The MLB playoffs are down to the final four teams, and all four teams will be in action on Monday. Things get underway with the Rays vs. the Astros at 4:07 p.m. ET and wrap up with the Dodgers vs. the Braves at 8:08 p.m. ET. Both matchups will be played at neutral sites, so there will be no home-field advantage for any of these ball clubs moving forward.
Let’s dive into two of my favorite bets on DraftKings Sportsbook for Thursday’s slate.
Tampa Bay Rays vs. Houston Astros
The Rays were able to jump out to a 1-0 series win thanks to a 2-1 win over the Astros on Sunday in Game 1 of the ALCS. They did what they’ve done all season in that contest — pitch well, get great defense and ultimately win a close game.
The Rays will hand the ball to Charlie Morton in Game 2 and he had a tough regular season. He was limited to just 38 innings pitched in which he posted a 4.74 ERA and 9.95 K/9 in his limited playing time. That said, his advanced metrics suggest that he’s still a solid pitcher despite being nearly 37 years old, and he put that on display in his first outing during the playoffs.
On the other side, the Astros will turn to Lance McCullers Jr. McCullers has always had the potential to be a top-end starter in the major leagues and the Astros needed him to be this season following the departure of Gerrit Cole and the injury to Justin Verlander. He wasn’t exactly an ace, but his 3.93 ERA and 3.70 FIP were good enough.
With both of these teams leaning on strong starting pitchers, I think runs should be at a premium today. Neither of these teams was particularly effective vs. right-handers during the regular season either: The Rays ranked 13th in wRC+ while the Astros ranked 16th.
The Rays also have two of their nastiest relievers ready to go today in Nick Anderson and Pete Fairbanks. Both guys haven’t pitched since Friday against the Yankees, so they should be fully available for multiple innings if needed.
Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Atlanta Braves
It has been a phenomenal start to the postseason for the public. Teams receiving at least 51% of the moneyline bets have gone 21-11, resulting in a 65.6% win rate. Most of those teams have been the favorites – which is not surprising when you’re talking about public teams – but those wins have still resulted in a return on investment of +12.2% to start the 2020 postseason.
Can the public teams continue to crush moving forward? Consider me skeptical.
Fading the public has historically been an extremely profitable trend during the postseason. Taking teams receiving less than 50% of the moneyline bets has resulted in a 268-254 record dating back to 2006 (51.3% win rate). That may not sound like a huge edge, but remember that most of these teams are underdogs with plus-money payouts. That means the return on investment here is +10.7% over a much larger sample size.
The Braves are one way that I’m looking to put this trend to use today. They aren’t receiving a lot of love from the public, which is not all that surprising as underdogs vs. the Dodgers. The Dodgers have been one of the best teams in baseball for the past handful of years, and they’re sending arguably their best pitcher to the mound in Walker Buehler.
That said, the Braves will be starting Max Fried and he figures to find some success in this matchup. Fried was excellent during the regular season, posting a 2.25 ERA, and the Braves have gone 12-1 in his 13 starts, including the postseason. The Dodgers’ offense has also been much more mortal against left-handers than right-handers this season, dropping from first in wRC+ to eighth. I’m happy to grab the +135 on what I view as basically a coin-flip matchup.
All odds provided by DraftKings Sportsbook and all odds subject to change.
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