MLB Playoffs Betting: Cardinals at Giants Game 3 Opening Line Report
by Alan Matthews - 10/13/2014
Thank goodness for the National League, because the American League playoffs have been rather void of drama. Oh, sure, the wild-card game was spectacular, but both ALDS ended in a sweep, and it's possible that the ALCS could end in a Royals four-game sweep as early as Tuesday if they win Game 3 at home Monday night (it it's played as rain is forecast). The NLCS between the Giants and Cardinals is guaranteed to go at least five games as it heads to California for Game 3 on Tuesday afternoon tied at 1-1. Odds courtesy of SuperBook.
Cardinals at Giants (-118, 7)
Before looking at the pitching matchup, there is one mammoth injury concern to examine. Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina might not be the best all-around player in the major leagues -- guess you'd have to give that to Mike Trout -- but I don't believe there is one guy more important to his team's success than Molina.
He was forced out of St. Louis' walk-off 5-4 win in Game 2 on Sunday with what appears to be an oblique strain. As of this writing, no update has been given on his status. You simply can't play through that injury 48 hours after it happens, so it would be a miracle if Molina plays not just Game 3 but the rest of this series and maybe even the Fall Classic should his team get there. Molina is easily the best defensive catcher in baseball, both with his ability to throw out baserunners -- remember how he pegged the Dodgers' Andre Ethier leaning off third in the NLDS? -- and in pitch framing. He also is a terrific offensive player, batting .282 with seven homers and 38 RBIs in 110 games. That may not sound like much, and it was a down season for him (thumb appeared to bother him even after he returned), but for a catcher it's pretty good, especially a stellar defensive catcher. Molina was 2-for-6 in the first two games against the Giants and got his 89th career postseason hit on Sunday, setting the Cardinals' franchise record.
The Cardinals already have an issue with ace Adam Wainwright, who clearly isn't healthy himself after a second straight bad outing in Game 1. If Molina is taken off the roster for the rest of the NLCS then he wouldn't be eligible to play in the World Series. The Cards were only 21-19 when Molina was on the DL earlier this season with a thumb injury. I presume A.J. Pierzynski would start for Molina even though it was Tony Cruz who replaced him Sunday. Although in three starts with Cruz behind the plate John Lackey's ERA was 2.25 this year. He starts Game 3. Lackey also knows Pierzynski as the catcher started this season in Boston.
As for Lackey, he started Game 3 of the NLDS at home against the Dodgers and was excellent, allowing one run and five hits while striking out eight in seven innings. That improved him to 7-5 with a 2.92 ERA in 111.0 career postseason innings. Because he was a late-season acquisition, Lackey didn't face San Francisco this year. In fact, only a few Giants have ever faced him. Michael Morse, who probably will continue to come off the bench as a potential pinch hitter, is 1-for-6 with two strikeouts off him. Hunter Pence and Pablo Sandoval are each 1-for-3 off Lackey.
San Francisco counters with its own veteran right-hander, Tim Hudson. He struggled down the stretch in the regular season but was also excellent in the NLDS, allowing the Nationals just a run on seven hits while striking out eight in 7.1 innings. He is 1-3 with a 3.19 ERA in 62 postseason innings.
Hudson, who was 5-5 with a 3.94 ERA in 14 home starts, made one start against the Cardinals. That was June 1 in St. Louis when Hudson blanked the Cards on three hits over seven innings. Molina hits him better than any other Cardinal in his career, going 6-for-15 with five RBIs. Matt Holliday is a .346 hitter off him with five RBIs. Pierzynski is 5-for-18 with three knocked in.
Game 3 key trends: The Cardinals are 1-5 in their past six LCS road games. They are 1-4 in Lackey's past five on the road. The Giants have won six of their past seven home playoff games. They are 2-7 in Hudson's past nine vs. teams with a winning record. The "over/under" has gone under in Lackey's past four. It is 6-1 in St. Louis' past seven against right-handers. The over is 6-0 in the Giants' past six home LCS games. The under is 7-3 in the Giants' past 10 as a favorite.
Current series line: Giants -125, Cardinals +105.
Early lean: I will admit I took St. Louis in five before this series began. Now I am totally off the Cards because of Molina and Wainwright (whom I thought was OK because he said he was). Now I lean Giants in seven. As for this game, I really like how Lackey is pitching. So take the Cardinals and the under.
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