MLB playoff betting preview: Watch out for underdogs

A shortened baseball season seemed full of bizarre possibilities. In July, there was speculation that a long-shot team could make a World Series run or one of the favorites could miss the playoffs.

At the end of the 60-game sprint, there were no big surprises among the division winners. In the search for something wild and crazy, look to Luke Voit. At the Westgate SuperBook, Voit was posted at 1,000-1 odds to win the MLB home run title, which the New York Yankees slugger accomplished by hitting 22. Voit drew no action.

Voit’s power surge was not enough to lift the injury-riddled Yankees (33-27) over their regular-season win total of 37.5. The Yankees played second fiddle to the Tampa Bay Rays, who won 40 games and the American League East.

The Los Angeles Dodgers finished with the best record in the majors at 43-17, but it will mean little if they are unable to win a short series this week. Sixteen teams have reached the expanded postseason, with half of those teams headed home by the end of the week. The best-of-three format in the wild-card round means the bizarre still could happen.

“The first round could be chaos,” Westgate baseball oddsmaker Ed Salmons said. “Three games is a really short series, so it feels wide open. If the Yankees lose the first game, they will be in big trouble and will be feeling the pressure.”

The Dodgers are the World Series favorites at 7-2 on the Westgate odds board. The Marlins, hit by an outbreak of COVID-19 cases early in the season, face the longest odds at 40-1. The higher-seeded teams host games in the wild-card round, meaning the Yankees will hit the road to Cleveland on Tuesday. The Indians opened as underdogs.

“I would blindly play the ‘dogs in a short series,” William Hill sportsbook director Nick Bogdanovich said. “There’s a lot of pressure on the favorites. A best-of-five series is fair. I really don’t like the three-game series. But all eight matchups are good, and when baseball has the stage to itself this week, the betting should be good.”

A look at the wild-card round, with series prices from Westgate:

AL matchups

No. 1 Rays (-210) vs. No. 8 Blue Jays ( 180)

If Tampa Bay’s starting pitchers -- Tyler Glasnow, Charlie Morton and Blake Snell -- get on a roll, the Rays will be tough to stop. The Rays went 6-3 against the Jays this season, but the teams have not met since Aug. 24.

No. 2 Athletics (-115) vs. No. 7 White Sox (-105)

The White Sox were anything but white hot down the stretch, losing eight of 10. Chicago needs ace Lucas Giolito to be at his best. Oakland has an underrated rotation with Chris Bassitt, Jesus Luzardo and Sean Manaea.

No. 3 Twins (-170) vs. No. 6 Astros ( 150)

Considering the Twins have lost 16 straight postseason games, the series price on Minnesota looks high. Despite a losing record, Houston (29-31) has stars with World Series experience in Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa and George Springer.

No. 4 Indians ( 110) vs. No. 5 Yankees (-130)

The Shane Bieber-Gerrit Cole showdown in the opener is a pick ’em. Bieber (8-1, 1.63 ERA, 0.87 WHIP) has been sensational yet did allow seven homers in 77.1 innings. This situation is far from ideal for the Yankees, who hit much better as a team at home and went 11-18 on the road.

NL matchups

No. 1 Dodgers (-310) vs. No. 8 Brewers ( 260)

Clayton Kershaw, tentatively set to start Game 2, still is the staff ace for the Dodgers, yet Kershaw is 9-11 with a 4.43 ERA in his past 30 postseason appearances. The Dodgers’ biggest fear might be Kenley Jansen’s ability to close games.

No. 2 Braves (-135) vs. No. 7 Reds ( 115)

Cincinnati, which went 11-3 down the stretch, will be a popular underdog due to its three-man rotation of Trevor Bauer, Luis Castillo and Sonny Gray. Atlanta ace Max Fried (7-0, 2.25 ERA, 1.09 WHIP) is a -135 favorite over Bauer in Wednesday’s opener.

No. 3 Cubs (-210) vs. No. 6 Marlins ( 180)

Yu Darvish has been dominant, and Kyle Hendricks is a solid No. 2 starter. The Cubs need to find more offense from Javier Baez, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo. Miami’s young starters -- Sixto Sanchez, Pablo Lopez and Sandy Alcantara -- have everything but experience.

No. 4 Padres (-210) vs. No. 5 Cardinals ( 180)

San Diego has been a great story with the emergence of Fernando Tatis Jr., but Tatis went into a September slump. Manny Machado might have to be the main man. St. Louis should be a live ‘dog with starters Jack Flaherty and Adam Wainwright.

MLB WIN TOTAL RESULTS

OVERACHIEVERS

Los Angeles Dodgers (37.5) 43-17

Tampa Bay Rays (33.5) 40-20

San Diego Padres (30.5) 37-23

Minnesota Twins (34.5) 36-24

Oakland Athletics (33.5) 36-24

Atlanta Braves (33.5) 35-25

Chicago White Sox (31.5) 35-25

Cleveland Indians (32.5) 35-25

Chicago Cubs (32.5) 34-26

Toronto Blue Jays (26.5) 32-28

Miami Marlins (24.5) 31-29

San Francisco Giants (25.5) 29-31

Seattle Mariners (24.5) 27-33

Kansas City Royals (24.5) 26-34

Baltimore Orioles (20.5) 25-35

x-Detroit Tigers (20.5) 23-35

UNDERACHIEVERS

New York Yankees (37.5) 33-27

Houston Astros (35.5) 29-31

Washington Nationals (33.5) 26-34

New York Mets (32.5) 26-34

x-St. Louis Cardinals (32.5) 30-28

Cincinnati Reds (32) 31-29

Arizona Diamondbacks (31.5) 25-35

Los Angeles Angels (31.5) 26-34

Philadelphia Phillies (31.5) 28-32

Boston Red Sox (30.5) 24-36

Milwaukee Brewers (30.5) 29-31

Texas Rangers (28.5) 22-38

Colorado Rockies (26.5) 26-34

Pittsburgh Pirates (25.5) 19-41

SOURCE: Westgate SuperBook

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