As we go to press on Monday both home teams have held serve as Kansas City and New York Mets won twice vs. Toronto and the Chicago Cubs respectively.
So if Toronto and/or the Cubs are to advance to the World Series they will have to win 4 of the next 5 with only 3 of those games at home.
The importance of the home field in Playoff baseball is such that the home team does not have to win even one game on the road in order to advance whereas the road team must win at least once away from home.
As noted several times over the second half of this season, MLB should give serious consideration to seeding the teams in the Playoffs. The Cubs had the third best record in all of baseball, winning 97 regular season games, but had to play the first two games of the NLCS on the road at the Mets, who won 90 games. Adding to the insult the Cubs swept all 7 games from the Mets, although they last met in early July prior to their NLCS matchup.
What really hurts the Cubs is their top two starters, Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester, pitched in the first two games of the NLCS. There is a huge drop off from that duo to the rest of the rotation.
That is not the case with the Mets, who were able to win the first two games without getting a start from arguably their best starter, Jacob deGrom. The first two wins were authored by Matt Harvey and Noah Syndergaard. It can be argued there really is not a huge gap in talent and performance among the trio.
Tuesday’s Game 3 features deGrom facing Kyle Hendricks of the Cubs with the Mets roughly -135 favorites as of Monday morning. The major impact of wind conditions at Wrigley Field causes linesmakers to not post totals on Cubs home games until the day of the game.
Normally this would be a good spot to back the Cubs as they seek to avoid falling down 0-3 and facing elimination in Game 4. As underdogs the Cubs are certainly playable to extend the series to at least 5.
Perhaps the best play of the series could occur if there is a Game 5 on Thursday and the series is tied 2-2. That would mean the Cubs had won both Games 3 and 4, putting some pressure on the Mets to avoid a 3 game sweep. Most likely Game 5 would be a rematch of Game 1 with Lester facing Harvey.
If Harvey is made the road favorite the Cubs would be an excellent play having gained series momentum. At +120 or more the Cubs would be the play.
Unfortunately, that situation is not expected to develop (the Mets are favored to win Game 3) but Game 4 may hold the key. In a likely matchup of the Cubs’ Jason Hammel vs. Steven Matz for the Mets, the visitors would be in position to either complete a 4 game sweep or to take a 3-1 edge. Facing elimination the Cubs would be worth playing if made the underdog. If looking to bounce back from a loss in Game 3 the Mets would be the play if favored by -125 or less.
The Mets remain the call to win the NLCS. In winning Games 1 and 2 they defeated both Lester and Arrieta when a split against the duo would have been considered a success even though both games were at home.
The Mets can now afford losses to both Lester and Arrieta in their next encounters provided they win either Game 3 or Game 4.
And should they lose both Games 3 and 4 the Mets would still need to win just either Game 5 or Game 6 against that pair to have a chance to win a deciding Game 7, which would be played in New York (as would Game 6).
ALCS: The pick last week was for Toronto to get past Kansas City in 6 if that was the matchup. That prediction becomes much more problematic based on the results of the first two games.
Not that the Blue Jays cannot or will not win the ALCS, but doing it in 6 will be tough to accomplish after losing the first two in Kansas City.
Part of the handicap had Toronto accomplishing at least a split. In fact, the Blue Jays were favored in each.
The Royals have displayed the same kind of resolve they showed last season when they turned their Wild Card win into a seventh game loss to the San Francisco Giants. KC continues to do a bit of everything well with no glaring weaknesses. They play solid defense, can run the bases, and still have a formidable bullpen while not asking their starters to go deep into games.
The key to this series may be Game 3, which was played on Monday. If the Blue Jays got the win behind Marcus Stroman, Toronto should be able to extend the series to at least 6 by also winning either or both Games 4 and 5. Even if returning to Kansas City down 3-2, the Blue Jays would be the preferred play to win either or both Games 6 and 7.
If Toronto won Game 3 they can be backed in Games 4 and 5 on the run line, laying a run and a half, provided they scored at least 5 runs on Monday to somewhat gain the confidence that their bats are back.
If Toronto happened to win a low scoring contest they would be playable as a straight play in Games 4 and 5 if laying -140 or less. Should Kansas City have won, the Royals might do what so many teams have done in the past when looking to complete a series sweep – back them to complete the job. We recommend the Royals if underdogs of +125 or more.
The more interesting situation would develop if the Blue Jays, down 0-3 and seeking to avoid elimination, win Game 4. In such a scenario the Jays could be backed to pull within 3-2 after Game 5, either on the run line or in a straight play at -150 or less.
If the Blue Jays fall down 0-2 and then win the next two games to return to KC down 3-2 it would be tough to back them to complete the first 4 game sweep in World Series history after losing the first 3. Only the 2004 Boston Red Sox overcame an 0-3 deficit to come back and win a series but that was in the ALCS.
Kansas City would be playable in both Games 6 and 7 if made the underdogs as they were in Games 1 and 2, which were also played at home.
Let’s hope at least one, if not both, of these series are extended to the weekend.
Next week: A World Series preview.
Andy Iskoe, and his Logical Approach, provides his popular and unique handicapping statistics to GamingToday readers and online visitors. He has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football. Email: [email protected]