MLB Playoffs Betting: Giants at Cardinals Opening Line Report
by Alan Matthews - 10/10/2014
Is the National League Championship Series between the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals a surprise? No question, but definitely not on the level or the Royals-Orioles ALCS. The Giants and Cardinals have been two of the most successful teams in baseball this decade. It's an even-numbered year, and that's when San Francisco wins World Series. The Cardinals have become the Yankees of the National League but without the crazy payroll. They are in their fourth straight NLCS -- who needs Albert Pujols (a brilliant move, by the way)? It's probably the best-run franchise in the majors right now, and the team is going to be good for the foreseeable future. Still, I fully expected a Nationals-Dodgers NLCS as those two teams had the clear edge in both starting pitching and lineups. That's why the play the game.
All odds courtesy of Bovada . The Cardinals, with home-field advantage, are the -135 series favorites. St. Louis is the second favorite to win the World Series at 13/5 and San Francisco third at 11/4. The favored exact series result is St. Louis in seven games at 15/4 (Cards in six just behind at 4/1). However, six total games in the series is also the slight favorite at +170.
Saturday's Game 1: Giants at Cardinals (-123, 6.5)
The Giants are -215 on the runline, and on the "over/under" the under is a -125 favorite. I'm assuming that Giants left-hander Madison Bumgarner is good and sober now after he memorably chugged five beers at once after the Giants finished off Washington in four games in the NLDS. Perhaps my favorite stat of the San Francisco ace is that he hit two grand slams (among four total homers) this season. That's one more than Derek Jeter had in his career. There actually is a Bovada prop on whether a pitcher homers in this series, with "no" at -600 and "yes" at +350 (definitely no).
Bumgarner dominated Pittsburgh in the wild-card game, throwing a complete-game, four-hit shutout while striking out 10. He lost Game 3 of the NLDS at home largely because he made a poor choice on a bunt and threw to third when he should have gone to first in the seventh inning. His throw was wild and two runs scored. His final line was seven innings, six hits and two earned allowed with six strikeouts. Bumgarner was much better on the road this regular season, going 11-4 with a 2.22 ERA. He faced St. Louis twice. On May 30 in St. Louis, he blanked the Cards on three hits over seven innings, striking out 10. On July 3 at home, he allowed five runs and six hits in five innings in a loss. July was easily his worst month of the season.
Matt Carpenter, probably the biggest star for St. Louis in the NLDS, is 3-for-5 career off Bumgarner with two doubles. Matt Adams, the star of the clinching Game 4, is 0-for-3 with two strikeouts. Yadier Molina is 4-for-14 off him. Matt Holliday just 2-for-16. The only guy with a homer career against Bumgarner is Jhonny Peralta, and that's his only hit in nine at-bats.
I am very curious to see what Adam Wainwright does here as there have been rumblings that perhaps he is having elbow problems. In fact, Cards manager Mike Matheny wouldn't even 100 percent commit to his ace should there have been a Game 5 against the Dodgers. Wainwright certainly didn't look hurt in September when he was 5-0 with a 1.38 ERA. However, in his lone NLDS start he was rocked for six runs and 11 hits in 4.1 innings in Los Angeles. The Cards bailed him out with that shocking seventh inning against Clayton Kershaw.
Wainwright was 1-1 with a 5.25 ERA in two starts against the Giants this regular season. On May 30 at home, he was shelled for seven runs in 4.1 innings. July 2 in San Francisco he shut the Giants out on four hits over 7.2 innings. Hunter Pence is a career .275 hitter with two homers and four doubles in 51 at-bats off him. Buster Posey is 2-for-11. Pablo Sandoval 6-for-18 with two RBIs. San Francisco has put Michael Morse on the NLCS roster. He played just one game in September due to an oblique strain and wasn't active in the wild-card round of NLDS. Morse hit .279 with 16 homers and 61RBIs this season. I would be surprised if he starts Game 1 as he bats righty, and the Giants are likely to use lefty-hitting Travis Ishikawa.
The Giants won the season series 4-3, but the teams haven't played since early July.
Game 1 Key trends: San Francisco has won six straight road playoff games. It is 6-2 in Bumgarner's past eight following a quality start in his last appearance. St. Louis is 8-0 in its past eight at home against left-handers. The Cards are 4-0 in Wainwright's past four against teams with a winning record. The under is 5-1 in the Giants' past six as a playoff dog. The under is 6-0 in the Cardinals' past six at home against teams with a winning record. The over is 4-0 in San Francisco's past four against St. Louis. The Cards are 5-1 in Wainwright's past six vs. the Giants.
Early lean: I worry about Wainwright here, no question. However, I also worry about that San Francisco offense. It didn't score more than three runs in any NLDS game. Sure, it's harder to score in the playoffs, but three runs many nights won't cut it. To be fair, the Cards only topped three once in the NLDS against the Dodgers. But they beat Kershaw twice. Fluke homers? Maybe. Go St. Louis here and the under. I like Cardinals in five (11/2 at Bovada as exact series result) because after Bumgarner the Giants' pitching is shaky.
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