We have another full slate of games on the docket for today, as both the American League and the National League will continue their respective league championship series. Yesterday, the Tampa Bay Rays took a commanding two games to none series lead over the Houston Astros in the ALCS. The win was a huge one for Tampa Bay, and gives the Rays a lot of flexibility in terms of how they are going to manage their pitching staff today in game three.
After scoring 34 runs in four games against the Oakland Athletics in the ALDS, the Astros have now managed to score just three total runs in this series against Tampa Bay. The teams will match up again today for game three of the ALCS, and if Houston can’t find a way to win the game, this series might be over before it even gets started.
— MLB (@MLB) October 13, 2020
Over in the National League, the Atlanta Braves used a four-run ninth inning to steal game one against the Los Angeles Dodgers, 5-1, and take the series lead. The game was much closer than the final score might suggest, as these teams were all tied up at one run apiece heading into the game’s final frame. Max Fried and Walker Buehler were both solid on the mound as expected, and the Braves bullpen worked three no-hit innings to close the game one for the Braves.
The big hit came from Austin Riley, who led off the ninth inning with a go-ahead solo shot home run off of Dodgers reliever, Blake Treinen. The Braves then played add-on, with Ozzie Albies breaking things open with a two-run jack with two outs. With the win, the Braves run their postseason record to an unblemished 6-0. For today’s free daily betting pick, we will stay right here in Arlington, Texas, for game two of the National League Championship Series between the Dodgers and the Braves.
Atlanta Braves (1-0) at Los Angeles Dodgers (0-1)
The Los Angeles Dodgers lost their first game of the 2020 postseason last night, in game one of the National League Championship Series, and are hoping to get back on track tonight in game two against the Atlanta Braves. The Dodgers woke up to some scary news this morning, as they had to scratch starter Clayton Kershaw due to back spasms and are now desperately hoping to stay out of a 2-0 hole.
— MLB (@MLB) October 13, 2020
Starting tonight for the Dodgers is Tony Gonsolin (2-2 2.31 ERA), and for the Braves, it is Ian Anderson (3-2 1.95 ERA). The game total over/under is set at eight and a half runs. The Dodgers are -135 betting favorites. First pitch is scheduled for 6:05 PM PST from Globe Life Park in Arlington.
No team is playing better baseball right now than these Atlanta Braves. The Braves are now 6-0 in the playoffs, and their pitching staff has been remarkably consistent. Atlanta picked up shutout victories in four out of their first five postseason games, and last night, they held this mighty Dodgers lineup to just one run on only four hits. I mentioned in my breakdown of this series earlier this week that it is hard to lose games when the other team never scores, and right now, the Braves are super stingy on the mound.
The starting pitching has been fantastic, but it is the bullpen that has really stepped its game up here in the postseason for the Braves. Closer Mark Melancon has been unhittable, quite literally, as he has made five appearances, working five total innings, and has yet to allow even a single baserunner. But the guy that is the X-factor for the Braves bullpen is Will Smith.
Smith was a big addition to this team in the offseason, as he was one of the best late-inning pitchers in the game in the last couple of years for the San Francisco Giants. Smith missed time in the regular season due to injury and was inconsistent for Atlanta when he was pitching. But in the playoffs, he has made five appearances and, just like Melancon, has yet to allow even a single baserunner, and has 8 Ks in 5.1 innings worked. If you are trailing heading into the eighth inning and you have to face these two guys, forget about it!
Ian Anderson (3-2 1.95 ERA)
One of the best parts about watching this Braves team over the course of the last two or three years has been watching all these young stud prospects grow up and turn into MLB stars. Ronald Acuna Jr, Ozzie Albies, Max Fried, Mike Soroka, Dansby Swanson, Austin Riley, and the list goes on and on of young guys that hit the league with a lot of hype and have grown up right before our eyes. We are seeing that happen once again, with tonight’s starting pitcher, Ian Anderson.
Anderson was the number three overall draft pick in the 2017 MLB draft and joined the Braves rotation in late-August. Since making his big league debut, Anderson has been very strong. He finished the regular season 3-2 with a 1.95 ERA in six starts. In the postseason, just like the rest of this Braves team, Anderson has stepped his game up to another level. In starts against the Reds and the Marlins, Anderson pitched a combined 11.2 innings and has yet to give up a run on only five hits, while striking out 17.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Two days ago, the Dodgers looked like a team that might run through the Braves in this series. Now just a couple of days later, Walker Buehler has blisters, Clayton Kershaw’s fragile back is spasming again, and the Dodgers are down one game to zero and are at risk of dropping two straight games today. Buehler and Kershaw’s availability for the rest of the series is now up in the air, and they are forced to start untested second-year guy Tony Gonsolin, tonight in game two.
That’s not to say that the Dodgers are done in this series, but they have gone from prohibitive favorites to at-risk, in a hurry. If LA can win this game and tie the series up, and Kershaw’s back and Buehler’s blisters both turn out to be manageable, the Dodgers are still in good shape to win and advance. If they lose tonight, and Kershaw is done for the series, and Buehler continues to be limited, they are going to be in a very tough spot.
Tony Gonsolin (2-2 2.31 ERA)
Tony Gonsolin will try and fill the big shoes of Clayton Kershaw, as he will get the nod to pitch tonight, on no notice. While Gonsolin certainly isn’t Kershaw, not many teams have a kid as talented as Gonsolin waiting in the wings to step up in a pivotal spot. Gonsolin had a lot of success last year as a rookie in limited action, and this season, he has been even better. In nine regular-season appearances, eight of them coming as starts, Gonsolin was 2-2 with a 2.31 ERA.
The Dodgers have yet to use Gonsolin in the postseason this year, so he may be a bit rusty, having not pitched since 9/26. In his last outing of the regular season, he had his worst performance of the season, getting roughed up for four earned runs in six innings of work. While it is a surprise that he is pitching today, he was always going to end up pitching in this series at some point, so he should be ready to go tonight in a must-win game two for LA.
Who Do I Like?
We all know about Clayton Kershaw’s history of struggling in the playoffs, and while Kershaw isn’t always at his best in the postseason, I am certain that Dodgers fans would rather have him out there on the mound in this game than Tony Gonsolin. No disrespect to Gonsolin, this kid is talented, but he isn’t Clayton Kershaw. The Dodgers were laying -160 with Kershaw starting, and now that number has dropped all the way down to -135.
That tells me the sharps are hammering the Braves with this pitching change, as they know what I know, and that is that it is really hard to start a game on no notice. Not only is Gonsolin waking up to find out he is about to pitch in the biggest game of his life, he has been on ice for over two weeks. I am always very skeptical of pitchers that are forced to break their routine and that pitch on short notice, and in tonight’s game, Gonsolin has to do both. And I am just not sure the kid is up to the task.
The Braves are likely to close out this game as the betting favorites. The money is coming in hot and heavy on Atlanta right now, since Kershaw got scratched, and by first pitch, I am guessing that the Braves are going to have closed this gap and will be at least even money to win the game. I am going to take advantage of this number while it still has value, and back the Braves as underdogs.
Ian Anderson is a stud, and to be honest, I liked Atlanta in this matchup even with Kershaw starting. The Braves pitching staff has just been too good to fade in the last couple of weeks. I don’t see Gonsolin getting hammered, but if I had to choose the better side of the starting pitching matchup, I am backing Anderson every time.
This game will feel a lot like last night’s game, and we will sweat it out, but the Braves show outrageous value as underdogs. Give me the Atlanta Braves as road underdogs tonight in game two, as they take a two games to none series lead in the NLCS!