Mother Nature doesn’t seem to like either the Yankees or the Guardians. MLB doesn’t like putting the teams and players in front of making money. The convergence of those two things pushed Game 5 of the ALDS to Tuesday, which will leave the winning team with less than 24 hours to get to Houston for Game 1 of the ALCS on Wednesday.
MLB seemed to draw a hard line that first pitch could not take place after 10 p.m. ET, so even though the radar showed the rain moving out of the Bronx shortly after the top of the hour, MLB said no and the game was pushed to Tuesday. Ratings and dollar signs are 1a and 1b and everything else is an afterthought. But, I digress.
We’ve got two games today, as the ALDS wraps up and the NLCS begins (odds listed from DraftKings):
Cleveland Guardians at New York Yankees (-170, 7)
In the interest of time with a bit of a late start to the article this morning, I’ll re-post what I can from my Guardians write-up from yesterday. Nothing has really changed for them, as they’re still sending Aaron Civale, despite the option to throw Shane Bieber on three days rest. A lot has changed for the Yankees, as the rainout was a huge blessing for them. They’ll go with Nestor Cortes on short rest and got a much-needed day off for Clay Holmes and Wandy Peralta.
Truth be told, I don’t hate the Guardians bypassing Bieber. This was always going to be a bullpen game for them and a rested Civale may be better than a fatigued Bieber. Data shows that pitchers are a borderline fifth starter on three days rest in the postseason, posting a 4.59 ERA since 1995 and they’ve had a win-loss record of 30-47. As a result, Civale, who was good down the stretch, may be the less risky option.
The Yankees, meanwhile, are embracing the risk. Ironically, Cortes has turned in what I’d say is the worst of their four starts in this series so far, even though the Guardians are arguably the league’s worst offense against lefties. Cortes wasn’t hit hard in Game 2, but allowed two runs on six hits in five innings with three walks and three strikeouts. He gave up a homer to Amed Rosario and made a great play from the seat of his pants to throw out Myles Straw at first and temporarily save the game. He had 10 whiffs in 50 swings. His velocity was down a bit in that start to begin with, so that will merit watching in this one.
I expected Cortes to pitch at least two innings in relief last night anyway, which is likely why the Yankees opted to go ahead and start him here. I’d have maybe started Taillon anyway and then felt better about Cortes in high-leverage late, but it’s not my call to make.
With the Guardians, while I’m okay with not using Bieber, I would have started Enyel de los Santos to try and get through Torres-Judge-Rizzo the first time and then gone to Civale, but they’re going to roll with the starter and that’s fine. Civale will likely be on a short leash and I could see de los Santos as the first man out of the pen. If necessary, I could see Sam Hentges come in as well, especially if you’re in a big spot with a lefty like Rizzo or a switch hitter like Oswaldo Cabrera, who has more power batting left-handed.
Ultimately, the goal would be to get to Trevor Stephan, James Karinchak and Emmanuel Clase with a lead and get multiple innings from each. Karinchak was very wild in Friday’s appearance, so I’d be more reliant on Stephan and Clase. Clase has only pitched once in the last seven days and Stephan twice, so those are my two horses here. They’re going as long as I can make them go.
Civale made 20 starts, but only completed 97 innings. He had a 4.92 ERA, but a 3.80 xERA and a 3.87 FIP. The problem for him is that he throws a ton of strikes and will give up home runs. He allowed 14 during the regular season, but he had a weird year with a couple of IL stints. In 43 innings in the second half, he pitched to a .186/.228/.340 slash against with a .247 wOBA. This start for Civale is all about the long ball. If he doesn’t allow them, he should be effective enough.
Civale also had some pretty big times through the order splits. That’s why I’m thinking quick hook, but Francona has shown a penchant for pushing his starters to this point, so I’m not optimistic. If he is reactive instead of proactive, it will be to Cleveland’s detriment.
There are better prices than the + 145 that DraftKings is showing on Cleveland, but I think they’re worth a bet here in the + 150 range. I’m not sure how big of an upgrade Cortes on short rest is over Taillon or how far he can reasonably be pushed. Holmes and Peralta did get that extra day, but now everybody is available in Cleveland’s bullpen and they could theoretically throw a different guy every inning if they wanted to. If Civale struggles in the first, he can be replaced in the first. And Bieber could still be a relief weapon if they chose to go that route.
