The 3-2 Pitch by Andy Iskoe | Those "1908 World Champion" T-shirts will again be in vogue and worn with pride for another year around Chicagoland as the Cubs will have to wait until 2009 to end their now 101-year old jinx of failing to win the World Series.
Despite compiling the best record in the National League, the Cubs were stunningly swept out of the playoffs in three games by the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Cubs did very little right in being outscored 20-6 in the three games. The century of frustration for Cubs fans is extended while the Dodgers will face Philadelphia in the NLCS which starts in Philly on Thursday.
The Phillies were clearly the better team in ousting Milwaukee in four games. Both of their top starting pitchers, lefty Cole Hamels and righty Brett Myers, were very solid in winning the first two games. The duo pitched a combined 15 innings, allowing just four hits and two runs. Game 4 winner Joe Blanton lived up to his potential in pitching six solid innings.
With several days off before the start of the NLCS both teams will be able to arrange their rotations. Hamels has opened a -145 favorite over the Dodgers’ Derek Lowe for Game 1 with your choice of a 7½ or 8 projected total depending on where you shop around town. Game 2 should feature Myers against righty Chad Billingsley.
The Phillies are -140 to defeat the Dodgers and advance to their first World Series since 1993. The Dodgers would make an attractive take if the line were a bit higher, but the oddsmakers recognize the improvement shown by Los Angeles over the past two months.
The Dodgers are playing and pitching well enough to warrant backing them to win at least one of the first two games in Philadelphia. As they are in Game 1, the Dodgers should also be underdogs in Game 2.
The strategy will be to play the Dodgers in Game 1 and, if they lose, back them again in Game 2. Should the Dodgers win Game 1, then a pass on Game 2 makes sense unless the Phillies are favored by less than -150. If such is the case (and the matchup is Billingsley against Myers) the Phils would be the play in trying to square the series at 1-1.
Back in Los Angeles for Game 3, the Phillies would be playable only if a +140 underdog or more if the series is tied 1-1 or up 2-0. If Philly is down 0-2 their spirit might be broken and Dodgers would be playable at -140 or lower if the matchup is Hideki Kuroda vs. Jamie Moyer or -130 or lower if Kuroda opposes Blanton.
Philadelphia is known as a hitter’s park whereas Dodger Stadium has long been a park that favors pitchers. Use the 8 as your guide play over in games at Philadelphia and under in games at Los Angeles.
Projection: Dodgers in 6.
The addition of Manny Ramirez greatly strengthens the Los Angeles offense and the presence of manager Joe Torre rates an edge over the Phillies Charlie Manuel.
The ALCS matchup is not known as press time as both Tampa Bay and Boston are up 2-1 over Chicago and the LA Angels respectively heading into Monday’s Game 4’s.
Of the four potential matchups the winner of the Boston/LA Angels series would be playable to win the series against either Chicago or Tampa Bay provided the price was -180 or less.
Because the AL Divisional series will go either 4 or 5 games, pitching matchups cannot be determined in advance. Hence individual game forecasts cannot be made with any specificity.
Rather, a general approach would be to back a home team as a -140 favorite, while road underdogs at +135 or more would be worth a bet as well.