- El Niño ‘97
Since I haven’t been able to say the Miami Marlins are playing in the NLDS for the past 17 years, let’s go ahead and start the preview with the self-proclaimed “Bottom Feeders”. The Fish were a huge surprise throughout this entire shortened season with their team of misfits, not to mention dealing with the COVID outbreak that took out 18 players just one series into their season.
Don Mattingly has done a fantastic job piecing this 60-game season together and should be the front runner to win the NL Manager of the Year award. Miami has had one clear strength this season, their starting rotation. Since rejoining the team after contracting COVID-19, Sandy Alcantara has dazzled as the Marlins clear ace. Meanwhile, Pablo López put together his most consistent season as a big leaguer yet.
But, as we saw in Game 2 of the Cubs series, the addition of Sixto Sanchez has truly made this pitching staff one of the best in baseball. Having these three arms heading into the NLDS against the Braves (5 game series), should have bettors seeing some exceptional value if you’re willing to ride with the Fish.
In the Wild Card series, the Marlins were +150 with Alcantara toeing the slab and +180 with rookie sensation Sixto on the hill. A huge blow to the Marlins offense is losing newly acquired Starling Marte after he was hit on his left hand causing a non-displaced fracture on the fifth metacarpal. It looks like he will be out for most, if not all of the NLDS.
Look for a trio of outfielders encompassing Lewis Brinson, Monte Harrison & Magneurius Sierra to platoon as the CF options and wreak havoc on the base paths in the process. All in all, it’s a long shot for the Marlins to move on to the NLCS against a Braves team that has one of, if not the top offenses in baseball. There is, however, one potential scenario I see playing out that may favor the Marlins this series (see Braves preview). Just don’t be surprised if they steal 1 or 2 games this series due to a couple of stellar pitching performances and some timely hitting that has propelled them into the playoffs.
The Atlanta Braves will have their hands full facing a familiar foe in the Marlins on their road back to the NLCS. There are no concerns in regards to their offensive prowess, with the young stud in CF Ronald Acuña Jr. leading the charge.
During the Wild Card series, the 22 year old superstar batted .364 with a .909 OPS, but that may slow down a bit this series. Acuña is batting a mere .192 against the Marlins top pitching trio in his career (5 for 26). Don’t let that worry you too much… the Braves this season have annihilated Marlins pitching, hitting .280, including an absolute boat race to the tune of 29 runs scored on September 9th.
However, what Braves series bettors should be worried about is the pitching depth in the rotation. Behind the sensational Max Fried and young gun Ian Anderson, the Braves are left with a struggling Kyle Wright who holds a 5.21 ERA and an abysmal 1.55 WHIP this season over 8 starts. Game 4, if necessary, would be a “bullpen game” with Josh Tomlin being the most likely candidate to start it off. If the Marlins can steal one of the first two games before getting to Kyle Wright, there’s a decent chance they ride Sixto into a 2-1 series lead going into the aforementioned “bullpen game”.
The Braves are going to rely heavily on their lineup to carry this team to their ultimate goal of winning a World Series and hope their pitching doesn’t falter down the stretch as it has in previous series.
LAD vs. SD
The LA Dodgers and San Diego Padres will be facing off in the second series of the NLDS. I am going to combine these two previews because I see this series being pretty lopsided in the Dodgers favor.
The Padres are looking like they will go into this series without their top two starters Dinelson Lamet and Mike Clevinger. Both have experienced arm issues and even if they are somehow able to throw any innings this series, I doubt they will be anywhere near 100%. The biggest let down for the Padres this year is thinking they could rely on Paddack this to take the next step in his young career and it just hasn’t happened. Chris was absolutely shelled in his first career postseason outing by a below average offense in the St. Louis Cardinals, giving up 6 earned runs in just 2.1 innings of work.
Of course, Slam Diego is still hot, being led by the new face of baseball Fernando Tatis and a Manny Machado who has reverted back to his former MVP caliber ways. I will say this lineup is deeper than most in the MLB but they are running into the deepest pitching rotation in baseball, which I believe can slow the Pads down enough to win the series.
Walker Buehler is starting to regain his stamina and composure after an up and down regular season that included nagging blister issues. Clayton Kershaw was lights out last series against a struggling Brewers team, striking out 13 over 8 innings and giving up 0 runs. We have to remember this is midseason form Kershaw with the shortened season, so expect him to have plenty left in the tank to go deep into ball games throughout these playoffs. Having Dustin May, Julio Urias and Tony Gonsolin at their disposal, coming out of the bullpen or as potential starters, is the biggest advantage of the series by far. Not to mention, the Dodgers have former MVP’s Cody Bellinger and Mookie Betts on their roster.
