The MLB playoffs are here, and with a completely different look than we’ve ever seen. It’s a 16-team field this year, with eight teams from each league making the cut. We’ll see those eight matchups play out in a new three-game series format, with the higher-seeded team getting home field for the entire series. The eight winners will then advance to the usual schedule for the Division Series, Championship Series and World Series, but those rounds will be played in different bubbles.
Here’s a look at where different bubble games will be played:
- NLDS: Globe Life Field (Arlington) and Minute Maid Park (Houston)
- ALDS: Petco Park (San Diego) and Dodger Stadium (Los Angeles)
- NLCS: Globe Life Field
- ALCS: Petco Park
- World Series: Globe Life Field
Scheduled start dates for each round:
- 9/29: AL Wild Card Series
- 9/30: NL Wild Card Series
- 10/5: ALDS
- 10/6: NLCS
- 10/11: ALCS
- 10/12: NLCS
- 10/17: ALCS Game 7 (if necessary)
- 10/18: NLCS Game 7 (if necessary)
- 10/20: World Series
- 10/28: World Series Game 7 (if necessary)
DraftKings Sportsbook will have us covered with game lines and props throughout the baseball action and also will have a constantly updating futures market. Let’s preview the American League bracket with each Wild Card matchup, including Game 1 lines, series lines and futures.
1. Tampa Bay Rays (40-20) vs. 8. Toronto Blue Jays (32-28)
Game 1 Price: TB (-200)
The Rays dominated the regular season and are the second-largest favorite in the Wild Card round, and largest in the AL. Because teams this season only played their own division along with the same geographical division in the other league, this is the only series in the playoffs where the two teams actually faced each other in the regular season. Tampa won the season series 6-4, but it was obviously close. It’s hard not to like the Rays in this series, considering the pitching advantages, and getting the Blue Jays out of their home ballpark in Buffalo. The Jays averaged 6.12 runs per game in Buffalo, but just 4.21 per game on the road. That said, Tampa feels like too large of a betting favorite, especially with the Jays knowing the matchup so well from playing 10 of their 60 games in this matchup. The Rays went an insane 21-9 against playoff teams in the regular season. The Blue Jays finished 12-15 against playoff teams.
Pick: Tampa Bay
Bet: Only consideration would be a TB/LAD series parlay for -106
2. Oakland Athletics (36-24) vs. 7. Chicago White Sox (35-25)
It always jumps out when the team that’s favored in Game 1 is the underdog in the series, even if it’s slight. Despite the gap in seeding, these teams finished just one game apart in their records. It’s easy to talk yourself into either side of this one. The White Sox enter the postseason winning just two of their last 10 games, but have a huge offensive advantage if the bats can get going, ranking in the top-five with 5.1 runs per game. It’s somewhat of a surprise that Jesus Luzardo will pitch Game 1 for the A’s, giving the White Sox another advantage with Lucas Giolito on the mound. Having Giolito and Dallas Keuchel provides a starting pitching advantage that could prove to be the difference in this series. Where Oakland’s big advantage lies is in the bullpen. It’s loaded with quality arms and finished with the lowest ERA in baseball. Oakland finished 9-7 against playoff competition this season, and the White Sox went 14-22, playing a loaded schedule. In the end, I’ll lean with the more talented team that played far tougher competition.
3. Minnesota Twins (36-24) vs. 6. Houston Astros (29-31)
The ‘Stros squeaked into the playoffs despite their losing record and draw a tough matchup against the Twins. Kenta Maeda is a big Game 1 favorite over Zack Greinke in a game the Twins should have every advantage. The Twins have a balanced rotation behind Maeda, the sixth-ranked bullpen on the season, and their bats come up big in any situation. Even if we call these offenses a wash, Minnesota should have the better starter and fresher bullpen in each game. The Twins went an impressive 22-14 against playoff teams this year, while the Astros went just 4-13. The price might be steep, but I don’t think this one is all that close.
4. Cleveland Indians (35-25) vs. 5. New York Yankees (33-27)
It was a disappointing regular season for the Yankees, but they battled crucial injuries for the second straight season. Relatively healthy now, the Yankees are favored to win the AL (+280) out of the 5-seed. It was a solid season for the Indians, but they kind of showed their hand when they traded Mike Clevinger to San Diego. Cleveland has pitching, no doubt, but their offense ranks just 26th in runs per game. The Yankees rank fourth in runs per game, but scored 6.23 at home, versus just 4.21 on the road — so having this series in Cleveland really levels it off. What Cleveland has in the form of a bullpen advantage, the Yankees have in bats. Now healthy, it’s tough not to lean with New York in this one. However, Shane Bieber will take the mound in Game 1, which is priced essentially as a pick’em. If Cleveland can jump out to a 1-0 lead at home behind the best pitcher in baseball, it really puts the pressure on the Yankees. The Yankees went just 10-17 against playoff teams, while Cleveland finished 18-16 behind that tough AL Central schedule.
Pick: New York
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