each series went over the Total.
If the Yankees are favored by no more than -150 the play would be on the Yankees. At more than -150 the Yankees would still be the play but at minus a run and a half. At a total of 8.5 or lower the over would be the preferred Totals play.
Here are brief previews of the two known Divisional Series and the two potential Divisional Series pending the outcome of both Wild Card Games.
Houston vs. Cleveland: Houston won four of seven meetings against the Indians, taking two of three at home and splitting their four-game series in Cleveland. Five of the seven games went over the Total. But it is important to note that all seven of those games were played in May, more than four months ago.
Both teams have solid starting pitching with their bullpens being average at best. Cleveland actually outscored Houston by 19 runs on the season but Houston dominated in run prevention, allowing a whopping 148 fewer runs than the Tribe (nearly a full run per game) and allowed a half-run less per game than the second-most effective team, the Dodgers.
I have long preferred backing quality starting pitchers in Playoff games, looking first to attractively priced underdogs and then to modestly priced favorites. For Cleveland, Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco, Mike Clevinger and Corey Kluber are all “play on” pitchers whereas for Houston Gerritt Cole, Charlie Morton and Justin Verlander qualify.
For the series the prediction is HOUSTON in the full 5 games.
Atlanta vs. L.A. Dodgers: The Dodgers earned home field advantage by virtue of just two more wins than the Braves, one of which was in Monday’s tie breaker. They also defeated the Braves in five of seven meetings this season.
The Dodgers have three solid starting pitchers in Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler and H J Ryu while the Braves’ best starter has been Mike Foltynewicz.
L.A. will be solid favorites in the first two games at home and can be backed if priced at minus 150 or less. More likely, Kershaw will be more heavily favored and he can be played minus the run and a half. Atlanta would be playable only at an unlikely generous price of plus 160 or more against other than Kershaw in L.A.
The call is for the DODGERS to win in 4 games.
Milwaukee vs. Chicago/Colorado: Interestingly, the Cubs could be favored over the Brewers while Milwaukee should be favored over the Rockies. Both teams are noted more for their offense than their pitching although each has gotten good enough pitching to win over 90 games.
Colorado’s duo of German Marquez and Kyle Freeland are the two best starters in the series. Milwaukee arguably has the better bullpen, which suggest the Rockies should be considered for First 5 Inning plays when Freeland and Marquez start.
The Cubs would present a different challenge to the Brewers, including a significant edge in postseason experience, Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks also are better than any Milwaukee starter although the Brewers’ Jhoulys Chacin has pitched well all season.
The predictions are MILWAUKEE over COLORADO in 4 games or CUBS over MILWAUKEE in 5 games.
Boston vs. Yankees/Oakland: The Red Sox will be favored over both the Yankees and Oakland although they will be more heavily favored over the As.
The key to Boston advancing should be how well lefty David Price pitches. Dating back to his days in Tampa, he’s struggled greatly in the Playoffs and has always had trouble against the Yankees.
Ace Chris Sale is Boston’s best starter and the best starter on either team. The Yankees’ trio over Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka and J.A. Happ rank behind Sale and on a par with the “good” David Price. Oakland’s strength is its bullpen although do not sell their offense short.
Look for either series to be high scoring although the overall pitching should be better if the Yankees win the Wild Card game. In a Boston vs Oakland series look at a First 5 Innings play on the over at Totals of 4.5 or less. Oakland would also be playable if getting at least plus 200, even against Sale in Fenway Park.
The Yankees can be played as underdogs in Boston against Sale if getting at least plus 150 or as any priced underdog (pardon the pun) against Price. The predictions are BOSTON over YANKEES in 5 games or BOSTON over OAKLAND in 4 games.