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An instant Fall Classic as Astros tie Series

Jeff Fogle
VSiN.com

What a game! They’ll be talking about hard-fought Round 2 of the 2017 World Series heavyweight battle for years to come. The Los Angeles Dodgers blew a ninth inning lead, rallied from a 10th-inning deficit, only to see the Houston Astros win in the eleventh. Details plus our Thursday NFL preview right now in VSin City.

World Series: Astros win 7-6 in 11 innings to even clash of the 2017 titans at one game apiece 
The evening began with legendary Dodgers announcer Vin Scully “throwing out the first pitch” in typically classy fashion by using the moment to celebrate his franchise’s storied history…then sharing the stage with Dodgers early-1980s battery Fernando Valenzuela and Steve Yeager. (Baseball-reference shows that Valenzeula pitched 52 games to Yeager, with a career ERA of 3.00…better than his overall lifetime ERA of 3.54…which is something Scully would have smoothly pointed out if he were broadcasting the moment from the booth).

The evening didn’t end until about four-and-a-half hours later. If you went to bed just before midnight ET, here’s the blow-by-blow of the late-game flurries…

LAD felt like a virtual lock holding a 3-2 lead in the top of the ninth with ace closer Kenley Jansen on the mound facing the bottom third of the Astros order…

  • Marwin Gonzalez hit a game-tying homer in the top of the ninth (3-3). Jansen had put out a fire in the eighth, and couldn’t complete a two-inning save. After a scoreless bottom of the ninth, Josh Fields came into pitch the tenth for the Dodgers.
  • Jose Altuve hit a go-ahead home in the top of the tenth (4-3 Houston)
  • Carlos Correa hit an insurance home run immediately after (5-3 Houston)

Well, that HAD to be it! Houston carried a 5-3 lead to the bottom of the tenth in front of a shocked, hushed Dodgers crowd. Their ace closer Ken Giles came in for his second inning of work.

  • Yasiel Puig homered (still 5-4 Houston)
  • Logan Forsythe walked, then took second on a wild pitch
  • Enrique Hernandez singled home the tying run (now 5-5!)

Now it’s the Astros who were shell-shocked after finishing the 10th. Brandon McCarthy comes into pitch the 11th inning for the Dodgers, their ninth pitcher of the evening. 

  • Cameron Maybin pinch hits a single, then steals second base
  • George Springer hits a two-run homer (7-5 Houston)

Did that end the scoring? No! Charlie Culberson hit a solo shot in the bottom of the inning, before Yasiel Puig struck out to close out the memorable evening. Six home runs from the top of the ninth onward, four by the Astros. 

Houston (-115) 7, LA Dodgers 6 (in 11 innings) 

  • Totals Bases Plus Walks Drawn: Houston 34, LA Dodgers 20
  • Verlander: 6.0 IP, 3 ER, 5 K, 2 BB, 2 HR’s
  • Hill: 4.0 IP, 1 ER, 7 K, 3 BB, 0 HR’s

Those innings pitched numbers for the starting pitchers looked like there were going to be the key story of the night. Maybe they still were, but in the other direction. Rich Hill was pulled just before his third time through the Astros lineup was about to begin. Analytics has shown very clearly that starting pitchers show a big drop off in performance after hitters have seen them twice on the same night. The Dodgers bullpen held that “third time through” to two singles, one walk, and no runs. 

Justin Verlander was allowed to face the top of LAD’s lineup a third time. Chris Taylor walked. Corey Seager hit a two-run homer to break a 1-all tie. The strategy had seemingly worked like a charm for the Dodgers. Until they ran out of reliable arms in extra innings because the bullpen got involved so early.

The series takes a day off for travel to Houston for Game 3 Friday night. Yu Darvish will take on Lance McCullers Jr. We’ll run the numbers for that pitching matchup in our week-ender.  

NFL: Surprising Miami Dolphins try to solidify playoff positioning (!) with a road win over the Baltimore Ravens Thursday night
As we teased in yesterday’s issue, if the NFL playoffs began this week, the Miami Dolphins would be in the AFC brackets. They and the Buffalo Bills would have Wildcard spots, with New England, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, and Tennessee (via tiebreaker) currently holding divisional leads. 

It’s widely accepted right now that Miami isn’t really a playoff caliber team. But a change in quarterback to Matt Moore might help fix what was ailing the offense under Jay Cutler. A road win at Baltimore would make a postseason berth more feasible, while probably knocking the Ravens out of serious consideration because it’s tough to reach the playoffs from a 3-5 record when you don’t have much of an offense. 

