St. Louis Cardinals +155 at Atlanta Braves -165 (Total: 6.5) – National League Wildcard Game
Kyle Lohse vs. Kris Medlen
162 games in the book. The longest, most grueling schedule in all of professional sports has come to a close and the Playoffs are finally here. Ten teams have survived and enter the tournament with a chance to win the World Series.
It almost seems unfair that for four of these “playoff” teams, two of them will go home after just one game this evening, losers of the wildcard game (let’s just call it a play-in game) and the last 162 games will have been all for naught.
That puts an insane amount of pressure on tonight’s starting pitchers, Kyle Lohse and Kris Medlen. So which one (if either) will be able to deliver and give his team a chance to enter the “real” playoffs on Sunday? Can Kyle Lohse continue his amazing season that should find him a top-five Cy Young vote receiver? Or can Kris Medlen continue his simply unbelievable run that has never been equaled in more than 140 years of major league baseball? Let’s dig into some numbers and stats and get a clearer picture.
Any discussion of tonight’s game has to start with the phenomenal run of Kris Medlen. Since being called up from the minors, he has gone 10-1 with a microscopic 1.57 ERA. If he had come up two months earlier and done the same thing, the Cy Young Award would be a moot point; everyone else would be a distant, distant second place. Dating back to last season’s brief rookie stint in the majors, the Braves have won 23 straight games in which Medlen has started. This eclipsed the previous MLB record established by the Yankees’ Whitey Ford! Put another way, the Braves have not lost a Medlen start in over 100 games of season play. It’s staggering.
But, the bright lights of October are a whole other ballgame, and this Cardinal lineup is potent – one of the best in all of baseball. I think Medlen will pitch well, but I don’t see a dominant seven shutout innings. I think the Cards will scratch out a few runs and put some pressure on the middle relief to bridge the gap from Medlen to Craig Kimbrel (with apologies to Aroldis Chapman, Kimbrel is the best closer in baseball).
I also like Lohse to pitch well, but not perfect. Both these team will score some runs, and my official pick today is the OVER 6.5. In the six games between the teams in 2012, everyone of them featured nine or more runs with four going into double-digits. I know the pitching matchup is spectacular tonight, but 6.5 feels a little too low, especially given the propensity of these two offenses to light up the scoreboard.
If forced to pick a winner, I’d lean Atlanta with Medlen/Kimbrel being a tough order for any lineup, but at -170 it is WAY too steep. The Cards have shown us nothing else over the years than the fact they are a good underdog wager, so at +155 to +160, there is some real value there. But not enough for me to pull the trigger. I think the Braves pull it out at home and give Chipper another week of baseball.
Free Pick: Run TOTAL OVER 6.5