All four underdogs barked to some degree in Game 1, but only one of them wound up having some bite. And even that one got precarious at the end. That lone dog to come through has a decent chance to go up 2-0 in the early game of the best-of-five series, as the Phillies and Braves play at 4:35 p.m. ET. The only other game today is the other NLDS tilt with the Padres and Dodgers at 8:37 p.m. ET.
With only two games, it gives me the chance to talk a little bit about what we’ve seen and how to proceed. Let’s start with my Guardians. After the fourth inning, I tweeted that the fifth should be Cal Quantrill’s final inning no matter what. Turning the lineup over to face Aaron Judge a third time was an unnecessary risk with a rested bullpen and potentially two days off after the game because of Thursday’s forecast.
I was driving to my birthday dinner (Hank’s at Green Valley Ranch was awesome!), so I didn’t get a live bet in on the Yankees, but if I had seen that Quantrill was coming back out (I assumed he wouldn’t because if I’m thinking it, the manager should be thinking it), it would’ve been an instant fire on New York with a run line or moneyline wager. These are the types of leverage points you want to look for. Managerial decisions are magnified in what is generally a lower run environment and this was an enormous faux pas from Francona.
The Guardians may not have scored two more runs, but they sure as hell weren’t scoring four more. You have to do whatever you can to keep that a 2-1 game. They didn’t and gave themselves no shot to come back. Those are the types of cues you should look for in terms of in-game wagering.
Yesterday’s only pregame bet was the Dodgers, who jumped out to a 5-0 lead. That’s what I’m talking about with taking a pregame wager that gains equity. At that point, if you see a chance to bet back on the Padres, you can take it and totally freeroll the game with your -215 position and whatever the buy point on the Padres at plus money would be. Now, I didn’t do that at any point and let my Dodgers winner ride, but you’re looking for your pregame bets to be something capable of gaining equity.
Had the Dodgers fallen behind 2-0 or something, you could’ve taken them live, but that was a low-percentage scenario given the starting pitcher matchup. It’s like how I advocated a live bet on the Braves if the Phillies jumped out early. It didn’t work, but instead of laying -200 on the Braves, you could’ve gotten them as a short favorite or plus money. The problem there was that Max Fried just never figured it out and they got too far behind, but they certainly struck fear in the Phillies’ hearts late.
So, those are some strategies to look for during the MLB Playoffs. Let’s see if today’s games might give us the right setup.
Philadelphia Phillies at Atlanta Braves (-145, 7.5)
Once again, DraftKings has the highest favorite price in the market, so if you like the Braves, be sure to shop around. You can find about 10 cents better at other places. That’s the difference between a “dime line” and a “20-cent line”. Dime lines are way more advantageous for bettors. Case in point, WynnBET has -135 on the Braves and %plussign% 125 on the Phillies. That’s a dime line – a 10-cent difference between the sides. DK, on the other hand, has -145 on the Braves and %plussign% 125 on the Phillies. That’s a 20-cent line. The dog price is the same (won’t always be the case), but you’re paying a premium on the favorite price.
Anyway, the Phillies really got away with one in Game 1. Max Fried wasn’t sharp and couldn’t pitch out of his jams, whereas Ranger Suarez was able to better navigate the tightrope. The 2-1 pitch to William Contreas in the first inning was a game-changer and he was able to bob and weave around five walks. The Phillies had five two-out RBI. The Braves had zero.
These are the types of things that baseball games come down to all of the time, but especially in the postseason. We’ll see if the Braves have any more luck against Zack Wheeler and if the Phillies can continue their fortunate ways against Kyle Wright. One thing I did mention yesterday that was cause for concern was that the Phillies had a top-five offense against lefties and it showed, as they got to Fried and kept hitting him. It’s a different story today.
While the Phillies were 15% above league average against lefties during the regular season, they were just 3% above league average against righties. Wright finished off the year with a 3.19 ERA, 3.89 xERA and a 3.58 FIP in his 180.1 innings of work. He did struggle down the stretch with a 5.26 ERA over his last 25.2 innings of work and his highest slugging percentage by month, but he still posted about league average numbers.
Furthermore, it was one awful start in Oakland of all places. Since June 29, Wright has allowed two or fewer runs in 13 of his 16 starts. His K% has dwindled as the season has gone along, potentially due to his increased workload and more high-stress innings at the MLB level, so I’ll be closely watching the quality of his stuff early on.
