MLB Playoffs Betting: Royals at Orioles Game 1 Opening Line Report
by Alan Matthews - 10/9/2014
If you had the Baltimore Orioles and Kansas City Royals playing in the American League Championship Series back in Spring Training, you should be doing this job and not me. Shoot, I couldn't have predicted this even a week or so ago. What a stunner. While the TBS network probably isn't thrilled with the size of these two markets -- Angels-Tigers would have been much preferred -- it's good for baseball and proves money can't buy everything.
The Orioles haven't been to the World Series since 1983, when they beat Philadelphia in five games behind series MVP Rick Dempsey. The Royals haven't been back since winning the epic 1985 Fall Classic in seven games behind series MVP Bret Saberhagen. I officially feel old now! The Orioles are -140 on the series line.
Friday's Game 1: Royals at Orioles (-125, 7)
All Kansas City did in the ALDS was beat an Angels team that had the best record and run differential in baseball. I am starting to think Kansas City is a team of destiny because it shouldn't even have beaten Oakland in the wild-card game.
Because Kansas City finished off its sweep of Los Angeles on Sunday, ace "Big Game" James Shields will make his second straight start and third of this postseason on Friday. Shields wasn't great against the A's, allowing four runs and five hits in five innings, but he was bailed out in that one. Against the Angels, Shields did get the win, allowing two runs -- both solo homers -- and six hits in six innings. He was pulled after 105 pitches, and Royals manager Ned Yost isn't afraid to pull any pitcher early because the Kansas City bullpen is so terrific.
Shields was 2-0 with a 3.21 ERA against the Orioles this season. On April 27 at Camden Yards, Shields allowed two runs and three hits in seven innings of a 9-3 victory. On May 18 in Kansas City, the right-hander gave up three runs and nine hits in seven innings. Shields has plenty of history with the Orioles since the majority of his career was with Tampa Bay in the AL East. Nick Markakis has faced him the most, going 21-for-71 with two homers, eight RBIs and 11 walks. Adam Jones is a .304 hitter with a homer and six RBIs in 46 at-bats off Shields.
Big-league home run leader Nelson Cruz struggles against Shields, going 4-for-21 with no homers and six strikeouts. Cruz is a postseason monster. He has 16 playoff home runs, among the most all time, and all since the start of the 2010 season. Cruz hit .500 in the sweep of Detroit with two homers and five RBIs. One guy Shields nor any Royals pitcher will need worry about this series is Chris Davis. He has five games left on his suspension, so the Orioles decided to just leave him off the roster. No doubt they will activate him should Baltimore get to the World Series.
Chris Tillman starts for Baltimore. He will be plenty fresh as he hasn't pitched since Game 1 of the ALDS when he beat Detroit by allowing two runs and four hits in five innings. Tillman was 5-5 with a 2.54 ERA at home this year. He faced Kansas City once in 2014, May 16 on the road. Tillman threw his only complete-game shutout of the year, allowing just five hits. He's not a big strikeout guy and had three that day. Tillman relies on his defense, and the Orioles have a good one -- if not quite as good as Kansas City's. Baltimore also has a great bullpen.
Royals star Alex Gordon is 3-for-13 in his career off Tillman with two homers and three RBIs. Billy Butler is 2-for-14 with a homer. Salvador Perez is 1-for-6 with a dinger. Kansas City's best hitter in the ALDS was Eric Hosmer as he batted .538 with two homers, four RBIs and four walks. He has a single in eight at-bats career vs. Tillman.
Kansas City won the season series, outscoring Baltimore 26-18. Throw that out. The clubs haven't played since May. The Orioles led the majors in homers in the regular season and have four in these playoffs. K.C. was last in homers but has four as well. The Royals also have 12 steals, and they led the majors in that category during the year. The Orioles have two, and they were last in that category during the season.
Game 1 key trends: Kansas City is 6-0 in its past six as a dog. It is 4-0 in Shields' past four as a dog. The Royals are 12-1 in Shields' past 13 road starts vs. teams with a winning record. The Orioles are 8-0 in Tillman's past eight as a favorite. The "over/under" has gone under in Shields' past four as a dog. The over is 4-1 in Tillman's past five with at least seven days of rest. The under is 6-1 in the past seven meetings in Baltimore.
Early lean: I like Shields as a dog here. I would take the alternate total of 7.5 runs and then go under there at -141 to protect against a 4-3 result. I like Baltimore to score first at +110 but the Royals to win by one run exactly as the winning margin at +600.
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