The two ALDS matchups resume today, with the Rays and Red Sox meeting in a pivotal Game 3, while the White Sox are trying to stave off elimination and avoid a sweep at the hands of the Astros. A day after both Game 1’s featured pitching duels that stayed well below the projected totals, each series’ second games were offensive explosions that averaged 16.5 runs per game. Favorites went 3-1 in the four games combined, while this afternoon’s Rays-Red Sox game is the first in any ALDS matchup this season where the favorite has been on the road. How will these trends play into today’s picks?
Here are my best bets for Sunday’s ALDS action. (Odds courtesy DraftKings Sportsbook)
YTD: 187-155-8 (+15.73 units)
Red Sox First Five Innings ML (+100)
The Boston Red Sox are in desperate need of length from their starting pitcher. Game 1 starter Eduardo Rodriguez lasted just 1.2 innings, and Chris Sale was out after one inning pitched in Game 2. However, first-time All-Star Nathan Eovaldi (11-9, 3.75) should be up to the task and is looking to build off an impressive performance in their winner-take-all wild card game against the Yankees.
Eovaldi allowed one earned run on four hits with eight strikeouts and no walks over 5 1/3 innings against the Yankees. He will likely be given a longer leash than Rodriguez and Sale were, given the need to rest a bullpen that manager Alex Cora does not entirely trust. Tampa Bay turns to starter Drew Rasmussen (4-1, 2.84), who has held Boston’s “big three” of Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts, and J.D. Martinez to a combined 4-for-18 in his career. Rasmussen has not gone longer than five innings in any appearance this season, as it was not until late August that the team used him in a more conventional starter’s role instead of an opener.
The Red Sox are 8-1 in Eovaldi’s last nine starts, and Boston is 4-0 in their previous four home playoff games. While the Rays are 17-6 in their last 23 games at Fenway Park, we trust Eovaldi’s “gamer” attitude to limit a Rays offense early that scored a franchise-record 857 runs this season. Tampa Bay has the much more significant advantage in the bullpen, as their relievers were best in baseball with a 7.9 WAR and led the American League with a 3.24 ERA. While the Rays relievers may hold the game down in the middle inning, this bet backs Boston to jump on the inexperienced Rasmussen early, just as they did to Shane Baz in Game 2.
Houston Astros ML (+100)
The Chicago White Sox are the first team facing elimination after being outscored 15-5 in two games in Houston. The Astros offense has been on fire of late, scoring at least six runs in each of their last five games. Tonight they face Dylan Cease (13-7, 3.91), who went 6-2 with a 3.18 ERA in 16 home starts this year. However, he benefitted mightily from facing the light-hitting offenses of the AL Central in many of those starts, and we look for Houston’s offense to present much different problems. Current Astros are batting .289 and slugging .556 in 45 combined at-bats against Cease, and a 14:8 K:BB ratio is also a troubling statistic heading into a matchup with a red-hot offense.
The Astros counter with Luis Garcia (11-8, 3.30), who pitched to a 3.03 ERA in his last seven regular season starts. Garcia was second to Game 1 starter Lance McCullers Jr. in WAR (2.6) and K/9 (9.7) among all Houston starters. Garcia allowed three earned runs or fewer in eight of his last nine starts, and Houston has won five of his previous six road starts. Garcia has allowed just one extra base hit in 23 combined at-bats to current White Sox hitters, and seven of his 18 outs have been recorded via strikeout.
Cease has won six of his last seven decisions, but the weight of having his team’s season on his shoulders will be too much in this contest.
Doesn't matter if you're right-handed, left-handed, hard-throwing, soft-tossing, fastball-heavy, spin-centric. The Astros hit everything. Their offense is top-to-bottom marvelous, and they're going to be a tough out this October. About to take a two-games-to-none lead on Chicago.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) October 8, 2021
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