Baseball is down to its version of the “Final Four” although some might say the field has been trimmed to the “Final Three and a Half” based upon what many consider the improbable status of the American League Championship Series.
As we go to press on Monday prior to the playing of Game 3 of the ALCS the series stands somewhat shockingly two games to none in favor of the underdog Kansas City Royals after the team whose last Playoff appearance was in 1985 went into Baltimore and swept the first two games.
In winning Game 1 in 10 innings, 8-6, the upstart Royals became the first team in baseball history to win four extra-innings postseason games. By following that win with a win the next day to take a 2-0 lead over the Orioles, Kansas City has now won all six postseason games.
Recall the Royals had that crazy win over Oakland in the AL Wild Card game and then swept past the Los Angeles Angels in three straight games to advance to the ALCS.
Thus, heading into Monday’s Game 3, the Royals – who had opened as +120 underdogs to win the ALCS are now -400 favorites to advance to the World Series.
Stated another way, in order to win the ALCS and reward their backers who laid the 140 on the Orioles, Baltimore will have to win four of the next five games, the next three of which shall be played in Kansas City! Those who believe the O’s will do just that can now get in the vicinity of +325 if they are correct.
A very likely scenario that could unfold is the series returns to Baltimore with the Royals holding a 3-2 lead. But much will hinge on the result of Monday’s Game 3, which will have been played by the time this column is being read on Tuesday in many places.
Thus the following strategy would be one to consider:
If the Royals won on Monday they would be the play to complete a four game sweep in Tuesday’s Game 4. Should the Orioles win that game to force a fifth game on Wednesday the Orioles would be the play again in Game 5.
If indeed the Orioles do win to force a Game 6 back in Baltimore on Friday the play would be on the Royals to close out the series. But if there is a seventh game in the series the play would be on Baltimore.
Should Baltimore have won Monday’s game to draw within 2-1, the O’s would again be the play in Game 4.
The Royals would be the play in Game 5 regardless of the result of Game 4 as they would be in position to either win the series in 5 games or to take a 3-2 lead back to Baltimore, in which case Baltimore would be the play in both Games 6 and 7.
The OVER remains the preferred Totals play throughout the balance of the ALCS provided the number is no higher than 8.
This has become a best of five series after St. Louis evened the series at a game apiece with Sunday night’s 5-4 walkoff win over San Francisco, a game in which the Cardinals uncharacteristically slugged 4 home runs.
But was it a costly win for the Cardinals who lost catcher Yadier Molina, perhaps for the duration of the postseason, to an oblique injury. Most media reports do list him as questionable as of mid-Monday morning. The multiple Golden Glove winner has been a solid offensive player for the past several season but his true value is behind the plate in handling the St. Louis pitching staff. His absence was felt when he missed seven weeks over the summer with a thumb injury.
With the home field advantage St. Louis was a 130 favorite before the NLCS began to advance to the World Series. With the series tied heading to San Francisco for the next three games the books that have posted revised NLCS odds have it as a pick ‘em with the Giants and Cardinals each -110.
In last week’s column, before the NLCS matchups were determined, the call for this potential matchup was for San Francisco to defeat St. Louis.
The Giants have a solid rotation, a well-balanced lineup and a solid bullpen but those edges are not that great over St. Louis. The one area in which the Giants do have a solid edge is in manager Bruce Bochy. He’s already won a pair of World Series titles in 2010 and 2012.
St. Louis skipper Mike Matheny has a nice future ahead of him and did guide the Cardinals to last season’s World Series in which they were defeated by Boston. But Bochy remains one of the most respected and accomplished managers in the game today.
These teams are pretty evenly matched although, as just noted, the Giants seem to have an accumulation of tiny edges that result in them being the call to advance. As such the call is for this series to go the distance.
In playing the balance of the series look to bet the home team if the series is tied and the trailing club when needing to win to even the series or to stay alive. This means San Francisco would be the play if there is a seventh game, which would be played in St. Louis.
This goes against the strong historical tendency in all sports for the home team to win a seventh game. But the Giants have been an excellent road team during their recent postseason success.
Sunday night’s loss in Game 2 in St. Louis snapped a 7 game post season road winning streak.
The UNDER is also the preferred option for playing the Total for the duration of the NLCS, provided it is no lower than 6 (and preferably at a line of 6.5 or even 7).
In next week’s column the World Series, scheduled to begin next Tuesday, Oct. 21, shall be previewed.
Andy Iskoe, and his Logical Approach, provides his popular and unique handicapping statistics to Gaming Today readers and online visitors. He has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football. Contact Andy at [email protected].