After an exciting MLB season, we’ve already had a compelling start to the playoffs this week with the “play-in” games on Monday and the wild-card games on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Technically, the Monday games were still tiebreakers from the regular season in the NL Central and West, but even though the losers weren’t eliminated, they had the feel of playoff games. One thing to take away from those games is what I’ve written about for a long time, and that’s to look first at the Under in playoff games. You have quality teams facing each other in usually close games, and while there’s a lot of great hitters involved, that’s offset by a lot of great pitching, plus managers tend to play thing close to the vest.
Of course, that’s also factored into the lines, but as we’ve seen this week, the Under is still the way to look. On Monday, the Brewers beat the Cubs 3-1 in a clear Under while the Dodgers-Rockies looked like a stone-cold Under for the first eight innings with the Dodgers leading 5-0 before the Rockies hit “meaningless” solo homers in the top of the ninth for a 5-2 final that pushed on the over/under of 7. The Rockies’ 2-1 wild-card win over the Cubs on Tuesday was another easy under and then we had the only Over of the week with the Yankees’ 7-2 win over the A’s, though that just snuck over the betting total of 8.5.
This is my “Tuley’s Takes” of the MLB Divisional Playoffs, and while we’ll again lean to the unders, I’ll give my thoughts on which Underdogs I’ll be backing. For those that follow me, I’m mostly a “dog-or-pass” bettor, though I’ve had plenty of followers who bet chalk and interpret my “pass” games as a “buy sign” on the favorite since it means I’m unable to make a case for the dog.
As of early Thursday morning, the Rockies-Brewers series was still off the board, so we’ll start with the other NL divisional series and add the others to this file as we get the odds. Lines are from the South Point as of Thursday morning unless otherwise noted:
Rockies vs. Brewers (starts Thursday, 5:05 p.m. ET)
Series price: Brewers -155/Rockies plus-135
Game 1: Brewers -165/Rockies plus-152
Over/under: 8.5 (over EVEN/under -120)
Tuley’s Take: Both teams come into this series off road wins at the Chicago Cubs as the Brewers stole the NL’s No. 1 seed in their tiebreaker on Monday and the Rockies beat them in the wild-card game Tuesday to set make the Elite Eight in the divisional round. Both teams come in playing some of their best baseball (Rockies winning nine of their last 11 and Brewers winning 10 of 11), but I give the overall edge to the Brewers even without having home-field advantage. I’m not going to lay the series price and will pass on the sides the first two games but looking to take the Brewers as underdogs in Games 3 and 4 (probably necessary) as their lineup seemed to enjoy the thin air when taking three of four at Colorado back in May. As for the over/unders, I’ll start with the Under 8.5 in Game 1 and will probably still stick with the Under when the series moves to Colorado as we’ll be getting totals in the teens. Best Bets: Under 8.5 in Game 1 and Unders as long as I’m not dealt two losses to make me back off; Brewers as dogs in Games 3 and 4 (or even small road faves).
Braves vs. Dodgers (starts Thursday, 8:35 p.m. ET)
Series price: Dodgers -220/Braves plus-190
Game 1: Dodgers -170/Braves plus-155
Over/under: 7 (over -120/under EVEN)
Tuley’s Take: I see the Braves as a very live underdog here and at a very fair price in Game 1 as well as the best-of-five series. For starters, I feel they catch a break with the Dodgers going with Hyun-Jin Ryu in Game 1 instead of Clayton Kershaw. They counter with the very capable Mike Foltynewicz. There’s really not much difference between these two teams this year as the Dodgers were 91-71 (before their tiebreaker win) and the Braves at 90-72. The big difference was from a gambling standpoint as the Braves were plus-18.03 units if you had bet them in all games while the Dodgers were -22.83 units. You might say “how does that help me now?,” but it shows how much the Braves were underestimated by the oddsmakers and bettors all season and especially how overrated the Dodgers were. And, I believe, how much the Dodgers continued to be overpriced. Win or lose in Game 1 on the Braves, I’m sure I won’t be able to resist taking them again in Game 2 in what I’m assuming with be an inflated price on Kershaw. A lot of people will be telling you how much the Dodgers’ playoff experience gives them an edge over the Braves, but I take the contrarian view: the Dodgers have underachieved so much in the playoffs in recent years that I believe it actually works against them here (note: see how much the Cubs’ experience edge worked for them Monday and Tuesday; the pressure could get to the Dodgers while the Braves are able to play loose). As for the over/unders, I like the Under 7 EVEN in Game 1, glad to get the 7 and no juice, but I’d pass on any totals at 6.5 or lower. These teams did go Over the first three times they met in L.A. in June, but that series was devoid of any aces; three of four games stayed under in July when better pitchers started and that was looking more like a playoff preview. When this series moves to Atlanta, I’d back the Braves as home dogs even though they lost three of four to the Dodgers in Atlanta when they last met in July. Best Bets: Braves plus-190 in series and plus-155 in Game 1 and any other games as underdogs; also Under in games lined at 7 or higher.
Indians vs. Astros (starts Friday, 2:05 p.m. ET)
Series price: Astros -160/Indians plus-140
Games 1: Astros -140/Indians plus-130
Over/under: 6.5 (over -125/Under plus-105)
Tuley’s Take: This is the series I’ll probably be least involved in over the next week. I love both teams and will take the survivor as series underdogs to the Red Sox. Since I regard them at pretty even, you would think I would jump at the Indians plus-140 series price, but I feel that’s a little short with Astros holding home-field advantage (the main advantage being the fact the first two games are in Houston and give them a better chance to take control of the series, plus the very likely – in my mind – decisive Game 5). I will be looking at the dog in the individual games, so let’s start with the Indians plus-130 in Game 1 with Corey Kluber against Justin Verlander as that seems like a fair price. As for the over/unders, I’ll pass in Game 1 as it’s set at 6.5. When these teams met in May (two home-and-home series and then no meetings the rest of the season), the over/unders were 7.5 for the games in Houston so hopefully we see higher totals in the other games. Best Bets: Indians plus-130 in Game 1 and then waiting for fair dog prices in other matchups; pass on over/unders unless we can get Under 7.5 or better (especially in Houston games).
Yankees vs. Red Sox (starts Friday, 7:30 p.m. ET)
Series price: Red Sox -150/Yankees plus-130 (most Vegas books)
Game 1: Red Sox -180/Yankees plus-165
Over/under: 8 (over EVEN, under -120)
Tuley’s Take: Baseball’s greatest rivalry is alive and well. The Red Sox had the best record in baseball at 108-54, but the Yankees were not too far back at 100-62, so I see value in the plus-130 series price. I like Game 1 even more. The Red Sox send out ace Chris Sale (12-4, 2.11 ERA, 0.86 WHIP and 2-0 vs. Yankees this year), but New York counters with J.A. Happ (17-6 but 7-0 since joining the Yankees, including 2-0 in September vs. Red Sox). I’ll probably be on the dog in every other game of the series (even if flipping to Boston in games in New York). As for the Unders, I’ll mostly pass as these teams can bash even the best of pitchers; however, put me down for an early play on Saturday's Game 2 Under when odds are posted as Dan Bellino is slated to be the home-plate umpire and games are 18-7-3 to the Under when he’s calling the balls & strikes this season. Best Bets: Yankees plus-135 in series and 165 in Game 1 as well as dogs the rest of series, plus the Under in Game 2 only.