The Los Angeles Dodgers won 106 games this season, going over their season win total of 104.5 and accomplishing something just 22 other teams have done in the history of Major League Baseball. And yet somehow, improbably, the San Francisco Giants won 107 games and NL West crown, which means the Dodgers are in the wild card with a single game deciding their fate.
Here are our best bets for the NL-wild-card game:
St. Louis Cardinals (+ 200) at Los Angeles Dodgers (-220)
Burke: The Dodgers are a massive favorite and deservedly so against the Cardinals in Wednesday’s NL Wild Card Game. Scherzer has been virtually unhittable since the Dodgers acquired him at the Trade Deadline and there are some real concerns about Wainwright on the road, even though his home/road splits have been significantly better this season.
Maybe there are some concerns about the last two starts for Scherzer, who allowed 11 runs on 17 hits after allowing just six runs on 31 hits in his first nine starts with the Dodgers, but there probably shouldn’t be. The Cardinals are a great story for their long winning streak and for making the postseason, but this was still a below average offensive team with a 97 wRC and a .312 wOBA for the regular season.
The Redbirds were two games over .500 on September 10 before the epic winning streak began. Even with winning 17 games in a row, the Cardinals still only managed a 34 run differential. This is an average baseball team that just happened to string together an anomalous performance at the right time.
Wainwright’s story sort of mirrors that of the team itself. The 40-year-old parlayed this season’s success into one more year, which will likely be his last. He finished the regular season with a stellar 3.05 ERA with a 3.66 FIP. It was his first season since 2016 with a FIP under 4.00.
Home success is nothing new for Waino. New Busch Stadium has been a mausoleum for fly balls and he has had a lot of good outings there. This season, he threw 50.1 more innings at home than on the road and had a 2.74 ERA with a 3.33 FIP in those 124.1 innings. On the road, his FIP was 4.22, but his ERA was 3.58.
On the road, Wainwright’s walk rate was almost doubled and his home run rate was much higher. That follows a trend that we saw from 2016-19 when Wainwright had road ERAs of 6.18, 7.32, 4.38 and 6.22. He had wOBA marks against of .374, .389, .352 and .360. The 4.38 season featured only 3 road outings, but the others were 17, 13 and 15, respectively.
As crazy as it sounds, this line looks cheap on the Dodgers. Credit to the Cardinals and Wainwright for what they’ve accomplished, but they’re outgunned and overmatched here.
Pick: Los Angeles Dodgers
Carty: The Dodgers are rolling out Max Scherzer, projected by THE BAT as the fifth-best pitcher in baseball. The Cardinals counter with Adam Wainwright (85th-best). The Dodgers have the second-best bullpen in baseball and the best offense by a large margin. They’ll be missing Max Muncy due to injury in this one, but they have so much depth they’d still be the best in baseball by a lot even without him. Cody Bellinger, the NL MVP just two years ago, is the bench bat most likely to replace him in the lineup.
All that said, betting on favorites, especially heavy favorites, is often a fish move. The Dodgers had a season for the record books. Everyone knows the Dodgers are really, really good. Teams like this are generally not underrated by the market. But for whatever reason, the Dodgers have been underrated a bit by books down the stretch this year and in this Wild Card game. My projection system, THE BAT X, gives them a 70 percent chance to win, and to break even at these odds they’d need to win a bit under 68 percent. That’s a pretty small edge and one that you should usually ignore, but there’s just one game being played today, and betting on the Dodgers is certainly better than betting on the Cardinals, who have a 30 percent projected chance to win and would need to be 34.5 percent in order to break even. If you can find Dodgers -200 anywhere, I’d feel more comfortable hitting that number.
Pick: Don’t bet, or Dodgers Moneyline (-210)
Prop Bets I Like
Scherzer’s strikeout prop looks to be perhaps the best bet you can make on this game. Most lines are 7.5 and THE BAT X projects 8.8. That’s a big gap, and one that would be worth betting even on a full slate. The best odds I’ve found are at Bet Builder (-130), but there would be valuable on this anywhere.
Pick: Max Scherzer Over 7.5 Strikeouts (-130)
Bonus Pick: AJ Pollock Under 0.5 Singles (-115)
My second bet of the MLB postseason is the same as my first bet. 1st Inning Yes score in the Dodgers/Cardinals game risking $1000. Circa had one of the better prices compared to CRIS at + 116 and DraftKings at + 115. The best number available right now is + 124 at Pinnacle, although if you can shop around off-screen you will definitely find higher off-market numbers. + 115 is the minimum price I’d need to play this today, I’d pass at anything lower.
One thing to keep in mind is that the Dodgers are playing just after 5 PM today in Los Angeles which is going to create shadows between the mound and home plate in the early innings of the game. This will potentially create issues for hitters early in the game but + 115 on the Yes score 1st inning is a good enough price for me to take that risk.
Pick: 1st Inning Yes Score + 120 at Circa