October baseball feels normal

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There was nothing “regular” about this regular season. We can surely depend on getting back to normal this postseason.

However, some things will be unique. The league expanded this year’s postseason to 16 teams. The field will be cut down to eight in the Wild Card round and teams will play a best-of-three-series at the home ballpark of the higher seed. After those series finish, the remaining playoff games will be played in a neutral-site bubble from Los Angeles, San Diego, Houston, and Arlington.

Let’s talk about “normal.” Everything changes once the playoffs begin. While, for the most part, teams don’t have to deal with home-field advantage or crowd noise down the road, make no mistake about it, pressure is a factor and so is playoff experience.

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Unlike every other year, some of these combatants haven’t even had a chance to meet each other this regular season. Offense scores runs, but this time of year, both the starting pitching and the bullpen means a lot.

The success of teams like the Padres, A’s and White Sox made for an exciting campaign and they all certainly have a good shot at winning the whole enchilada. I still think they each may be a year or so away from being a true World Series threat. But I do feel at 10-1, 10-1, and 15-1 to win it all this season, they all offer value.

One team, to me that does not offer great value to win the World Series is this season’s team with the best record, the Dodgers. They are without question a true powerhouse. But at 7-2, I would prefer to bet them heavy in one or two matchups as opposed to betting them to take it all.

On a side note, they are always a bridesmaid and never a bride. LA has won 23 pennants, but haven’t won a World Series since 1988.

If you are looking to make an investment to win it all, look no further than the Twins and the Braves. At 10-1 and 12-1, both have played solid ball all season and both offer enormous value.

Here are this week’s Best Bets (all records, stats, and trends are as of Tuesday and may change as can starting pitchers):

Wednesday

Cardinals at Padres: These two teams have not met in 2020, but going back a few seasons, San Diego has taken six of the last eight meetings with St. Louis. Officially, the Padres have not named their Game 1 starter yet.

The Cardinals have scheduled Kwang-Hyun Kim, who began the season as the team’s closer and is making his first MLB playoff start.

To me, both items play a factor here. The 32-year old rookie has pitched well, going 3-0 with a 1.62 ERA in eight appearances (seven starts). Pitching well in the regular season is one thing. But making your postseason debut against the Padres in Petco is a whole different monster. The lefty will most-likely face mainly right-handed sluggers here.

San Diego possesses a dangerous lineup, ranking in the top-five in most categories and averaging over 5.42 RPG. I expect “K-K” to feel the pressure and get into some early trouble.

The Padres, who want to make the most of their first postseason since 2006, are less fatigued than the perennial postseason Cardinals, which were forced to play 53 games in 44 days, including 11 doubleheaders. The struggling St. Louis offense is no match for Fernando Tatis Jr. and the mighty San Diego bats. PADRES

Astros at Twins: The most disliked team this season, the Houston Astros are a far cry from the team that made two World Series appearances the last three seasons. They eked out a dismal, 29-31 regular season record this year. Minnesota began the campaign hot, and stood that way, playing solid baseball for most of the regular season. Not since August have they even dropped more than two in a row.

As I said earlier, there is nothing normal about this season. I feel this is the one shot Houston has to take control. These two teams have not met in 2020, however going back a bit, the Astros have taken six of the last 10 meetings with the Twins.

Lance McCullers (3-3, 3.93 ERA in 2020) has 11 postseason appearances over his career, including four starts and one save, donning a 1-0, 2.53 playoff mark. Jose Berrios (5-4, 4.00) has just two playoff appearances, including only one start, sporting an 0-1 record with a 5.14 ERA. The Astros with McCullers on the mound offer real value here in Game 2. ASTROS

Brewers at Dodgers: L.A. is loaded both on the mound and at the plate. The Dodgers enter the postseason having won 10 of their final 12 regular season contests. Although they have not faced each other in 2020, the Dodgers did take four of the last five matchups with the Brewers a season ago.

Walker Buehler is well-rested, having only pitched four innings over the last three weeks. But, LA is confident he has the repertoire and the savvy to dominate here and give them a Game 1 win.

The Majors’ top-scoring lineup of the Dodgers account for more than a full run and a half ( 5.82 RPG), than does the Brewers (4.12). Josh Lindblom (2-4, 5.16 ERA) is in way over his head here and will get shelled. DODGERS RUN LINE

Last week: 0-3

Season: 12-14

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