Cardinals’ NL Pennant Odds (+550) More Than Twice as Long as Braves’ (+200)

Jack Flaherty throwing a pitch
Can Jack Flaherty pitch the Cardinals to the pennant? By Charles Edward Miller (Flickr).
  • Atlanta has the big bats, but the health of Freeman, Donaldson and Acuna will be key to this playoff series
  • St. Louis likely has the pitching edge, with starters led by Jack Flaherty and a stronger bullpen to rely on
  • The Braves have lost eight straight playoff series, and home-field advantage might not be enough to turn this around

October baseball always presents a blank slate to the 10 teams lucky enough to make the postseason, and a number will have legitimate hopes of winning the World Series.

In the National League, while the Los Angeles Dodgers await the winner of the Wild Card Game, St. Louis and Atlanta are already locked into their division series, starting Thursday. But one look at the NL pennant odds shows a fairly large difference between two teams who finished six wins apart.

Odds To Win the 2019 National League Pennant

Team Odds
Los Angeles Dodgers -140
Atlanta Braves +200
St. Louis Cardinals +550
Washington Nationals +750
Milwaukee Brewers +1000

Odds taken on 10/01/19.

Braves Bring Big Bats

When healthy, star players such as first baseman Freddie Freeman, centerfielder Ronaldo Acuna Jr. and third baseman Josh Donaldson give the Braves a sizeable offensive advantage in this series.

It’s an edge born out in the runs-per-game category, with the Braves producing at a 5.28 clip, compared to the Cardinals’ 4.72 mark, below the major-league average of 4.83.

However, the key for Atlanta in this series is the health of those players, particularly with Gold Glove-winning center fielder Ender Inciarte already out of the National League Division Series with a strained hamstring.

Freeman is dealing with a bone spur in his right elbow, Acuna was shut down for the remainder of the regular season with a sore groin and Donaldson was scratched from the regular-season finale with a hip contusion.

Chances are they will all be ready to go for Game 1 on Thursday, but considering the trio accounted for 116 home runs and 316 runs batted in, if any of them are held out at some point in this series it will be a big blow to the Braves.

Freeman’s production in particular seems to have already been hampered, with the first baseman slugging .389 in September, down from .629 in August.

Momentum is With Cardinals

After generating just 92 runs in June, St. Louis ramped up its production over the last two months of the season as it chased down the NL Central title, scoring 141 and 140 runs, respectively, in August and September. That helped the team to a 47-26 finish to close the season after July 13.

The Braves, on the other hand, saw their production wane, with just 119 runs in September, down from a high of 187 in June, though it must be noted that roughly 10 days of that was after clinching the division title.

Cardinals Have Pitching Edge

After a dominant final two months of the season, right-hander Jack Flaherty was given the perfect send-off for the playoffs on Monday as he was named the NL Pitcher of the month, becoming the first pitcher to receive the award in back-to-back months since Max Scherzer.

He certainly merited the accolades, going 7-2 with a 0.77 ERA in 12 starts through that period, helping clinch the division for the Cardinals last weekend. He will form a solid one-two pairing with Adam Wainwright entering October.

The Braves can counter the Cardinals with a young ace of their own in the shape of Mike Soroka, who went 13-4 this season. Soroka will likely start Game 3 though, being as he had a 1.55 road ERA this year compared to 4.14 at home.

That likely leaves the Game 1 assignment to Dallas Keuchel, who has struggled of late. The left-hander has lost his last three starts, with an ERA of 6.19 in his last 16 innings.

Playoff history on Cardinals’ Side

While this NLDS represents the fifth time these two sides have squared off in the postseason, St. Louis has a 3-1 edge, including the last time these two teams met, in the 2012 NL Wild-Card Game.

More worrying for Atlanta is that it has lost its last eight postseason series since beating the Astros in 2001. Since then, of course, the Cardinals have been to four World Series, winning two.

The difference between the two sides might not be as apparent as the odds reflect, making the Cardinals a better value bet to win the pennant.

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