I see this series going four games MAX and the Dodgers coasting to yet another NLCS appearance with their abundance of riches, primed and ready to make a championship run.
- El Niño ‘97
Just to recap my previous picks from October 2nd, I came out scalding hot nailing all three bets for the Marlins vs. Cubs game. Sixto Sanchez hit the over 4 K’s mark in just the 3rd inning, while Yu Darvish kept the game close only allowing 2 runs over 6.2 innings pitched clinching the under 7 runs line with ease. The bet of the day was the Marlins at +180 odds taking Game 2 and moving on to the NLDS to face their the division rival the Atlanta Braves. I decided to not give any picks out for the Padres vs. Cardinals game because of the late starting pitcher announcement by the Pads. I will be coming out with a NLDS preview tomorrow along with picks for each Game 1 on Tuesday.
Now let’s get to the opening games for the ALCS slate!
Houston Astros (+130) vs. Oakland Athletics (-140)
The Astros are sending Lance McCullers to the mound instead of Zack Greinke to start the series off. After a shaky start to the year, McCullers finished the regular season not giving up an earned run in his last 17.2 innings pitched and that does not include the one game he pitched this year against the A’s on August 29th where he spread 6 hits over 6 innings of work while striking out 7 and allowing only 1 earned run. He has also shown success in his postseason career with a 2.53 ERA over 32 innings of work and only 19 hits allowed (1.00 WHIP).
As all those stats look great, he hasn’t pitched in a game since September 26th, so you have to wonder if he will be as sharp as he would be on normal 5 days rest. Moving on to the A’s starting pitcher Chris Bassitt, we have a lot more dirt to kick off the spikes. Has Chris been pitching well as of late? Absolutely. However, I see some regression to the mean in his near future. In 3 starts this season against Houston, he posted a 2.65 ERA over 17 innings of work but, allowed 16 hits.
Going back to 2019, Bassitt produced a 5.00 ERA over 3 starts, allowing 19 hits and 10 earned runs over 18 innings of work. Seeing the correlation of hits to innings pitched from one year to the other, it seems that there has been a little bit of luck involved with Bassitt’s success this season, especially against the Astros. Lastly, Altuve, Bregman, Correa, Springer, Gurriel & Brantley over their careers have combined to hit .307 with a .346 OBP against Bassitt.
Despite the extra few days rest, I see McCullers picking up right where he left off to the end the regular season. Couple that with the A’s batting an anemic .197 last series without their star third baseman Matt Chapman, Lance will have an advantageous opportunity to get his team a 1-0 series lead. Meanwhile, I expect Bassitt to come crashing back down to Earth against an Astros team who has hit him well throughout his career.
Houston Astros (+130) and/or Houston Astros First 5 Innings (+115)
Under 8.5 runs (-120)
New York Yankees (-145) vs. Tampa Bay Rays (+135)
We get both teams horses right out of the gate for Game 1... what more could you ask for? Both Blake Snell and Gerrit Cole were lights out in their ALWC starts, striking out a combined 22 batters over 13.2 innings. While Cole struggled in 2 out of 3 starts against the Rays this year, he’s returned to his dominant self in his last 5 starts going 4-1 with a 1.32 ERA while compiling 47 K’s over 34 innings.
As for Snell, going back to the beginning of last season, he has faced the Yankees 7 times and held them to 2 runs or fewer in 5 of those starts. He is also coming off a stellar one hit performance against the Blue Jays in the Wild Card Series. While the pitching match up for Game 1 is too close to call, I can’t say the same for these two teams offensively. Over the last two weeks, the Yankees are batting .278 while averaging over 7 runs per game. Tampa Bay, on the other hand, have a batting average of .232 while averaging 4 runs per contest over the same span.
With the Yanks finally being able to field a healthy squad consistently for the first time all year last series, look for their bats to stay hot and be the deciding factor in this pitcher’s dual. I see Cole going 7+ strong with Snell seeing his usual 5 to 6 innings pitched due to a high pitch count and a few too many walks. Yanks will take the 1-0 series lead with their Ace on the mound while the Bronx Bombers prove that they indeed have the most potent lineup in the MLB when healthy.
New York Yankees (-145)
Let’s start off with the beloved Houston Astros. No Verlander, no more video cameras in centerfield & no more trash cans banging in the dugout? No problem. 99.9% of baseball fans wanted to see this series end with the Twins on top (including myself), but the Twins track record in the postseason should’ve had gamblers foaming at the mouth for some juicy money lines in the Astros favor.
