The 2019 MLB Postseason is finally upon us! Sports bettors and fans alike rejoice! With fewer games on the schedule, we have extra work to do finding betting value on the Wild Card games & ALDS series matchups.
The start of October makes the annual beginning of the best time of the baseball season, the MLB Playoffs. There are many questions need answering between now and Game7 of the World series. First off, can anyone beat the Astros in a multi-game series? Can the Los Angeles Dodgers redeem themselves after two straight L’s in the World Series? Can the New York Yankees do a better job of managing their bullpen and regain their top-spot? Or will a dark horse team come out of nowhere and shock the world with an October surge?
Keeping all that in mind, we’re going to take a deep dive into the odds for each Wild Card matchup as it stands now, players and pitching to keep an eye on, making some picks and predictions along the way. So buckle up, and let’s get started.
Current Betting Odds to win the World Series vs Projected Statistical Odds to Win
Houston Astros +210 / 33.0%
Los Angeles Dodgers +300 / 26.0%
New York Yankees +450 / 11.0%
Atlanta Braves +750 / 9.0%
Minnesota Twins +1300 / 7.0%
Washington Nationals +1500 / 5.0%
St. Louis Cardinals +1800 / 3.0%
Oakland Athletics +1800 / 3.0%
Tampa Bay Rays +2000 / 2.0%
Milwaukee Brewers +2200 / 1.0%
Those odds raise a few questions which we will tackle in tomorrow’s Division Series preview, but first off, let’s look at the Wild Card games which will be taking place Tuesday and Wednesday night.
NL Wild Card Game
Milwaukee Brewers +165| Brandon Woodruff vs Washington Nationals -175 | Max Scherzer
Nationals Park Washington DC | 8:05 PM ET
While the Brewers failed to steal the National League Central from the Cardinals, they have themselves set up well to face the Nationals tonight. Instead of fighting tooth and nail for a win on Sunday, they were able to rest their relievers in preparation for the Wild Card showdown. They will need all the help they can get with Cy Young candidate Max Scherzer on the hill with Stephen Strasburg likely the first arm out of the bullpen. What does this mean? Well, the Brewers will be hard-pressed to put up runs and therefore must do their best to keep the Nationals off the board.
Pitching helped propel the Brewers into the playoffs with a red-hot September run which saw them come within a couple of wins of the Division title. This makes the Brewers difficult to handicap because they have been playing better than they should for such a sustained period of time.
Even more confounding, they turned a corner right after losing possibly the best player in the league, Christian Yelich. It’s a real testament to the moxie this team possesses to not only sustain themselves but to skyrocket in the face of such adversity. A lot of this has to come down to Craig Counsell and David Stearns talents behind the scenes and getting the most out of the roster they have left.
Incredibly, The Brewers actually had a better winning percentage after Yelich went down. This makes little to no sense, and I have no explanation for it really, but it is what it is. They were 67-63 when Yelich was on the field and 22-10 after he shattered his knee in August. An important thing to take note of is that the Brewers did all of this winning while carrying a run differential in the negative right up until last week. This means the Brewers were winning by very slim margins and losing by big ones. They finished over 100 runs behind the Cubs, who didn’t even make the playoffs this year.
This team grinds out wins, but that is not always a great strategy for the postseason. But with Scherzer and Strasburg looking to shut them down tonight, it might not even matter.
With Max Scherzer (11-7, 2.92) taking the start tonight, the Nationals really will be putting their best foot forward. Heck, one of the best in the league. The Brewers have seen a lot of Scherzer, but much like the rest of the league, has seen little to no success against the future Hall-of-Famer.
In 143 at-bats the Brew Crew is hitting just .182 and slugging .343 against Mad Max. With Strasburg and Patrick Corbin ready to eat some innings if necessary, the Nationals clearly have the better arms tonight. If this were a regular-season game I think the Brewers would have no shot. But with the grit, they’ve shown, and Scherzer’s recent home run spike, anything is possible.
The Nationals’ biggest shortcoming is their bullpen, which is worse than worse can be. They have pitched their way into the fifth-worst ERA since the mid-’80s and the worst win probability in the modern era. If it wasn’t for them scoring the second-most runs in the league, we wouldn’t be talking about Washington in October. While the Nationals can use three All-Star caliber starters tonight, this will not be a sustainable strategy throughout the playoffs.
With the pitching prowess the Nationals plan to use tonight, I see very little chance the Brewers make it out of this game alive. Sure, Scherzer has been a bit shaky of late, and the Brewers have been surging, but I just don’t see it happening. If the Nats give up some early runs they can just call upon another superstar and then again if need be. Also let’s not forget what got the Nationals here in the first place, their run-scoring capabilities. I think the Nationals take this game, but as with many Brewers showdowns, it will be a tight one from start to finish.
Best Bet: Washington Nationals -175 & UNDER 8 total runs
AL Wild Card Game
Tampa Bay Rays +125 |Charlie Morton vs Oakland Athletics -135 | Sean Manaea
Oakland Coliseum Oakland California | 8:00 PM ET
The AL Wild Card game features two small-market teams who have found non-traditional ways to build a winning team and hang with the big boys. Both the Rays and A’s flirted with 100 wins, with the Rays coming up just one game short of their franchise-best. Now they find themselves head-to-head against each other in a do or die game for the privilege of getting beaten by the Astros.
While the Rays are a prohibitive underdog, they will have a slight edge on the mound in my opinion with Charlie Morton taking the start. One of just 10 Rays players with postseason experience, his high-profile signing in the offseason is one of the main reasons the Rays are even in this game. Not only does he have playoff experience, but playoff success.
He was a member of the 2017 Astros World Series Championship run, picking up two wins as a starter and even a four-inning save in Game 7. He has become the Rays best pitcher in a hurry with a 16-6 record, 3.05 ERA and a staggering 240 strikeouts in just 194 ⅔ innings pitched. The Rays also have possible the hottest hitter of the last month in Austin Meadows. Meadows outpaced most of the Major Leagues with a .378 batting average and nine dingers in the month of September.
The Athletics, like the Rays, are sending their best arm to the mound tonight in the form of Sean Manaea. Despite his limited appearances this season, he came back at just the right time and with a fresh arm for the postseason. Manaea returned from a near season long IR stint coming off of shoulder surgery to go 4-0 in September with a 1.21 ERA. He is unquestionably one of the hottest arms in the league right now, in a time when the wear and tear of a full season are really catching up to some. Should Manaea struggle, we would likely see Mike Fiers come out of the bullpen. The season-long ace arm of the staff, Fiers is 15-4 with a 3.90 ERA and reeled off a streak of 12 wins in a row. Not to mention his perfect 9-0 record when pitching at the Coliseum in 2019. Seeing as how the game is a day away this could change, but for now, we have to assume Manaea will get the nod to start things off.
A pair of guys to keep an eye on are a pair of rookie southpaws, Jesus Luzardo an A.J. Puk, both debuting in the last 6 weeks and both have already carved out spots in this postseason roster. Morton will have his hands full with some surging Oakland bats too with Matt Olson smacking nine home runs this month and Marcus Semien hitting .350 with eight long balls of his own.
This game is much more difficult to predict then it’s National League counterpart. With such strong pitching on both sides and hot-hitting throughout each lineup, this game could go a lot of different ways. How do I see it going? I believe this will be an easy first-five inning under, which is currently at 4-runs across the board. Additionally, I believe that the Athletics bats will prove too much for Tampa Bay down the stretch and the Rays just won’t be able to keep up.
Best Bet: OAK vs TB UNDER 4 runs in the first five innings & Athletics -135 on the moneyline