More influential bets do appear to be backing Wright and the Braves, though, as this line has moved up a bit. I’m a tad surprised about that with Wheeler on the other side. Wheeler scattered two hits and had a walk and a hit-by-pitch in Game 1 against the Cardinals in the Wild Card Round. He only struck out four, but didn’t allow a run over 6.1 innings in just his fourth start since August 20. He’s going to need more swing and miss than that to neutralize this Braves offense.
Wheeler had a strong 2.82 ERA with a 2.89 FIP over 153 innings in the regular season, but got hurt late in the year and missed about a month. The best weapon against this Braves lineup is the strikeout. The second is being able to prevent the long ball, which is something Wheeler did very well with only 13 dingers in his 26 starts. His 9.8% HR/FB% ranked third for his career. He also had over a strikeout per inning for just the second time since 2014.
This is a complete live-betting scenario for me. How does Wright’s stuff look? Does Wheeler’s stuff have more life and more swing-and-miss capability?
At this point, the price is too high to take Atlanta pregame, but I do continue to have concerns about the Phillies bullpen. Because of the nature in which the Braves lost, they didn’t use their top high-leverage guys. The Phillies had to use all of theirs. I’ll once again be looking to back the Braves if they fall behind with what should be a big bullpen advantage.
Look to live bet Atlanta
San Diego Padres at Los Angeles Dodgers (-190, 7)
The story remains the same here, as DraftKings again has the highest price on the favorite. That’s because they have a 30-cent line while the rest of the market is going somewhere between 15 and 20 cents. Every cent matters when making a bet, so shop around for the best price you can find.
The Dodgers were priced too low yesterday and, frankly, too low for the series. I did advocate a Dodgers series price in the NLDS preview article and also liked their Game 1 number. Game 2 is certainly more intriguing because Yu Darvish is a better pitcher than Mike Clevinger. Clayton Kershaw is just another awesome arm that the Padres are stuck facing in this series.
Kershaw has allowed two or fewer runs in each of his last eight starts with a 53/9 K/BB ratio over 45 innings of work. Only two of those starts came against playoff teams, as he faced Colorado twice, Arizona twice and San Francisco twice, so take the numbers with a grain of salt, but we all know he’s an elite pitcher and a plaque in Cooperstown is in his future.
I know the postseason narrative that follows him around. He has almost a full regular season’s worth of postseason starts with a 4.19 ERA and a 3.74 FIP over 189 innings of work. He silenced some critics in 2020 with a 2.93 ERA and a 2.96 FIP over his five starts. He was out for last year’s postseason. I’m sure some people will fade him just based on the reputation he’s got in the playoffs, but he hasn’t been as bad as people act. The long ball has been the killer with a 15.3% HR/FB% compared to a 9.4% HR/FB% in the regular season. Otherwise, his strikeout rate is the same and his walk rate is effectively the same.
You know who actually has worse postseason numbers than Kershaw? Darvish, albeit in a much, much smaller sample size. He has a 4.50 ERA and a 5.47 FIP in his eight starts across 40 innings. He worked seven innings of one-run ball against the Mets with just four strikeouts in his Wild Card outing. He’s definitely a reliable starter and had a fine season with a 3.10 ERA and a 3.31 FIP in his 194.2 innings of work.
Darvish does have a lot more upside than Clevinger, but my other concerns about the Padres are still true today. The Dodgers have the superior bullpen and the superior offense. I’m back on them again today. The Padres were 3% better than league average against lefties and hit for limited power. Petco Park certainly played a role in the slugging numbers, but they were 11th in road SLG as well.
This is a position I expect to gain equity. Darvish allowed 13 of his 22 homers the first time through the other and had his highest BA, OBP, SLG, wOBA and BB% the first time through the order. The Dodgers have seen a lot of him and have an excellent front office and advance scouting department. I expect the Dodgers to get ahead and stay ahead, much like they did yesterday, though it probably won’t be on as grand of a scale as a five-run lead. Kershaw's at his best the first time through the order.
I’ll list the DK price since that’s what is cited at the top, but you can find -180s pretty widely available out there. Shop around!
Pick: Dodgers -190