MLB Starting Nine (Championship Series Edition)
And then there were four. MLB’s version of the Final Four is underway as the Texas Rangers battle the Houston Astros in the ALCS while the Arizona Diamondbacks take on the Philadelphia Phillies in the National League.
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AL Divisional Round
#5 Rangers 3-0 over the #1 Orioles
#2 Astros 3-1 over the #3 Twins
Texas leads the series 1-0 following a 2-0 win in game one on Sunday night.
The Rangers once again put the pressure on the home team in a series with a 2-0 win in game one over the Astros. The loss was the first for Justin Verlander in nine career game-one starts for the Astros in the playoffs. Help may be on the way for Texas with Max Scherzer looking like he’ll be ready to go in game 3 after missing the first two rounds of the playoffs and fellow starter Jon Gray also appearing ready to help.
Houston still remains the favorite to win in my mind. Game two starter Framber Valdez is vastly underrated and was, in many ways, the Astros’ ace in last year’s playoffs and for a large part of this season. Houston’s mashers, particularly Yordan Alvarez and Kyle Tucker, have good numbers against game two starter Nathan Eovaldi and should knot the series tonight. The Rangers’ lineup can be very streaky and have looked painfully average in the last few games. If they go cold, and this series turns to a battle of pitching staffs, I think the Astros have the deeper, more tested staff.
Prediction: Astros over the Rangers in 7 games; Astros (+150/+310)
NL Divisional Round
#4 Phillies 3-1 over #1 Braves
#6 Diamondbacks 3-0 over #2 Dodgers
The Phillies are once again back in the NLCS and this year, they have a home-field advantage. In the past two postseasons, the Phillies are now 10-2 at home in the postseason. No team comes close to the home-field advantage that the Phillies have with their rabid fanbase. The Diamondbacks come into this series 5-0 in the playoffs including four wins on the road. In fact, the two teams are a combined 10-1 in the postseason.
The Diamondbacks have been perfect on the road thus far but the CitiBank Crowd is quite a different experience. While the D-Backs played in Philadelphia four times this season, that was in June and the atmosphere will be quite different starting Tuesday night. Philadelphia was able to take three of four from the D-Backs in Philly this season and I expect them to take each of the first two games here as well. Wheeler and Nola have been stellar at home in the postseason and they should be up to the challenge to take on the Diamondbacks’ stellar top two of Gallen and Kelly. The pressure will be on the D-Backs to win all three games in Arizona. I think they’ll get two of them but will ultimately fall when the series shifts back to Philadelphia.
The Phillies have built one of the most potent offensive lineups in baseball, have a bullpen that is versatile, and have the best home-field advantage in baseball. They also look like a team that is running through this postseason trying to take care of some unfinished business. Arizona has made a fabulous run in the playoffs but their lack of starting pitching depth will do them in against the Phillies.
Prediction: Phillies over the D-Backs in 6 games; Phillies (-175/+205)
*All odds courtesy of Draftkings.com
By Mark Ruelle