Cleveland’s bullpen is better than New York’s, so if this game is close in some capacity, the Guardians not only have a fighting chance, but you’re getting a well-rested, elite bullpen at + 150. I don’t know if Cleveland wins, but I’d be confident in saying Cleveland wins this game more often than 40% of the time, which is what + 150 implies.
Pick: Guardians at + 150 or better
Philadelphia Phillies at San Diego Padres (-125, 6.5)
Zack Wheeler and Yu Darvish kick off the NLCS from Petco Park with an 8:03 p.m. ET first pitch. Gotta make those three minutes of advertising dollars, you know? I profiled these two surprise NLCS participants in my series preview, so I’d encourage you to check that out.
The starting point for this handicap is Philadelphia’s offensive splits when facing a righty as opposed to facing a lefty. The Phillies were 10th in wOBA at .316 and 12th in wRC + at 102, meaning they were 2% better than league average against righties. Compare that with a .335 wOBA and a 115 wRC + against lefties. They were just better than league average against righties and Darvish is certainly an above average right-hander. He’s made two solid starts with four runs allowed (all solo homers) on 13 hits in 12 innings with an 11/2 K/BB ratio. You live with solo homers, even in the playoffs, though it would certainly be nice to see him keep the ball in the park. This will be his first Petco Park start of the postseason, which should help.
Darvish finished the regular season with a 3.10 ERA, 3.49 xERA and a 3.31 FIP. However, he had a 2.60 ERA at home in 86.2 innings of work with a .188 BA against. He still allowed 11 homers at home and on the road, but the batted ball results were luckier at home. He’s pitched to a ton of fly ball contact in these first two postseason outings, so he may need the safety net of Petco.
Zack Wheeler has also been effective in his two playoff outings with three runs allowed on six hits over 12.1 innings. He’s only recorded nine strikeouts, but hasn’t allowed a home run. He had a 2.82 ERA with a 3.10 xERA and a 2.89 FIP in his 153 regular season innings. I had some questions about Wheeler coming into the playoffs with only three starts in September/October after missing a month, but he’s thrown the ball well enough.
After not generating much swing and miss in his start against the Cardinals, he struggled with that in Game 2 against the Braves with just nine whiffs in 41 swings. He only threw 79 pitches, but the Braves were very aggressive. The stuff quality (velo and spin rate) looked fine for Wheeler in that outing, but the command wasn’t fully there as evidenced by the low Whiff% against a very aggressive group that swings and misses a lot.
Early in a series, both bullpens are rested. As the series goes along, the Padres have a noticeable edge, as I wrote about in my series preview. Here, all the primary guys are good to go, though I still trust San Diego’s high-leverage guys more. Two days off between games was huge for Josh Hader and Robert Suarez, who have both been dominant and worked three of four days to finish out the series.
Something Joe Sheehan wrote about that was interesting today is that the Phillies have had extreme batted ball luck over their six postseason games. Their batting average on balls in play (BABIP) is .221, a major contrast from the .303 in the regular season with one of the worst defensive teams in baseball. That could even out here in a longer series and we may even see signs of it in Game 1 if Wheeler doesn’t induce more swing and miss.
I’ll reiterate what I mentioned last week. DraftKings uses 20-cent MLB lines. In this case, that’s + 105 and -125. Other books use 10-cent lines (often called dime lines), so we’re seeing -117 and + 107 or -115 and + 105. It is critical to shop around. The 20-cent line often forces a premium on betting a favorite. Don’t bet a favorite at DraftKings on a 20-cent line when you can find a price 8-10 cents better somewhere else. Be smart about your money. Betting is hard enough. Take good numbers.
If you’re on the Padres series price for Game 1, I don’t see a need to double down and take Game 1. The two prices are pretty much equal (at least at DraftKings) and I’d rather take my chances with the series as opposed to Game 1. I think San Diego can still win this series, even if they fall behind 1-0, but if you aren’t interested in locking up your money on a series price, the Padres at -115 or -117 are a very reasonable bet today.
Pick: Padres -117 or better