After nearly a week layoff, baseball is back to settle its 2014 champion, a battle between two unlikely World Series participants, the San Francisco Giants and the Kansas City Royals. There are great storylines everywhere, unlikely heroes and emerging stars, not to mention the underdog credentials of a pair of wildcard teams with less than 90 wins.
But let’s face it, mediocre regular season or not, the Giants will never get to be the “underdogs” in this series. That role is fully embraced by the team that hadn’t won a playoff game in more than half its roster’s lives until two weeks ago – the nation’s darling Kansas City Royals.
So will they be able author the final chapter in their movie script? Or will Buster Posey earn his third World Series championship and start making claim as the new face of baseball?
Let’s dig inside the numbers and see if we can build on a nice 9-3 ATS playoff run.
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Today’s Free Pick:
World Series Game One — @ Kauffmann Stadium, Kansas City
Kansas City Royals at San Francisco Giants (Total: 6.5)
James Shields vs. Madison Baumgarner
My “Big Game James” backlash is getting old for those of you who have read daily throughout the postseason. It’s one of the downfalls of having only one game a day to pick with the teams repeating so often – there aren’t many places to go to mix up the conversation. However, the observation is still a valid one. The performances in his playoff career do not equate to the reputation.
Meanwhile, the legend of Madison Baumgarner continues to grow. The NLCS MVP will get the ball in Game One looking to continue his career-long (and particularly 2014) postseason dominance. His 1.42 ERA in four start this postseason looks daunting when juxtapositioned with Shields’ 5.63 ERA and 1.63 WHIP. Neither team is blistering the ball, but rather relying on manufacturing runs. It’s a lot easier to manufacture runs with guys on base, so I’d give a huge nod to the Giants tonight.
Kansas City can wreak havoc on the basepaths , that is a pretty well-acknowledged ability. It will very likely come into play throughout the series, but I think Baumgarner can control the running game tonight, both by his ability to pitch with runners on base and by virtue of the fact he doesn’t allow many to get there in the first place.
For once, there is no obvious “just bet the underdog” when it comes to postseason series prices. Yet again this season that would have been a very profitable strategy with the money underdog winning all six series. Perhaps Vegas has realized as much as well, as this series is a near pick ‘em with most books having the Royals as an ever-so-slight fave (likely because of home field advantage). I’d pick the Giants. I think they have a better starting rotation and a little more pop in the middle of their order. But today’s focus is on Game One, and there I’m sticking with Baumgarner.
Getting the hottest pitcher in the world at -105 against a struggling postseason pitcher is always a line I will take. Give me the Giants to start off the 2014 World Series with a big road win.