MLB Best Bets Today: Odds, predictions and picks for Wednesday October 18th


MLB schedule today has 1 game

The NLCS takes a break, as the Phillies and Diamondbacks take the long flight from Philly to Phoenix, but we’ve got ALCS Game 3 in the spotlight after a short trip from Houston to Arlington for the Rangers and Astros. Texas holds a 2-0 lead and can put a chokehold on the series with a win.


Max Scherzer’s return is the big story for Wednesday night, as the Rangers’ prized Trade Deadline acquisition comes back in hopes of helping push Texas one win closer to their first AL Pennant since 2011. Meanwhile, the Astros turn to Cristian Javier, whose 2023 season was nothing like 2022, but we saw a throwback performance in the ALDS that could bode well here.

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Here are some thoughts on the October 18 card (odds from DraftKings):

(odds as of 7:30 a.m. PT)

Houston Astros at Texas Rangers (-130, 9)

Every postseason game has some kind of storyline and this one has two of them. The first is Scherzer, who will make his first appearance of the playoffs as he returns from a low-grade strain of the teres major muscle in the back of the shoulder. He hasn’t pitched since September 12, so we’re talking about a substantial amount of rust for the future Hall of Famer.

Scherzer acknowledged on the off day that he has no idea what to expect and has no frame of reference for coming back after a month-long injury for a playoff start. Usually playoff starts feature a little more juice and pitchers pushing their max to the limit. For Mad Max, his limit may be his status quo. That might be good enough given how great he’s been throughout his career and most of his Rangers tenure, but that remains to be seen.

He threw about 60 pitches last Wednesday in a sim game and then followed it up by playing catch a few days later, so I would assume 60-65 pitches is roughly the maximum that he can give. Because Jordan Montgomery and Nathan Eovaldi were both able to have extended starts, plus the Tuesday off day, I think the Rangers will gladly take that and then look for the bullpen to take over.

Scherzer had a 3.20 ERA with a 3.41 FIP for the Rangers over 45 innings before the injury knocked him out of action. He did allow 28 homers during the regular season and 15 of them to righties, who had a higher SLG than lefties, so that’s an interesting thing to think about going against a right-handed-heavy Astros lineup.

While Scherzer is no sure thing, Javier sure as hell ain’t either. The Astros right-hander was stellar last season with a 2.54 ERA and a 3.16 FIP in 148.2 innings of work. This season, though, the K% has dropped, the BB% has risen, and most of his other metrics have taken a dive. Javier wound up with a 4.56 ERA and a 4.58 FIP in 162 innings and was even at risk of losing his rotation spot a few times.

As it turned out, nobody knocked the door down with a strong enough performance to move into the rotation over Javier. For a brief moment, he looked like his old self with a very strong start against the Twins in the ALDS. Javier threw five shutout innings with nine strikeouts, but he did walk five in the game, so that would be a concern against a more disciplined, more contact-oriented Rangers lineup.

The Twins led the league by a large margin in K% and raw strikeouts, so that was a good matchup for Javier, who still had an above average SwStr% during the season. It was just everywhere else that he seemed to falter. I don’t think this matchup is as favorable against a Rangers lineup that is more balanced and makes a lot more contact.

That being said, Javier is a pretty extreme fly ball guy, so it’s really about home run avoidance for him. This past season, he wasn’t as effective with that and the increased runners due to more balls in play made that doubly bad. Where the chickens came to really roost was on the road. Javier allowed 18 of his 25 homers away from Minute Maid Park, which is generally a good pitcher’s park with the roof closed. He did throw 26 more innings on the road, but his 5.17 ERA came with a 5.25 FIP, so the struggles were mostly legit.

With my concerns about Javier, I definitely feel a strong pull to trust Scherzer, but I’m not sure what we’re actually going to get from him. I don’t know how the stuff will look. I don’t know where the velocity will be.

By extension, that means I don’t know how the later innings will go. If Scherzer isn’t sharp and labors through 3-4 innings, are the Rangers prepared to throw somebody like Cody Bradford or Andrew Heaney? Texas has not officially named a starter for Game 4, but my best guess is Dane Dunning, which would make him unavailable in a piggyback situation if Scherzer does reach his pitch threshold early.

That leaves me with no choice but to not have a pregame bet in this one. Perhaps a live opportunity will show up, but I won’t know that until the game gets going. If Scherzer looks really crisp early, then maybe I’ll have more interest in Texas, especially if he maybe makes a mistake and gives up a solo homer to where I can get the Rangers at plus money.

But, then again, the Rangers pen looked shaky in Game 2 and that was a real big concern throughout September and the second half of the regular season. I think this might just be a game to observe, especially if we’re going to get a Scherzer start down the line or in the World Series.