Miami (4-2) at Baltimore (3-4)

  • Las Vegas Line: Baltimore by 3, total of 37
  • Estimated Market Power Ratings: Miami 76, Baltimore 76 

We use a standard three points for home field advantage when evaluating the market and building our estimate of “market” Power Ratings. That suggests these teams are perceived as dead even on a neutral field. Given that Miami was only -3 at home vs. the NY Jets last week, while Baltimore was plus 5 at Minnesota…neither would be “playoff caliber” by market standards (usually 80-ish, though teams below that can get in with the right circumstances). 

Yards-per-Play

  • Miami: 4.3 on offense, 5.3 on defense (vs. #16 ranked schedule)
  • Baltimore: 4.3 on offense, 5.1 on defense (vs. #18 ranked schedule)

You can see why nobody’s impressed! Both have played roughly league average schedules. Yet, Miami is down a full yard-per-play this season, while Baltimore is down 0.8 YPP. Those 4.3 marks on offense are tied for worst in the NFL. Both defenses are slightly above average. 

Key Passing Stats 

  • Miami: 5.8 yards-per-pass attempt, 9 TD’s, 7 interceptions thrown
  • Baltimore: 5.3 yards-per-pass attempt, 6 TD’s, 8 interceptions thrown

Horrible numbers for modern offenses. You probably know that Joe Flacco of the Ravens has been battling a bad back while injuries have taken other talent out of the lineup. Miami was hoping that Jay Cutler wouldn’t provide much of a drop off from Ryan Tannehill after the latter was lost for the season to injury. Let’s see if Matt Moore can make the passing game more dynamic in Cutler’s absence (multiple cracked ribs suffered vs. the Jets). 

Pass Defense 

  • Miami: 7.3 yppa allowed; 9 TD’s allowed, 2 interceptions
  • Baltimore: 6.7 yppa allowed; 9 TD’s allowed, 10 interceptions

We said above that both defenses have been above average. Baltimore is much superior in pass defense…which carries more weight the way the game is played right now. That’s more than a half-a-yard less per pass attempt…and EIGHT more takeaways via interceptions. Miami’s getting the job done well enough with a safe “containment” approach. Baltimore’s more likely to make plays that set up cheap points for its offense. 

Impact Defense 

  • Miami: 35% third down pct-allowed, 6 takeaways, 15 sacks
  • Baltimore: 35% third down pct-allowed, 15 takeaways, 16 sacks

There you go. Both get stops on third downs in excellent fashion. Both get sacks. Baltimore ALSO forces turnovers, which could prove to be the difference-maker with a relatively rusty visiting quarterback getting his first start of the season. 

Add it all up, and it looks like this:

  • Miami has to hope that Moore can kick things up a notch from what the offense had been accomplishing. Yes, he got the win in relief over the Jets last week, on a passing line of 13-21-1-188 (with 2 TD tosses). Thriving in a short preparation week on the road against a quality defense could prove much more difficult. Moore is likely the linchpin player for the Dolphins in this matchup…and he must have a quality outing to cover this spread.
  • Baltimore will likely try to win with field position created by the more aggressive defense. Though, there is a chance the Ravens could run into a softer than normal Miami defense in a letdown spot off a divisional win…that’s also off three straight “one-score” nailbiters (16-10 over Tennessee, 20-17 over Atlanta, 31-28 over NYJ)…that came after a trip to England without a bye buffer. If “intangibles” are going to be a factor, they’re more likely to hinder the Dolphins.

The “market score” off a line of Baltimore -3 and 37 is an easy-to-figure Baltimore 20, Miami 17. The Ravens will need help from cheap points or a worn-down Dolphins’ defense to reach that hurdle. If Moore injects some excitement into Miami’s approach, that 17 is certainly reachable. Volatile scenario for handicappers because Moore “might” be an improvement from Cutler (many analysts feel more strongly than “might”) while the Dolphins defense “might” find their gas tanks very low in the second half given their recent grind. Both side and total bets are at the mercy of those “mights.”

NFL: Power Ratings update
We’ve seen some significant Las Vegas line moves off the Monday night result. So, we’ve decided to update our estimated “market” Power Ratings on the heels of Philadelphia’s 34-24 victory (that was more impressive than the final score suggests).

