MLB Betting: AL Wild-Card Game Opening Line Report
by Alan Matthews - 9/29/2014
How is this for a prop idea (you listening sportsbooks?): California teams vs. the field to win the World Series. Four of the five teams from the state -- sorry Padres -- are in baseball's postseason. Alas, not all four will make it to the LCS because the Angels will host the wild-card winner between Oakland and Kansas City. This is the first time in the wild-card era that both the Yankees and Red Sox didn't make the playoffs. Frankly, I think it's good to have some new blood. The TV executives probably aren't happy about it, however. Here is a glance at the AL wild-card game on Tuesday. Odds courtesy of BetOnline.
A's at Royals (-112, 6.5)
It's the first playoff game since 1985 for Kansas City, so it should be quite a raucous crowd at Kauffman Stadium. Don't think a crowd makes a difference in a baseball playoff game? Then you didn't see/hear the folks in Pittsburgh in last year's wild-card matchup. Those fans literally rattled excellent Reds starter Johnny Cueto. The Royals traded top prospect Wil Myers before the 2013 season (and very good young pitcher Jake Odorizzi) to Tampa Bay for James Shields for exactly this scenario: winning a playoff game. He takes the mound Tuesday night, with the game televised by TBS. The Royals are at +195 on the runline, with the A's at -225.
Shields (14-8, 3.21), who will become a free agent and almost surely too expensive for the Royals to keep, faced Oakland twice in the span of 11 days in August. On Aug. 3 in Oakland, Shields got the win by allowing two runs and four hits over eight innings, striking out two and walking none. Those two runs came courtesy of Josh Reddick solo homers in the sixth and eighth innings. The Royals won 4-2. On Aug. 14 in Kansas City, Shields allowed three runs and seven hits over six innings. He took a no-decision, but the Royals won 7-3. Reddick is a career .318 hitter off Shields with three homers. Most other A's struggle off him. Jed Lowrie is just 3-for-16 with four strikeouts. Adam Dunn, who finally made the playoffs in his 13th season, is 7-for-35 with 16 strikeouts vs. Shields. The right-hander has made six postseason starts in his career, all with the Rays. Shields is 2-4 with a 4.98 ERA.
Meanwhile, the A's acquired Jon Lester from Boston at the trade deadline also just for a game like this. Lester (16-11, 2.46) will become a free agent as well and also will be too expensive for Oakland to bring back. My guess is the Cubs land him. Lester was great last postseason, going 4-1 with a 1.56 ERA in five starts. He has a stellar 2.11 ERA in 76.2 career postseason innings. Lester faced the Royals three times this season, once with Boston. He was 3-0 with a 2.61 ERA. Lester's lone career no-hitter was against Kansas City in 2008. Lester will be pitching on five days' rest, and his career ERA on five days' rest is 3.36.
The Royals are the first team to ever make the playoffs in a season in which they finished last in the league in home runs and walks. Royals star Alex Gordon really struggles vs. Lester, hitting .160 with 10 strikeouts in 25 at-bats. Billy Butler bats only.143 off him with 11 strikeouts in 28 at-bats. Jayson Nix hits .308 with three homers and six RBIs off Lester, but he rarely plays and was claimed off waivers in late August. Might Nix get a spot start?
The Royals won the season series 5-2.
Key trends: The A's are 5-23 in their past 28 as an underdog. They are 1-5 in their past six road playoff games. The Royals are 1-6 in their past seven at home vs. teams with a winning record. Kansas City is 2-6 in Shields' past eight at home vs. teams with a winning record. The "under" has hit in seven of Oakland's past nine on the road. The under is 4-0 in Shields' past four vs. teams with a winning record.
Early lean: Certainly the under at -120 (almost always go under in playoff games). Neither team is all that great offensively, but the A's have really been in an offensive funk since dealing Yoenis Cespedes in the Lester trade. For example, they have been shut out seven times since that trade. Oakland's post-All-Star break winning percentage of .433 is the lowest in history for a team that reached the playoffs. The Royals are better defensively and in the bullpen. Their fans will be going nuts. They are the pick.
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