Zylbert: Will Big Bats Rule the AL Wild-Card Game?

Zylbert: Will Big Bats Rule the AL Wild-Card Game? article feature image

Adam Hunger, USA Today Sports. Pictured: Miguel Andujar

Betting odds: Oakland Athletics vs. New York Yankees

  • Over/Under: 8
  • First Pitch: 8:08 p.m. ET
  • Probable Pitchers: Liam Hendriks (0-1, 4.13 ERA) vs. Luis Severino (19-8, 3.39 ERA)

Zylbert’s 2018 MLB Over/Under Betting Record

  • Regular Season: 102-73-4, +21.35 units
  • Postseason: 0-1, -1.25 units
  • Yesterday’s Result: Rockies-Cubs Over 7 (loss)
  • *Each bet graded as if it were to win 1 unit

There’s really one glaring common denominator between the Athletics and Yankees when they meet in this year’s American League wild-card game.

They can both mash.

Out of all 30 major league clubs, only two ranked in the top five in runs scored, homers and OPS this season: the A’s and the Yanks.

With an MLB-record 267 longballs, the Bronx Bombers obviously finished atop all of baseball in that department, while their 851 runs scored and .781 OPS ranked them second in each category.

Looking up and down this lineup, who can be surprised?

Giancarlo Stanton are Aaron Judge are two of the most dangerous sluggers out there, and Didi Gregorius, Miguel Andujar, Gleyber Torres, Aaron Hicks and Luke Voit give Aaron Boone’s lineup some serious length.

Even Andrew McCutchen has surged since coming over from San Francisco, as has Gary Sanchez a little bit lately, coming off an encouraging September that went down as his best month since May.

The A’s will counter with a bullpen game — the first time this strategy has ever been used in a wild-card game — and they’ll be using Hendriks as “the opener.”

Hendriks has actually done a nice job in this role. However, that doesn’t mean opponents have been staying off the scoreboard. In fact, Oakland has yielded an average of 5.13 runs per game in its eight “bullpen game” attempts — with the over going 6-2.

Plus, this is the postseason. Despite A’s relievers finishing 2018 with the AL’s second-best ERA (3.37), I see their collective playoff inexperience becoming a factor, especially in such a hostile environment.

The more pitchers you go through, the more likely you’ll find an arm or two that folds in these unforgiving conditions.

The Athletics can rake, too. They were fourth in runs scored (813), third in homers (227) and fifth in team OPS (.764).

They’re led by Khris Davis, who is a legitimate AL MVP candidate who has the realistic potential of being able to change a ballgame every time he comes up to bat. He topped all of baseball in home runs with 48 this year.

He anchors an offense that is filled with a mix of youth and veterans who swing live bats. Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, Stephen Piscotty and Jed Lowrie all cranked out at least 23 dingers while hitting .247 or higher. Three of the four in that group drove in more than 80 runs.

There will be a big test in front of them, though, in the form of Severino. And while I don’t doubt that he’s a true ace-caliber pitcher, he was just a little unsteady down the stretch.

Severino hit a real rough patch throughout the summer months, and even since then, he hasn’t looked as consistently strong as he did throughout the beginning of the year.

To wrap up his season, the fourth-year right-hander registered a mediocre-by-his-standards 3.98 ERA and 1.23 WHIP in four September starts — one of those was a sluggish one against the A’s.

And let’s not forget his nightmarish performance in the wild-card game a year ago when he only recorded one out before being pulled.

Having said all of that, it’s very possible there’s at least one crooked number in the final score, which may do the trick. I played this game Over 8 (-115) in the Action App this afternoon but still think 8.5 is a strong play.

Play: OVER 8 (-115)

Editor’s note: The opinions on this game are from the individual writers and are based on their research, analysis and perspective. They are independent of, and may not always match with, the algorithm-driven Best Bets from Sports Insights.