MLB Playoffs Betting: Thursday, Oct. 2, 2014, Opening Line Report
by Alan Matthews - 10/1/2014
It's our first day with two postseason games as the American League steals the spotlight Thursday with Game 1 of the ALDS between Detroit and Baltimore at Camden Yards and the wild-card winning Kansas City Royals at the top-seeded Los Angeles Angels. The Tigers are the only team in the LDS, including National League, that is a series favorite yet a higher seed -- so without having home-field advantage in the best-of-five. Detroit is -145 at BetOnline and Baltimore +125. Here a glance at both games Thursday. Good luck matching Tuesday's A's-Royals thriller.
Tigers at Orioles (+104, 7)
With all due respect to the Orioles, you can see why Detroit would be favored. While Baltimore has the better bullpen and defense, the Tigers easily appear to have the rotation and lineup edge. Especially the lineup with Baltimore still without the suspended Chris Davis. He won't play at all in this series as he has eight games remaining on the punishment.
The Tigers are +140 on the runline for this one behind reigning AL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer, who could be making his final start in a Detroit uniform should Detroit lose this series in four games. Scherzer was 21-3 with a 2.90 ERA, 0.97 WHIP and 240 strikeouts last season. He wasn't exactly chopped liver in 2014 with an 18-5 mark, 3.15 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and career-high 252 strikeouts. He also had the first complete-game shutout of his career. That was against the White Sox in June.
Scherzer also got the call in Game 1 of last season's ALDS in Oakland. He beat the A's, allowing two runs and three hits over seven innings, striking out 13. He made four postseason starts overall and was 2-1 with a 2.82 ERA. As for this year, he didn't face the Orioles and was a bit worse on the road with a 7-4 mark and 3.49 ERA. Last year, Scherzer was 1-0 with a 2.57 ERA in two starts against the Birds. Big-league home run champion Nelson Cruz hits him well in his career, going 8-for-21 with a home run and six RBIs. Adam Jones is 9-for-14 with two doubles and homer off Scherzer. Nick Markakis hits .313 off him with two doubles in 16 at-bats.
Baltimore starts Chris Tillman (13-6, 3.34), whom I think it can be agreed is the worst ace of any team still standing. He's still pretty darn good, though. Tillman had a streak of 10 straight games not allowing more than three earned runs snapped in his season finale, a 4-2 loss in Toronto. He gave up four earned and 11 hits over six innings. That was Baltimore's only loss in his final 12 outings.
Tillman faced the Tigers once, way back on April 6 in Detroit. He got the win, giving up a run and five hits over 8.1 innings. Miguel Cabrera is 5-for-13 with a homer and four RBIs off Tillman. Victor Martinez is 4-for-10 with a double and two knocked in. Torii Hunter has a homer in four at-bats off Tillman, who is 5-5 with a 2.54 ERA in 18 home starts in 2014.
The Tigers won the season series 5-1. The teams haven't played since May 14.
Key trends: The Tigers are 4-0 in Scherzer's past four as a road favorite and in his past four against teams with a winning record. The Orioles are 4-0 in Tillman's past four as a home dog. The "over/under" has gone under in seven of Detroit's past eight ALDS road games. The under is 5-1 in Scherzer's past six against teams above .500. The under is 4-1 in Tillman's past five as a dog. Baltimore is 4-0 in Tillman's past four against Detroit. The over is 4-1 in Scherzer's past five vs. Baltimore.
Early lean: Love that total at 7 as it's fairly high for a playoff opener -- go under at +100. I believe the best value here is Tigers at +150 on the runline. I trust Scherzer in the playoffs more than Tillman, who has never had a postseason start.
Royals at Angels (-170, 8)
Los Angeles opened as a -190 series favorite with K.C. at +165. Game 1 looks like the biggest pitching mismatch so far this postseason. Jered Weaver (18-9, 3.59)) starts for Los Angeles. He seemed to raise his game for the most part after the Angels lost their new ace, Garrett Richards, to a season-ending injury. Weaver allowed more than three earned runs just once in his final 10 starts and that was a meaningless game in Seattle that the Mariners had to win.
Weaver is 2-1 with a 2.61 ERA in 20.2 career postseason innings and is pitching in the playoffs for the first time in five years. He managed to avoid the Royals this season but was an excellent 10-4 with a 2.68 ERA at home. The Kansas City guy with the most success off Weaver is Raul Ibanez, who was waived by the Angels earlier this season. Ibanez is 15-for-36 with four homers and seven RBIs off Weaver, but Ibanez is just a bat off the bench. I would be stunned if he starts. Josh Willingham has two homers off Weaver in 14 at-bats. Alex Gordon is just 4-for-20 off him with nine strikeouts. Eric Hosmer, a big reason the Royals beat Oakland on Tuesday by reaching base five times, is 0-for-4 against Weaver.
How great was Kansas City's 9-8 12-winning win against the A's? It was the team's first playoff game since Game 7 of the 1985 World Series. The Royals rallied from four runs down in the eighth and one down in the 12th. They are the first team to come back from four or more runs down in the eighth inning or later to win a winner-take-all postseason game. It was only the second time a winner-take-all postseason game ended in the 12th inning or later.
The Royals had a few options to start this one after using ace James Shields vs. Oakland and they have decided on left-hander Jason Vargas (11-10, 3.71), who pitched for the Angels last year. I am not sure I agree with Ned Yost's call here. The Royals lost Vargas' final four starts of the regular season, and he allowed at least four earned in all four, never lasting more than 5.1 innings. He did have a very good 2.73 road ERA (5-4 record) in 14 starts.
Vargas was hit and miss against the Halos this year. On June 27 in Kansas City, he was pounded for six runs and nine hits (three homers) in four innings. On May 25 in Anaheim, Vargas was solid, allowing one run and three hits over 6.1 innings. He has never pitched in the playoffs. Mike Trout is 6-for-15 with a homer off Vargas in his career. Josh Hamilton, who has been out a while but will play Thursday, is 6-for-27 with three homers and five RBIs off him.
The season series was tied 3-3, and the teams didn't play after late June.
Key trends: The Royals are 1-5 in Vargas' past six on the road. The Angels are 6-2 in Weaver's past eight against teams with a winning record. The over is 10-2 in Kansas City's past 10 following a win. The over is 9-0 in the Angels' past nine series openers. The Angels are 6-0 in Weaver's past six vs. K.C. The under is 5-1 in his past six at home vs. the Royals.
Early lean: Angels at +125 on the runline and slight lean over. Weaver is rested as are his teammates. The Royals are going to have a letdown after the franchise's biggest win in 29 years and also had to travel out to California after a draining 12-inning emotional game.
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