Our blazing hot start to the playoffs continued last night as we picked up yet another win, to run our playoff record to 12-2! Last night’s win came when we took the under seven and a half runs in the Houston Astros and Tampa Bay Rays game. In a game with so much on the line, I felt that runs were going to be hard to come by and that the game would come in well under.
The Rays were using their patented bullpen by committee approach, which would allow them to play specific matchups from the first pitch, and on the other side of the mound, you had the likely Cy Young Award winner in the American League this season, in Justin Verlander. But this one didn’t go quite as I expected, as the Rays hammered Verlander early.
The Rays managed to score three runs off of Verlander in the first inning, who was notably pitching on just three days rest. They added another run in the fourth, and that ended Verlander’s day at just three and two-thirds of an inning pitched. The part that we did get exactly right though was that Tampa Bay was going to empty their bullpen, and they did just that. The Rays used six different pitchers in the game, including bringing in last year’s Cy Young Award winner, starting pitcher Blake Snell, out of the bullpen to close the game out in the ninth.
The win was a huge one for Tampa Bay, as the series will now head to Houston for a decisive game five. The media has already started advertising an ALCS showdown between the Yankees and the Astros that most expect to be coming. But you would be stupid to count this Rays team out at this point as they have shown a ton of heart coming back from a two games to none deficit. Beating Gerrit Cole in Houston is going to a tough task, but so was beating Verlander in game four. All I know is that it is going to be an exciting finish to the series. For today’s pick, we will head down to Atlanta for game five between the Braves and the Cardinals.
The Atlanta Braves host the St. Louis Cardinals tonight with a trip to the National League Championship Series on the line. The Braves had a shot to close out the series in game four, but the Cardinals rallied behind two clutch hits from Yadier Molina to tie up the series and send it game five tonight. The teams will be playing for a chance to match up with the winner of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Washington Nationals series, who will be playing a game five of their own tonight in LA.
Starting for the Braves is Mike Foltynewicz (8-6 4.54 ERA), and for the Cardinals it is Jack Flaherty (11-8 2.75 ERA). The game total over-under is set at eight runs. The Cardinals are -112 road favorites. First pitch is scheduled for 2:02 PM PST from SunTrust Park in Atlanta.
If this matchup looks familiar, it’s because we saw this exact same starting pitching matchup in game two in Atlanta. In that one, Foltynewicz and Flaherty both pitched well, and the Braves managed to take the game 3-0. So, it is a little bit surprising that in this game, with essentially all things being equal, that we see the Braves as home underdogs at home in game five. We all know how tough winning on the road in an elimination game can be, so right off the bat, the number seems a bit peculiar. But when you dig a little deeper, you can start to understand why St. Louis is attracting all of this action.
Jack Flaherty has been nearly unhittable in the second half of the season. The twenty-three-year-old posted a 0.91 ERA in fifteen post-All-Star break appearances. His 2.75 ERA was amongst the league leaders, and he racked up an impressive 231 strikeouts. Don’t be shocked if he ends up getting a lot of Cy Young Award votes in the National League this year, he has been that good.
Flaherty took the loss in game two of this series, but in reality, he pitched really well. Through six innings, Flaherty had allowed just one run on five hits and was cruising. But one big swing from Adam Duvall put two runs up on the board in the seventh, that made his day look worse than it actually was. In two regular-season starts against Atlanta, Flaherty had an ERA of just 2.25 and struck out thirteen batters in just twelve innings of work.
Mike Foltynewicz has had a bit of a strange last couple of years. After having a career year last season that saw him win a career-high thirteen games and post the lowest ERA of his career at 2.85, many expected him to be the ace of this Braves staff coming into this season. But that didn’t really pan out early in the year, as Foltynewicz came out of the gates slow as he was just 2-5 6.73 ERA through the month of June.
He then hit the IL, where he missed over a month of playing time. But since returning, this guy seems to have found himself again as he has looked a lot more like the guy he was last season. Since returning from injury, he is 6-1 with a 2.65 ERA in ten starts. What is likely more impressive for Foltynewicz is that the Braves just seem to always win when he pitches. Atlanta has won thirteen of his last fourteen starts, with the lone loss coming in a meaningless game against the New York Mets at the end of the regular season.
Wow, what a game we have in store for you tonight. Who is going to win and advance tonight in Atlanta? The sharp in me is saying how can you possibly bet against Jack Flaherty? He has just been too good lately to want to have to fade. But then when I look at the other side, Foltynewicz has been nearly as good and outdueled him in game two. I can’t remember the last time we had a home underdog in a final game of the series that I didn’t want to back, it is just a great high value spot. But at this point, I am too conflicted to have a strong opinion on the side, so I will stay away from making a bet on it.
Where I do have a strong opinion, though, is on the total. We saw in game two with this same pitching matchup that runs were very hard to come by, and only three runs hit the board. I expect a similar result tonight. Low scoring and highly competitive. I am actually pretty surprised to see this number at eight, I would have thought it would come in at seven or seven and a half, so I feel like we are getting a good number here.
So, I will jump on the under and expect another thrilling game that comes down to the final couple of innings. Give me the under eight runs tonight in game five from Atlanta!