It was an awesome day of baseball, with all four games either being decided by a single run or going into extra innings. It was an even better day for us, cashing in on BOTH huge underdogs. Such is life in playoff baseball – there are NO sure things. Adam Wainwright gives up six runs. And the Cardinals win. Clayton Kershaw is staked to an insurmountable 6-1 lead. And loses. And the Royals became the first team in MLB history to have their first three postseason games go to extra innings. And of course they won them all.
It’s been a great start to the postseason, and in true “don’t make a future bet on the favorite” MLB fashion, all four favored teams find themselves in big holes (yes, technically the Orioles could be considered the ‘favorite’ given home field advantage and records, but most books had the Tigers as the slight fave). Both AL series are 2-0, and both NL favorites find themselves in desperate need of a win today to avoid the same daunting fate.
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So will one or either get that big win today? Let’s dive into today’s free pick and find out.
Today’s Free Pick:
San Francisco Giants at Washington Nationals (Total: 7)
Tim Hudson vs. Jordan Zimmerman
We had great success backing underdogs yesterday. And I wouldn’t be tremendously opposed to anyone playing both dogs today, given the “magic” that the Giants and Cardinals both seem to have at this time of the season.
But I’m still sticking with the dominant starting pitcher theory. Yes, the Nats are laying a pretty large margin tonight, but I think Zimmerman versus Hudson is worth it. Sure, his last three starts numbers will be a little skewed by the no-hitter on the final day of the season. So let’s dig a little deeper. Over his last ELEVEN starts he is 8-0 with a 1.77 ERA. That’s dominating stuff, and one could make a very cogent argument that he is more worthy of a Game One start than Strasburg. However, having him go in Game Two keeps everyone on a more normal pitching rotation and Zim is 9-1 with a 2.17 ERA over 15 starts with five or more days rest.
Here’s where the momentum mismatch comes into play. The 39 year old Hudson is 0-4 with an 8.72 ERA in September. He has given up more runs in each start than Zimmerman did in the entire month. Add in the desperation factor for the Nats and their home fans, and it adds up to a should-win scenario for the Nationals. When the opponent is the Giants, “should win” hasn’t always worked out over the last five years; ask Cincinnati, St. Louis, and Philadelphia. But tonight, I think their nine game postseason winning streak meets a starting pitcher at the absolute peak of his game.
I generally stay off of huge favorites, but with only two games on today’s slate, I had to stay with the Nats. If you are looking for a little more risk/reward, you can generally get the Nats -1.5 at around -105, which is a play I like, but am not hanging my official pick upon.