MLB Picks: Diamondbacks vs. Brewers NLDS Odds and Predictions
by Darin Zank - 9/30/2011
The most surprising of all playoff-bound baseball teams of this season is the Arizona Diamondbacks, who, after finishing last in the NL West the last two seasons, won the division this year.
The Milwaukee Brewers, meanwhile, parlayed a couple of key off-season pitching pick-ups with a couple of MVP-type seasons from Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder into the NL Central championship.
So it's a longshot going up against a relative playoff novice when Arizona takes on Milwaukee in an NL divisional-round series that starts Saturday afternoon at Miller Park.
Setting the Scene
Arizona was picked by most “experts” to finish fourth or fifth in the NL West this season. Instead, in their first full season under manager Kirk Gibson, the Diamondbacks used the 1-2 pitching punch of Ian Kennedy and Daniel Hudson and an MVP-type season from Justin Upton to win the NL West by eight games over second-place San Francisco. Those who backed Arizona to win the division were rewarded with a payoff of upwards of 20/1.
After the acquisitions of Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum, Milwaukee figured to at least contend in the NL Central this season. But the Brewers got off to a slow start, and after a seven-game losing streak in early May they sat six games under .500 at 13-19. But behind the best starting rotation in team history the Brew Crew got rolling, and later used a 23-3 run to propel them to their first division title since 1982.
Milwaukee finished with the best home record in baseball at 57-24. And with home-field advantage in this series they get the first two games at home, and, if necessary, the fifth.
The Pitching Matchups
Arizona will throw Kennedy in Saturday's series opener vs. Yovani Gallardo for the Brewers (2:07 p.m. Eastern, all games on TBS). The Diamondbacks will then go with Hudson for Game 2 Sunday against Marcum for Milwaukee (4:37 p.m. Eastern).
As the series moves to Arizona for Game 3 on Tuesday the Brewers will send Greinke to the mound vs. Joe Saunders for the Diamondbacks. Randy Wolf and Josh Collmenter are the probables for a Game 4, if necessary, on Wednesday, and a Game 5 would be played back in Milwaukee next Friday.
If not for the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw, Arizona's Kennedy would probably win the NL Cy Young Award this year. The former Yankee went 21-4, posted a 2.88 ERA and allowed fewer hits than innings pitched, which is always a good thing. The Diamondbacks went a sparkling 25-8 in Kennedy's starts this season. And in his one start vs. Milwaukee Kennedy held the Brew Crew scoreless on four hits over seven innings.
Gallardo had another solid season for Milwaukee, winning a career-high 17 games. Over his last three starts he allowed just four earned runs in 20 IP. And in two starts vs. Arizona this season Gallardo gave up just two ERs on eight hits in 13 innings of work.
So Saturday's game looks like a very even pitching matchup.
Hudson backed up his good finish from last year by winning 16 games this year. He posted a 3.49 ERA and walked just 50 in 222 innings. However, the Diamondbacks lost his last three starts, and he lost his one start vs. the Brewers, allowing five ERs in just four IP.
Marcum did just about everything Milwaukee hoped for after coming over from Toronto during the off-season. He won 13 games, ate up 200 innings, and allowed two ERs or fewer in 20 of his starts. But he ended the season somewhat poorly, allowing 18 ERs over his last 24 IP. In his one start vs. Arizona this year Marcum gave up four ERs in six innings.
So we might give Hudson a small advantage on Sunday.
Greinke, a former AL Cy Young winner, went 16-6 in his first year with Milwaukee, striking out 201 in 172 innings. But he was, like the Brewers, a bit Jekyll-and-Hyde as far as his home-road splits. At Miller Park Greinke went 11-0 with a 3.13 ERA; on the road he went 5-6 with a 4.70 ERA. Greinke started once vs. Arizona this season, allowing two ERs in seven innings.
Saunders went 12-13 this year with a respectable 3.69 ERA, and had 16 starts in which he allowed two ERs or fewer. He was also pretty good in his one start vs. Milwaukee this year, holding the Brewers to two ERs in seven innings.
So with Greinke's struggles on the road we'd have to rate this pitching matchup as pretty close to even, too.
The Season Series
Back in July the Diamondbacks took two of three games from the Brewers at Miller Park, beating Marcum and Wolf before falling to Gallardo. Then a couple weeks later the teams split four games in Arizona, as Collmenter and Kennedy won for the Diamondbacks while Gallardo picked up another victory for the Brewers. So overall Arizona took four of seven games from Milwaukee this season.
Diamondbacks vs. Brewers NLDS Betting Odds
Bookmaker is listing Milwaukee as a -141 favorite for Saturday's game, with an ‘over/under’ of seven. The Brewers are also lined as -171 favorites to win this series, with the Diamondbacks getting +151 as the underdogs. And on Bookmaker's futures market Milwaukee is being offered at +375 to win the National League pennant and +750 to win the World Series, with Arizona getting +600 to win the pennant and +1,400 to win the Series.
MLB Picks: Diamondbacks vs. Brewers NLDS Predictions
These two teams are very similar. They've both got some solid starting pitching, good bullpens and like the long ball. Milwaukee's lineup is a bit deeper, but Arizona runs a little more. And while the Brewers are great at home, the Diamondbacks are no slouch on the road. So in a situation like this, where we basically see a toss-up, we'll go with the underdog price and take Arizona to win this series.
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