Tuesday’s Newsletter Lines
San Francisco at Philadelphia (-10.5/no total yet)
Dallas at Washington (-1/no total yet)

Newly Settled Wednesday Night Lines
San Francisco at Philadelphia (-13/46)
Dallas (-2/50) at Washington

That’s a leap of 2.5 points for the Eagles, and a favorite flip with a move of three points in Cowboys/Redskins. We had Philadelphia 83, SF 75 off that early line of -10.5 (which we suggested didn’t make much sense at the time). We’re going to move to Philadelphia 84, SF 74, which would equate to a 13-point market price once three points for home field advantage is factored in. 

We had Dallas 82, Washington 80 the other day. Now we have to make them FIVE apart with the Cowboys laying -2 on the road. That seems a bit extreme. But Dallas did win 40-10 at SF last week, finding it’s vital running game in the process. Washington looked like a team that couldn’t stop quality offenses, allowing 6.1 yards-per-play to the Eagles and 31 points on drives of 63 yards or more. We’ll make it Dallas 83, Washington 78…because dropping Washington down to 77 seems way too extreme…but we must “follow our own rules” and have them five points apart on the scale. 

Once we made those tweaks, other tweaks jumped off the page because Seattle looked too low at 81 if Dallas was 83 and Philly was 84. We kept them three higher than this week's opponent Houston off a line of -5.5 at home…lifting both Seattle and Houston up one from Tuesday. Cincinnati seemed too high at 79, even though they were getting respect at Pittsburgh last week in the closing number. Dropping Cincinnati to 78, Indianapolis to 71 felt more accurate for the Bengals as a 10-point favorite at home. 

Here’s an updated scale, as the market still tries to decipher who the most serious Super Bowl threats are. 

84: New England, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia
83: Kansas City, Dallas
82: Atlanta, New Orleans, Seattle
80: Carolina, LA Rams
79: Tennessee, Jacksonville, Houston, Oakland, Denver, LA Chargers, Minnesota, Tampa Bay 
78: Buffalo, Cincinnati, Washington, Detroit 
76: Miami, Baltimore
75: NY Jets, Chicago 
74: San Francisco, Arizona (early estimate with Stanton at QB)
72: NY Giants, Green Bay
71: Indianapolis 
70: Cleveland 

If you’d like to recommend additional tweaks, feel free to drop us a note or post a comment in the Facebook widget below. Remember that you have to adjust the “couplet” from this Sunday’s pairings based on market prices, rather than just saying one specific team should be higher or lower. We’re trying to capture how the “market” is rating teams based on widely available settled prices at the time of posting. 

NBA: Updated soft estimate of “market” Power Ratings
We’ll try to keep updating NBA ratings on Thursdays…since that’s the traditional doubleheader night on TNT. We dropped Houston a bit because of the Chris Paul injury. We’re not going to worry about the Kawhi Leonard injury any more because the Spurs reminded the market that they handle injuries well. These are much looser than the NFL because it’s early. Remember that the market adjusts on the fly each night based on personnel developments (key players being scratched) or fatigue issues (teams on night two of a back-to-back facing a rested opponent). 

92: Golden State
84: Houston, Cleveland, San Antonio, Oklahoma City
83: Toronto
82: Washington, Portland
81: Minnesota, Denver, Milwaukee, Memphis, LA Clippers
80: Boston
79: Miami, New Orleans, Utah 
78: Philadelphia, Charlotte, Detroit
76: New York 
75: Orlando, Dallas, Sacramento 
74: Brooklyn, Indiana
73: Atlanta, Chicago, LA Lakers
70: Phoenix

Cleveland is tricky to deal with because they often prioritize certain games where they want to send a message…meaning they play like a 90 that night. Then, as big favorites during the normal grind of the season, they go at three-quarter speed (or worse). The market has tried to adjust for this during LeBron’s second term (typically by knocking a few points off what Power Ratings suggest a “blowout” spreads should be). But even last week, Cleveland won at Milwaukee 116-97 (“Hello Greek Freak, don’t get any ideas!”) the day before losing to lowly Orlando 114-93. That’s a 20-point cover followed by a 32-point non-cover. (And, since then, the Cavs didn’t cover at -15 vs. hollowed out Chicago, and lost Wednesday night in Brooklyn). 

Oh, Toronto and Washington have a way of flip-flopping through a season. As soon as one looks better than the other, it reverses without much warning. Both should be fighting for the #2 seed behind Cleveland all season (or the #1 seed if the Cavs go at three-quarter speed until the playoffs). 

NBA coverage will become more prominent in VSiN City once football winds down. 

Back Friday to preview Game 3 of the World Series and run some key stats for the much-anticipated Penn State/Ohio State college football game that you’ll be watching Saturday afternoon. 

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