Even with the Twins coming into the series, having lost 16 straight playoff games, the Stros were +145 in Game 1 and +135 in Game 2. Look for that kind of plus money odds in their upcoming series with A’s. The Houston offense has been missing some of that pop this season, but these guys are professional hitters and will continue to grind out at bats, keeping this team in every game they play.
However, starting pitching is a huge question mark for Houston this postseason, so expect for guys like Framber Valdez and Christian Javier to be heavily relied upon if things get rocky early on. I’m going to leave you with this, there is money to be made next series with this Astros club and don’t be surprised if you see them in the ALCS when it’s all said and done.
Next we have the Oakland Athletics, who will be going up against the aforementioned Houston Astros. The A’s squeaked by the offensive powerhouse that is the Chicago White Sox in their first playoff series win since 2006.
The young phenom Jesus Luzardo took the L in Game 1, after finding too much of the plate on a few pitches against Adam Engel and José Abreu. It being his first start in his young playoff career, I expect he’ll bounce back strong in his next outing and you should expect to get some nice odds considering his latest performance (+130).
After getting mowed down by Lucas Giolito, the Athletics were able to take advantage of an over-achieving Dallas Keuchel over his first 11 starts (-140), and a Bambi-eyed Dane Dunning (-103) to take the series victory. Chris Bassitt backed up his stellar regular season performance with an impressive Game 2 outing, while Liam Hendricks tried his best to blow the series in the 9th.
I was surprised to not see Frankie Montas in the rotation replacing Mike Fiers, but expect things to change in their upcoming series. The one stat to keep in mind before you start throwing your dollars on Oakland is this… between the likes of Mark Canha, Matt Olson and Khris Davis, 22 baserunners were left on base. Oakland was out hit in every game and if more of that continues, it will be tough for them to make it out of the next round.
The Tampa Bay Rays took care of business with an easy 2 wins against the Toronto Blue Jays. There was not much value in this series with the Rays being heavy favorites in each of their games (-185 & -150), but if you had the balls to take them at -1.5 (+110 & +148), there was money to be made.
Are the Rays your prototypical #1 seed? Absolutely not. But with a 3 headed monster of Blake Snell, Tyler Glasnow and Uncle Charlie Morton, there’s no reason why they can’t make a deep run this postseason. With their makeshift lineup of young and inexperienced players, runs may be hard to come by, but with the Yankees lackluster rotation depth behind Gerrit Cole, this could be a recipe for success in the series to come.
In two games, Snell and Glasnow combined for 11.2 innings pitched, 7 hits, 2 earned runs and a whopping and 17 K’s. Look to take advantage of first 5 innings bets (unless Gerrit Cole is their opponent) and K props when these two flamethrowers toe the rubber.
The New York Yankees came into this postseason as a 5th seed, but their offense can mask just about any deficiencies they may have in their rotation. Take Game 1 for example; Shane Bieber, your soon to be American League Cy Young Award winner, was shelled for 7 runs in 4.2 innings of work. Meanwhile, Gerrit Cole was his usual self dealing for 7 innings and fanning 13 in the process. Beyond Cole, there isn’t much to be excited about in the Yankees depleted rotation.
Masahiro Tanaka is the epitome of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde. The postseason pedigree is there, but it didn’t show in his Game 2 outing giving up 6 earned in 4 innings. With no clear number 2 to really rely on day in and day out, look for Deivi García to get an opportunity in the next series to prove that, at just 21 years of age, he belongs under the bright lights of the playoffs. The Bronx Bombers were in full effect against the Indians, tallying 7 homers in two games.
Names like Judge, Stanton & Voit (MLB homerun leader) come to mind when considering this potent lineup, but the key to the Yankees success this postseason is Gleyber Torres staying healthy and reclaiming his spot at the top of the lineup. When healthy, this guy, currently only 23 years old, has the capability of winning an MVP one day. Through the first two games, Torres had a .800 OBP with a 2.286 OPS, which is a scary addition to an already elite offense.
In this next series for the Rays, expect to get some pretty nice odds in each matchup. Don’t be afraid to rely on the Yanks lineup to carry them throughout the series, while taking advantage of the water downed money line odds due to inept pitching matchups.
In Game 1 of the WCS with Cole on the mound, the Yankees were only -120. Look for that trend to continue if he goes up against Snell or Glasnow in any of his starts. The over will always be in play with this lineup so hammer it any chance you get.
My picks will come out later this morning for the Marlins vs. Cubs and the Padres vs. Cardinals games once the official starters are announced. Hope you enjoyed this ALDS preview and be on the lookout for the NLDS preview once the series are finalized.
- El Niño ‘97