MLB Playoffs Betting: Friday, Oct. 3, 2014, Opening Line Report
by Alan Matthews - 10/2/2014
The National League wild-card game lacked any drama as San Francisco's Madison Bumgarner dominated the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday night. The Washington Nationals probably aren't unhappy they won't have to face the stellar lefty in Game 1 of the NLDS. Meanwhile, the opener of the Cardinals-Dodgers Division Series has about the best pitching matchup you could ask for.Here is a glance at each NL opener on Friday. Odds from BetOnline.
Giants at Nationals (-173, 6.5)
Remember two years ago when Washington was the top seed in the National League but the team had shut down ace Stephen Strasburg before the playoffs? I truly believe that cost Washington in its NLDS loss to the Cardinals. No such worries this time as Strasburg makes his playoff debut Friday against San Francisco. At least the Giants didn't have to travel far from Pittsburgh.
If you had told me in early July that Jake Peavy would be starting a playoff game, I would have had you drug tested. But here the right-hander is. He was 1-9 with a 4.72 ERA with Boston before being traded to the Giants -- which looks like the best deal anyone made in the wake of Oakland being eliminated. In 12 starts with San Francisco, Peavy was 6-4 with a 2.17 ERA. He didn't allow more than two earned runs in his final nine starts and was 3-0 with a 1.44 ERA in five September starts. If you don't think it's easier to pitch in the National League, I don't know what better evidence I can give you than this guy.
Peavy did not face the Nationals this season. He wasn't very good in last year's playoffs with Boston. Peavy allowed 10 runs in 12.2 innings. Denard Span is 7-for-20 with five doubles off Peavy in his career. Adam LaRoche is 5-for-14 with three homers and seven RBIs. Jayson Werth is 3-for-16 with a homer but eight strikeouts.
I think Strasburg (14-11, 3.14) is overrated, but he has been stellar of late. The big right-hander was 3-1 with a 1.13 ERA in September. He had a tendency of following a great start with an average-to-bad one, but that hasn't happened in weeks. Strasburg, who was 9-3 with a 2.56 ERA at home, was 1-0 with a 5.40 ERA in two starts this year against the Giants. He was hit hard in his home start vs. San Francisco but dominant in the road one. Buster Posey is a career .385 hitter off Strasburg in 13 at-bats. Hunter Pence is 3-for-13 with a homer and two RBIs. Gregor Blanco, the team's leadoff hitter with Angel Pagan out, is 4-for-14 with a homer.
Washington won the season series 5-2.
Key trends: The Giants are 4-0 in Peavy's past four on the road. San Francisco is 6-20 in its past 26 as a dog. The Nationals are 1-4 in Strasburg's past four against teams with a winning record. The "over/under" has gone over in 13 of San Francisco's past 17 vs. teams with a winning record. The over is 4-1 in Strasburg's past five at home. The over is 5-0 in the past five meetings.
Early lean: Like the Nats and the over.
Cardinals at Dodgers (-194, 5.5)
I'm guessing this is the biggest the Cardinals have been an underdog with ace Adam Wainwright on the mound in a long time. Most years, Wainwright is your Cy Young winner as he finished 20-9 with a 2.38 ERA. He was scheduled to start Sunday, but when the Cardinals didn't need him (the NL Central was clinched) he was quickly scratched. So he might be a bit rusty as his last start was Sept. 22. Wainwright has allowed two earned runs over 33 innings in his past four starts.
He faced the Dodgers once this year, taking a hard-luck loss on June 26 despite allowing just one run and five hits over eight innings. In last year's NLCS, Wainwright faced L.A. once, taking the loss in Game 3, giving up two runs over seven innings. He is 4-3 with a 2.53 ERA in 67.2 career playoff innings. It will be interesting to see which three outfielders L.A. starts. Generally I would imagine Andre Ethier is the odd man out with Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford and Yasiel Puig in the lineup, but Ethier has two homers and six RBIs in his career off Wainwright. Crawford is 2-for-7 against him. Kemp (3-for-23) and Puig (1-for-7) I presume are locks to start.
Then there's Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw, who will win the NL Cy Young (his third) and MVP Awards when announced in November. Kershaw (21-3, 1.77) won the MLB ERA title for a record fourth straight season, and the Dodgers won 20 of his final 21 starts. He's good. The lefty was 1-0 with a 1.93 ERA this year against St. Louis and 10-2 with a 1.70 ERA in 14 home starts.
However, Cardinals fans might have hope. St. Louis clinched last year's NLCS by rocking Kershaw for seven runs and 10 hits in four innings of Game 6. Kershaw is a mediocre 1-3 with a 4.23 ERA in 38.1 career postseason innings. Remember how Greg Maddux was practically unhittable in the regular season but average in the playoffs? Not saying that's what Kershaw is as it's too early to tell. But it does happen. Matt Holliday is 9-for-35 with 10 walks and 10 strikeouts career off Kershaw. Yadier Molina is 6-for-22 with three doubles. Matt Carpenter is 5-for-18 off him.
The Dodgers won the season series 4-3.
Key trends: The Cardinals are 7-1 in their past eight against lefties. They are 2-8 in Wainwright's past 10 as a dog. L.A. is 14-3 in its past 17 as a home favorite. The Dodgers are 5-0 in Kershaw's past five with at least eight days of rest. The under is 4-0 in Wainwright's past four against the Dodgers. L.A. is 2-5 in Kershaw's past seven against St. Louis.
Early lean: Wainwright is a playoff stud. The Cardinals are good underdog value here. Go over the total. That's two playoff overs in one day. Will rarely happen.
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