Experience showing its worth

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In this odd, shortened regular season, we saw some teams generate a tremendous amount of excitement and win ballgames. But, it doesn’t matter if you had the most regular season wins and led your division. Come the playoffs, the past is history. 

In the Wild Card round, some of the teams with solid records and high hopes are now playing golf. The Twins, White Sox, and Indians have all departed. There were a few exceptions like the Cardinals and Cubs. But in all honestly, we’ve talked all season about those two teams not having the heart or the balance to win come the playoffs.

In the first day of the Divisional round, the beloved Yankees and the hated Astros (both second place teams) took down their division’s first-place squads, the Rays and the A’s. Both are teams with less playoff experience.

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To be honest, the Braves and Dodgers, who began their series on Tuesday, have quite a bit more postseason experience than their Divisional round opponents — th Marlins and the Padres. So be on the lookout.   

We may have encountered some new things this season, but some old things still ring true. Playoff experience counts for a lot.

I went 2-1 in last week’s Wild Card column. Here are this week’s Best Bets (all records, stats, and trends are as of print and may change as can starting pitchers):


Athletics vs. Astros: With probable starters Jesus Luzardo and Zack Greinke here for Game 3 at Dodger Stadium, as I alluded to earlier, postseason experience is huge 

Luzardo has only two playoff appearances (one start) of a mere 6.1 IP. The left-hander had a mediocre 3-2 record with a 4.12 ERA in the 2020 regular season. But the team lost five of his final seven starts after winning his first three outings.

He must now take the hill in a postseason game against the very dangerous Houston lineup, chock full of seasoned veterans.

Speaking of seasoned vets, I know Greinke’s playoff numbers are less than stellar (3-6, 4.13), but the 10-year pro has over 96. postseason IP in 17 games (all starts), striking out 85 batters. Playing in Dodger Stadium will benefit the more conditioned Greinke, as it is known as a pitcher’s park.

The Astros are 8-2 the last 10 Divisional playoff games and 4-1 the last five vs. teams with a winning record. The A’s are 2-5 the last seven Divisional playoff games and 2-7 the last nine overall playoff games. As long as these two pitchers go, we go Houston here. ASTROS

Rays vs. Yankees: It may be 2,770 miles from Yankee Stadium to Petco Park, but the Bombers of the Bronx will shine in San Diego here in Game 3. The pitchers are set with Charlie Morton going for the Rays and Masahiro Tanaka for the Bronx Bombers.

While Morton has a bit more innings under his belt, Tanaka owns the better won/loss record. Strangely enough, both have nine postseason starts to their credit. So, this game comes down to hitting.

Hands down, New York owns the more dangerous lineup, averaging 5.25 RPG, compared to Tampa Bay’s 4.82 RPG. The Yankees have the power to pile up runs with the long ball, as they did in the series-opening 9-3 victory Monday, tagging four round-trippers. They rank fifth in the Majors overall with 94 HR’s.

True, during this peculiar regular season, the Rays got the better of the Yankees. But, the regular season is over. New York is 10-4 the last 14 vs. righty starters, 4-0 the last four Divisional playoff games, and 4-1 the last five overall.

I prefer this pitching matchup here. But if either one or both mentioned here do not go, I still side with New York. YANKEES 

Padres vs. Dodgers: As of Tuesday morning, only Clayton Kershaw has been named a starter for Game 2 at Globe Life Field in Arlington, TX. The Padres have been keeping it close to the vest as far as naming starters lately.

To me, in this contest, it doesn’t matter. There are many naysayers out there that won’t give Kershaw his due respect. In his 11 starts in 2020, the team is 9-2 behind him. In 10 of those 11 starts, he allowed three or less earned runs. Over his career, the 32-year old has amassed a 175-76 record with a 2.43 ERA.

Granted, his postseason stats are less impressive, but he did blank Milwaukee in the Wild Card round, 3-0, allowing just three hits, striking out 13 and walking only one in 8.0 IP.

The Padres are 3-7 the last 10 playoff games. The Dodgers are 10-4 the last 14 Divisional playoff games. Maybe in a year or so I might feel differently about this matchup, but for now, I’m siding with Kershaw. DODGERS

Last week: 2-1

Season: 14-15

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