The Boston Red Sox had a 2-1 series lead and were six outs away from pushing the Houston Astros to the brink of elimination in Game 4. Now the Red Sox are facing elimination, as the Astros scored 15 consecutive runs between Games 4 and 5 to take a 3-2 lead in the ALCS.
The NLCS takes centerstage tonight, with the Atlanta Braves in an all-too-familiar position. They have a 3-1 series lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers for the second straight season, after cruising to a 9-2 victory in Game 4.
Will Atlanta punch their ticket to the World Series tonight, or will Los Angeles win their fourth straight game against the Braves when facing elimination?
Here is my best bet for Thursday’s NLCS playoff action. (Odds courtesy DraftKings Sportsbook)
YTD: 195-163-8 (+15.44 units)
Atlanta Braves ML (+120)
The Braves jumped on the Dodgers early last night, as Eddie Rosario and Adam Duvall hit back-to-back home runs in the second inning, and Freddie Freeman followed with a solo shot in the third. That was all the offense Atlanta would need, as six pitchers combined to limit the Dodgers to two runs and four hits. In the process, the Braves snapped a ten-game losing streak at Dodger Stadium, and it was also just the second time they led after the third inning in their last 11 road games against Los Angeles.
The thought of last year’s collapse from up 3-1 on the Dodgers in the NLCS will likely weigh heavily on their minds. If they do not beat Los Angeles today, the Braves get the last two games of the series at home but have the daunting task of facing Cy Young candidates Max Scherzer and Walker Buehler on consecutive nights. If the Cy Young voting were only based on the second half of the season, Atlanta would have the winner in Max Fried, and he will be the reason why the Braves punch their ticket to the World Series tonight.
Fried led the majors with a 1.74 ERA after the All-Star break. He went 8-2 in that span, and 13 of his 14 outings were quality starts. Fried continued where he left off in the regular season in the NLDS, pitching six scoreless innings in his lone appearance against Milwaukee. He allowed just two runs over six innings in a no-decision in Game 1 and has pitched to a 3.00 ERA in seven career playoff appearances against the Dodgers. All of a sudden, Los Angeles has question marks in their lineup, as the first five hitters yesterday were a combined 0-for-17. They will now not have the services of Justin Turner, who is out for the rest of the postseason with a hamstring injury.
Los Angeles is using a bullpen game and is 1-1 this postseason when employing that strategy. The Dodgers are 18-2 in their last 20 home games and are 6-0 in their previous six postseason elimination games. However, the Braves are the more motivated team to finish the job tonight and not let the Dodgers get any confidence going back to Atlanta. And with the pitching mismatch tonight, we are not even sure the Braves should be considered underdogs.
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