The Lede: MLB Playoffs Are About to Get Wild

Ervin Santana is ready to lead the Twins back to the Bronx. Photo by Keith Allison (Flickr) CC License

Don’t have time to read through 1,000 words, but need some informed betting tips? Here’s a quick rundown on today’s biggest sports story (as adjudged by me) and how it impacts the way you should bet. Here’s what you missed last time.

Yankees, D-Backs Favored in Wild Card Games

It’s time for the Boys of Summer to step aside for the Boys of Fall as Major League Baseball’s second season officially begins this week. The Twins and Yankees get things started on Tuesday evening at 8:08 p.m. in the Bronx with the American League Wild Card Game. New York will send 2017 All-Star Luis Severino to the mound, while two-time All-Star Ervin Santana will look to continue his resurgence for Minnesota. The Yanks were 4-2 against the Twins this season and have won all three games at home.

It will be the biggest stage yet for Aaron Judge, the prohibitive favorite for the AL Rookie of the Year award. The 6’7” masher was locked in throughout the month of September and appears to be peaking (make that re-peaking) at just the right time. All Rise finished the regular season with 52 homers and 114 RBIs and could decide this one-game playoff with a single swing of his bat.

The Senior Circuit gets into the swing of things on Wednesday evening at 8:08 p.m. as the Rockies travel to Chase Field to take on the Diamondbacks. The game will feature unheralded righthander Jon Gray for Colorado against former Cy Young-winner Zack Greinke for Arizona. It’s far from a dream matchup for Colorado, and they’ll be leaning heavily on their explosive offense to even the odds. Third baseman Nolan Arenado and centerfielder Charlie Blackmon are both in the mix for the NL MVP award and are a threat to go deep every time they step into the box. The Rockies will need every bit of production the pair can muster as they went just 8-11 against the Diamondbacks this season and lost their last two meetings against the club.

Nolan Arenado drives the ball against the Orioles. Photo by Keith Allison (Flickr) CC License

Takeaway: There’s still excellent value for bettors in both matchups, particularly in the AL, where Bovada (one of our best-reviewed and most-trusted sportsbooks) has the Yankees (-235) listed as huge favorites over the Twins (+200). That margin seems justified when you consider the recent beatdowns the Yankees have administered to their Midwestern rivals. But the Yankees would have to win over 70-percent of the time to justify a bet at those odds. The Baby Bombers indeed dominated the Twins this year, but still only won 67-percent of their head-to-head meetings.

Santana’s struggles in Yankee Stadium are well-documented. Yet the 13-year veteran has pitched in eight playoff games and knows a thing or two about performing under the bright lights of October. His veteran savvy should help to keep Minnesota in the game, even if their offense sputters. The 23-year-old Severino, on the other hand, will be making his first postseason appearance and has just 53 career starts under his belt. He’s looked spectacular at times this season, but it remains to be seen if he’ll rise to the occasion when it matters most. At a favorable +200, the Twins are better value in the AL Wild Card Game.

Bovada is predicting a closer game in Phoenix and has the Diamondbacks (-173) listed as slight favorites over the Rockies (+148). That seems about right as Arizona outscored Colorado by 1.7 runs during their head-to-head matchups, won six more games over the course of the season, and were a sublime 52-29 at home (versus the Rockies’ very pedestrian 41-40 road record).

There’s little question that the D-backs are the superior team, and Greinke gives them a huge leg up. The four-time All-Star went 17-7 with a 3.20 ERA and 215 strikeouts in his second season in the desert. He’s 2-1 against the Rockies in 2017 and can look forward to receiving plenty of support from hard-hitting first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, and outfielder J.D. Martinez, who’s clubbed 26 home runs since coming over from Detroit on July 18.

It should be another tight game, but in the end, Arizona’s superior pitching and solid hitting should be enough to help them advance to the NLDS. Even at -173 (63-percent implied probability), they are the value play for bettors. Greinke plus homefield plus a better bullpen equals trouble for the upstart Rockies.

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Ryan Murphy began his love affair with sports journalism at the age of nine when he wrote his first article about his little league baseball team. He has since authored his own column for Fox Sports and has created campaigns for the WWE, the NHL, and the NFL. Ryan's critically acclaimed stories have also been published in 20 books and have been featured on more than 170 radio stations and 40 newspapers across North America.