A day after the two biggest rivals in Major League Baseball battled it out in the American League Wild Card game, two more of the sport’s biggest franchises meet for the right to face the San Francisco Giants. The St. Louis Cardinals won 19 of 20 games before ending the regular season with consecutive home losses against the Cubs. The Los Angeles Dodgers were just one of three teams to win 100 games this season, 106 to be exact. Their reward for winning the second-most games in baseball is to play a one-game elimination that can end their chances for a second consecutive World Series title before it begins.
Will the Cardinals continue their momentum from a fantastic ending to the regular season, or will the Dodgers avoid the upset in the one-game winner-take-all elimination game?
Here is my best bet for the National League Wild Card Playoff game. (Odds courtesy DraftKings Sportsbook)
The Dodgers tied their franchise record with 106 wins and finished in 2nd in the NL West.
No team in MLB history has ever won more games and NOT finished in 1st place in its division or league. pic.twitter.com/IpA4tbX4aI
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 3, 2021
YTD: 184-151-8 (+16.61 units)
St. Louis Cardinals +1.5 runs (-115)
Throw away the Cardinals’ two losses to end the regular season, as they had nothing to play for and instead chose to rest key players and set their rotation and bullpen up for the postseason. That being said, the Dodgers are massive -220 moneyline favorites against a team that has recently won 19 of 20 games, six of which came against the Milwaukee Brewers that finished with the third-best record in the National League. In addition, the Cardinals will not be intimidated by the 106-win Dodgers, especially not with veteran Adam Wainwright taking the mound. Thus, the +1.5 runline play is a bit of a hedge against the talented Dodgers winning outright while still acknowledging St. Louis’s decent chance of upsetting the defending world champions.
Though Jack Flaherty might be their most talented pitcher if he was fully healthy, the Cardinals’ best chance to win an elimination playoff game is with Wainwright (17-7, 3.05). Wainwright has a career 2.89 ERA in 28 playoff appearances (15 starts), with 118 strikeouts in 109 playoff innings. Throughout his career, he has turned in some memorable performances in elimination games, like the complete game one-run effort in Game 5 of the 2013 NLDS. Mets fans also remember Wainwright freezing Carlos Beltran with a curveball in Game 7 of the NLCS in 2006, which sent St. Louis to the World Series. Though Wainwright is just 1-3 with a 4.30 ERA in seven career games (six starts) at Dodger Stadium, his postseason ERA is a half-run better than his career regular season ERA.
Wainwright’s opposition had been the best pitcher in baseball over the last two months, before his last two starts, that is. Max Scherzer (8-4, 2.76) had a stretch where he threw 36.2 consecutive scoreless innings from late August to mid-September. However, Scherzer has been rocked for ten earned runs in his last 10.1 innings against the Rockies and Padres, which certainly takes away his feeling of invincibility heading into this game. Despite those poor efforts, his offense bailed him out, and the Dodgers are a perfect 11-0 in Scherzer’s starts since acquiring him at the trade deadline. Two of those wins came by just one run, which makes our Cardinals runline wager a contrarian play.
The Dodgers narrowly won the head-to-head season series against the Cardinals 4-3, yet this St. Louis team is playing much better (especially on offense) than the one that split a four-game home series against the Dodgers from Sept 6-9. The Cardinals have no business being this big of underdogs in this game, but we are happy to back their +1.5 runline odds as they may get three extra outs at the plate as the visiting team.
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