Both the American League and National League Championship series have become a best of five affair after the first two games were split in both Texas and Philadelphia.
In this best of seven 2-3-2 format, the New York Yankees returned home for Monday night’s Game 3 of the ALCS against the Rangers with the possibility of wrapping up the series by winning three straight in the Bronx. Winning that third game to take a 2-1 series lead was not going to be an easy feat as the Yanks were up against “The General,” lefty Cliff Lee.
San Francisco can similarly advance to the World Series without having to return to Philadelphia for a Game 6 and/or 7 by sweeping their three home games against the Phillies. The NLCS resumes Tuesday afternoon in “The City” with a solid pitching matchup of Philadelphia lefty Cole Hamels, the hero of the Phillies’ 2008 World Series title opposing the Giants’ Matt Cain.
In the ALCS Monday’s Game 3 was critical for the Yankees’ chances of advancing to the World Series. A loss would have put them down 2-1 in the series and they would still have to face Cliff Lee back in Texas later in the series. A win and the Yankees could relax a bit with the enigmatic A J Burnett set to face the Rangers in Tuesday’s Game 4.
As the series plays out, the Yankees are worth a play in both Games 4 and 5 if priced at -160 or less regardless of the pitching matchup
Note that even with Lee’s overall postseason success, the Yankees did rough him up last season in one of two World Series meetings. The Phillies won Game 5 at home 8-6 but in that game Lee allowed 7 hits and 5 runs (all earned) in 7 innings. Earlier in the series, in Game 1 at Yankee Stadium, Lee tossed a complete game in a 6-1 Philly win. The Yanks were able to make adjustments in that second meeting, with further evidence provided by the normally pinpoint Lee walking 3 Yankees and striking out just 3 after fanning 10 and walking none in Game 1.
So it’s not an automatic that Lee is a sure play to win back in Texas. But that may be the way to bet. If the ALCS returns to Texas for a Game 6 or 7, Lee would be the play if the Rangers are down 3-2, needing the win and Lee is priced at -150 or less. Should the Yankees need the win and can get at least +130 then the play would be on the Yanks.
It would be hard to ignore the Yankees’ huge edge in experience if the series goes to a seventh game but in such a scenario let the price determine the play. It could be a matchup of Pettitte for the Yankees against either Lewis, Hunter or Wilson depending on how Texas manager Ron Washington wants to use his rotation. That likely depends on series status. The Yankees would be the play as favorites of -125 or less in a Game 7 while Texas would be worth a play if getting at least +150.
Texas averaged almost a full run less on the road than they did at home much as did the Yankees. Overall the Yankees were the higher scoring team by about 60 runs over the course of the season.
The OVER is still preferred to the UNDER except in Lee’s starts with Totals of 9 or lower being playable.
The Phillies are still favored to win the NLCS despite heading west and the Giants having a chance to wrap up the series with three straight home wins.
Pivotal Game 3 on Tuesday has Philly lefty Cole Hamels a slight -115 favorite over Matt Cain. The pitching matchup is pretty even but the Phils’ edge on offense makes them a play against Cain. The Total sets up as an UNDER but 6½ is a dangerous Total to play UNDER. Still, the first 2 games in hitter friendly Philadelphia produced 7 runs in each game and San Francisco is a much more friendly pitcher’s park. Thus UNDER would be playable in Game 5 as it would in a Game 5 rematch between Tim Lincecum and Roy Halladay.
In such a matchup, the Total is likely to be 6 (as it was in Game 1). Neither Halladay nor Lincecum was sharp after more than a week of rest and each allowed two home runs. Yet the game went OVER by just one run as the Giants won 4-3. So UNDER 6 in a rematch is playable but there is also the chance that depending on how Games 3 and 4 unfold we could see a Total of 5½ in which case it might be best to pass the Total.
The most likely scenario for an OVER might be in Game 4 when Philly likely sends Joe Blanton to the mound to face the Giants’ Madison Bumgarner in a battle of lefties. If the Total shows at 7 or lower, an OVER can be played but we might well see 7½ or 8.
The Giants would be the play in that Game 4 matchup even if they are up in the series 2-1. But in such a case they would have to be underdogs of at least +125. If the Phillies are up 2-1 entering Game 4 then Bumgarner can be played if he is favored but by no more than -120.
In a Game 5 scenario, the Giants with Lincecum would be playable if they are seeking to avoid elimination by being down 1-3 in the series. In such a game Lincecum can be played if favored by no more than -150.
Should the series be tied or if Philly is down 1-3 then the Phils are the play with Halladay if he is not favored by more than -150.
Should the series return to Philadelphia, the Phillies would be playable as favorites of -140 or less while the Giants are playable as underdogs of +150 or more. But the better plays in a potential Game 6 or 7 would be the UNDER if the Total is 7 or higher.
In next week’s column, we should know the 2010 World Series matchup and will provide some insights and recommendations.