Last Friday baseball fans were treated to the annual quadruple-header in the League Division Series when both leagues are playing on the same day.
Barring a rainout in New York Monday night, there was another chance to view four playoff games on one day as both Boston and the Yankees won on Sunday to avoid elimination in their best of fiver series against Houston and Cleveland respectively.
With wins on Monday or Wednesday, if needed, Houston and Cleveland would advance to the ALCS and match a pair of teams that each won more than 100 games during the regular season. It would be a surprise if Boston and/or the Yankees won on Monday and Wednesday to deny us that matchup as the Astros and Indians have been the best teams in the American League all season.
But, anything is possible in sports.
Monday also featured games in Chicago and Arizona. The Cubs split their first two games in Washington against the Nationals, winning the first but surrendering a late lead in the second time. Arizona needed a win on Monday to avoid a three game sweep by the Dodgers who won a pair of high scoring games in historically pitcher-friendly Dodger Stadium to open the series.
With the results of the four Divisional Series unknown as we go to press and the pitching matchups for the remaining games uncertain to a large extent and perhaps rendered meaningless should any of the series end in four games or less the following potential League Championship Series previews are unavoidingly brief, somewhat vague and general in nature.
The most likely matchup would feature Houston and Cleveland with Houston having the home field advantage in the best of seven series due to one more regular season win than the Astros (102 vs. 101).
Houston won the first meeting between the teams in the regular season but Cleveland won the next five games. Two games went OVER, three stayed UNDER and there was one PUSH as the teams combined to average 8.5 total runs per game. The teams have not met since late May when Houston was the hottest team in baseball and the Indians had yet to hit their stride.
Cleveland will be favored in the series but the price might be depressed slightly because of the injury sustained by slugger Edwin Encarnacion in Game 2 of the series that could have him miss considerable time. Or, according to sources, he might even have returned by the end of their series against the Yankees.
Cleveland will have the overall pitching edge, especially in the bullpen, although Houston’s top two starters, Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel, are both solid starters and can be played as Underdogs against any Cleveland starter. Otherwise, Cleveland will be playable against other Houston starters if laying no more than minus 140 at home nor more than minus 120 in Houston.
Cleveland’s bullpen edge might be more conducive to looking UNDER before OVER in this series, especially at Totals of 8 or higher. At a Total of 7 or 7.5 the UNDER would require a matchup of Verlander or Keuchel facing Cleveland’s Corey Kluber or Carlos Carrasco.
The prediction is for Cleveland to eliminate Houston in six games.
Should either the Indians or Astros blow their two games to none lead and be swept the predictions would be as follows.
Houston took 5 of 7 games from the Yankees this season and would be solid favorites to win their ALCS. The Yankees would be playable as underdogs of plus 160 or more against Verlander or plus 150 against Keuchel but the Astros would be the pick to win in six games.
Boston won four of seven meetings against Cleveland that were all played after the All Star break. Given Boston ace Chris Sale’s late season struggles that carried over into their series against Houston the Red Sox could be vulnerable to an early exit. The prediction would be for Cleveland to oust the Red Sox in five games.
The Dodgers would be betting favorites to defeat either Washington or the Cubs whereas the Cubs or Nationals would be favored over Arizona.
The prediction here last week was for Washington to make it to the World Series from the National League, getting past the Dodgers who were predicted to face a challenge from Arizona which they had not received in winning the first two games in Los Angeles
With the Cubs now having the home field edge with games 3 and 4 against the Nats the Cubs have a solid chance to advance. But Washington still has a significant starting pitching edge and if they take one of the two games at Wrigley Field would be favored to win Game 5 back at home on Thursday.
The Dodgers need to win once in three games to advance past Arizona and while the Diamondbacks were slight favorites to win Monday night the Dodgers would be playable to eliminate Arizona in Game 4 or 5 should they have lost Monday night.
The prediction for a Washington vs Dodgers NLCS would be for Washington to win in 7 games. The teams split their six regular season meetings with the road team winning 2 of 3 in each series. 5 of the 6 games stayed UNDER the Total with the other game resulting in a PUSH. The teams combined to average just 5.3 total runs per game. Thus the UNDER at Totals of 7 or less would be the preferred play throughout this matchup.
In a Cubs vs Dodgers NLCS the prediction would be for the Dodgers to win in 6 games. The Dodgers won 4 of 6 regular season games between the teams in what also was a low scoring set of games. The teams played 5 UNDERs and just 1 OVER, averaging a combined 5.5 total runs per game. They were very unusual series in that the home team in the 6 games outscored the visitors 25 to 6.
Look to UNDER Totals of 8 or less at Dodger Stadium. With Totals at Wrigley Field subject to prevailing wind conditions it is hazardous to venture possible Totals plays without knowledge of both the winds and the pitching matchups.
Should Arizona upset the Dodgers the Diamondbacks would be the pick to get past the Cubs in 6 games but fall to the Nationals in 5 games.
In next week’s columns both League Championship Series will have begun and it will be possible to make more specific assessments of how the balance of each series might play out with knowledge of the likely pitching matchups and the status of each series through Sunday.