The New York Yankees have advanced to the American League Championship Series after sweeping Minnesota in three games and await the winner of the series between Houston and Tampa Bay in which the Astros were leading 2-1 with Game 4 to be played Tuesday night.
In the National League, both Divisional series are headed to decisive Game 5’s to be played on Wednesday. Facing elimination on Monday, both home teams forced that decisive fifth game as St. Louis edged Atlanta in 10 innings and Washington broke open a 1-1 game with four fifth-inning runs en route to a 6-1 win.
The first game of the NLCS is scheduled for Friday with the ALCS starting on Saturday.
Wednesday’s Game 5 in Atlanta is an attractive rematch of Game 2 in which Atlanta’s Mike Foltynewicz pitched seven scoreless inning and the Braves defeated the Cardinals 3-0 to even that series. Jack Flaherty pitched decently for the Cardinals but did allow all three runs in his seven innings. The rematch might be equally as low scoring. In Game 2 their combined fourteen and two-thirds innings the two starters combined for 15 strikeouts and 1 walk.
The opening line for Game 5 was basically a pick ‘em with a Total of 8. Although I rate Flaherty as the better of the two starters (notwithstanding Game 2) my play will be on both the Braves and the Under in the game that starts at just past 2 p.m. Pacific time.
The late game in Los Angeles features a compelling matchup of the Dodgers’ Walker Buehler against Washington’s Stephen Strasburg. The opening line had the Dodgers -145 home favorites with a Total of 7. The 5:37 local start time could bring shadows into play early which would further aid the pitchers and makes for an Under 4 play for the First 5 Innings.
The Dodgers have a huge edge in experience as they seek a third straight trip to the World Series while Washington seeks to end more than a half decade of playoff frustration and disappointment.
I will let any line moves dictate whether or not I make a play, looking to lay -130 or less with the Dodgers or take +150 or more with the Nats. Quite possibly the line will remain in my neutral range of -135 to -155 which would negate any enthusiasm for a side play.
I do expect the winner of this series to defeat either Atlanta or St. Louis and advance to the World Series. The Dodgers would have the home field advantage against either the Braves or Cardinals while either of those teams would have that edge over the Nationals.
I will look for a split in the first two games of the NLCS, playing the underdog in Game 1 with the result determining the play in Game 2.
Forecasting the ALCS is not quite as problematic as we know the Yankees will face either Houston or Tampa Bay. New York would be underdogs to the Astros but solid favorites over the Rays.
Houston was -250 on Tuesday to defeat Tampa Bay with Justin Verlander expected to face a series of Tampa relievers. Houston had a key reason to win Game 4 as a fifth game would almost certainly mean co-Ace Gerrit Cole would get that start and not be available to start Game 1 of the ALCS.
In looking towards a likely Yankees-Astros series my best plays are most likely plays against Houston in starts by other than Verlander or Cole, especially in starts by Zack Greinke. In starts by Verlander or Cole my preference will be to back the Under as both Astros starters are capable of going six or seven solid innings and the Yankees’ major pitching strength is their bullpen.
As with the NLCS I will look for the teams to split the first two games and will play the Yanks in Game 1 if getting at least +150 against Cole or at least +125 against Greinke.
The Yankees swept a Twins team that played in a division in which three of their four AL Central foes were a combined 128 games below .500. New York outscored Minnesota 23-7, winning by margins of six, six and four runs and easily covering the run line (and alternate runs line) in each game.
Against the Astros they step way up in class. I expect Houston to advance to the World Series and defeat the Yankees in no more than six games.
In an unlikely ALCS between the Yankees and Tampa Bay I would expect the Yankees to be solid favorites throughout and, depending on the price, might consider going with the Yankees in a four-game sweep, looking also to back New York minus the run and a half on an individual game basis in games in which the Yanks are favored by more than -150. Though a sweep is possible, the forecast is for the Yanks to get by the Rays in five games.