The NLDS was not short of shocks or drama as in both series, the lower seed teams beat the favorites to set up an exciting and unpredictable National League Championship Series between the Washington Nationals and St Louis Cardinals.
Washington seemed to have a mountain to climb after they went 2-1 down against the LA Dodgers, knowing that they would have to win one at Nationals Park before going back to Dodger Stadium and taking them on again. I predicted in last week’s column that out of all the divisional playoffs this would be the one for the upset and I was not let down with the Nats taking LA on, and forcing Clayton Kershaw to blow a save.
It also shows that records throughout the season are a good indicator of how a game might go. Washington had drawn the series during the regular season at Los Angeles where most teams would have lost. Let’s take a look between the Cardinals and them to see if we can figure out if there’s any value to be had.
Head-to-head record: 7 games played, one 4-game series in Washington and a 3-gamer at St Louis. The Cardinals lead the head-to-head by 5-2 (.714) winning at home 2-1 and winning the away series 3-1 with 26 runs scored and 17 allowed.
That doesn’t make pretty viewing for Nats fans who face the first two games at Busch Stadium before going back to Nationals Park. One thing they will take in their stride however is how the Cards were leading 2-1 against the Braves before having to go to Game 5.
Things to look out for: Nationals Pitching
St Louis absolutely dominated a favourite in postseason from the first inning (sorry, Mike Foltynewicz) and is a more experienced team. However, Bryce Harper-less Washington has still retained a very strong pitching rotation and can cope going seven games.
Game 1 sees Sanchez (11-8, 3.85 ERA) takes on Mikolas (9-14, 4.16 ERA), and while they have pitchers with higher ERA’s, I just don’t think it can work out for them in the same way the New York Yankees do it. I don’t think their bats can back up their pitching.
This puts the Nationals in front for the NL at -135. I’m not sure if I can vouch for the Cardinals at +114, I think the betting should be a little closer. I think backing the overs in the run line, or the Nationals to win plus the over run line is the way to play this series.
American League the one for the favourites
The American League has been the one for the favorites for some time, and now the Dodgers are out of the World Series race combined with the fact that both of the NL teams remaining were the lower seed of the bracket, this has put the Astros and Yankees ahead the outright betting at +125 and +310 respectively.
But making a call between Houston and New York is not easy. The latter will have four days rest compared to the former’s one, before they meet in Texas on Saturday but having extra days can be detrimental. Then there’s the fact that the Astros have homefield advantage should it need to go to extra games.
Head-to-head record: 7 games played, one 4-game series in Yankee Stadium and a 3-gamer in Houston. The Astros edge the head-to-head by 4-3 (.571) sweeping New York at home and losing the return series 3-1 with 39 runs scored and 37 allowed.
Things to look out for: Zack Greinke and short rests for Astros’ pitching
The record and homefield puts Astros ahead of the betting, but they were pushed by Tampa Bay in the ALDS when they didn’t expect them to. Granted the Rays had a good record against Houston, so it shouldn’t have been as surprising as it was.
The biggest thing to look out for is how exactly the Astros’ pitching deals with Zack Greinke. I have raved about their rotation and how it could be the best pitching in history, but he got blown out in Game 3 of the ALDS, only surviving 3.2 innings giving up six earned runs, three homers. It follows quite a poor postseason showing for him. He’s started 12 postseason games, has only won three of those, losing five with an average ERA of 4.58. Whatever game he starts, back the Yankees and overs.
But he’s not the only pitching concern, after a short rest caused Justin Verlander to give up three runs in the first inning of Game 4. This is another unbelievable game to try and call and is very much one pitching side versus one batting side. I think the way to go is backing Yankees for the World Series at +310, I don’t think the price at +175 is worth it for tipping them in the National League and either of these two teams are stronger than the current National League opponents.