NLDS Game 1 Picks: Favorite Bets for Cardinals-Braves, Nationals-Dodgers
Jake Roth, USA Today Sports. Pictured: Walker Buehler
- The Cardinals-Braves NLDS Game 1 gets underway at 5:02 p.m. ET on Thursday, with the Cardinals being road underdogs in the matchup (+125 moneyline odds).
- Nationals-Dodgers will be the nightcap (8:37 p.m. ET). Walker Buehler gets the start for L.A. and is a -180 betting favorite at Dodger Stadium.
- Our staff details their favorite betting strategies for today's baseball action:
The Divisional Round of the MLB postseason gets underway with two National League showdowns tonight. The Cardinals and Braves will kick off the action at 5:02 p.m. ET, followed by the nightcap between the Nationals and Dodgers.
At the time of writing, both favorites are seeing a vast majority of the action. The Braves have attracted 80% of the tickets in their tilt with the Cards and the 77% of the bets are on the Dodgers to win Game 1 against Patrick Corbin and the Nationals.
Here are our staff’s favorite betting strategies for Thursday’s playoff action:
St. Louis Cardinals at Atlanta Braves
Miles Mikolas (9-14, 4.16 ERA) vs. Dallas Keuchel (8-8, 3.75 ERA)
- Cardinals Moneyline: +125
- Braves Moneyline: -145
- Over/Under: 9
- First pitch: 5:02 p.m. ET
I’m not going to overthink either one of tonight’s matchups. The MLB Postseason is a betting-against-the-public game if there ever was one, and Thursday’s slate is featuring two favorites attracting at least 70% of tickets.
I’ll lean to the Cardinals as my “favorite” of the two dogs, as higher totals are generally kinder to underdogs in baseball, including in the postseason. Since 2005, there’s been only a slight edge (87-82) toward favorites in playoff games with totals of 8.5 or more, which means dogs have come away with a solid 20.9-unit profit.
Filter that down to teams getting no more than 40% of bets and the underdogs actually turn a winning record (granted, on a smaller sample) of 34-25.
The PICK: Cardinals +125
The Braves are currently -140 favorites vs. the Cardinals. According to Sean Zerillo’s MLB model Atlanta should be -120. That is not a huge difference but it suggests the Redbirds are undervalued.
And as Danny noted, a vast majority of moneyline bets are on the Braves. Historically, it has been profitable to bet against the public in the MLB Playoffs.
With an inflated line and heavy action on the Braves, I’ll take the Cardinals down to +125.
The Pick: Cardinals +125 or better
Sean Zerillo: Washington Nationals at Los Angeles Dodgers
Patrick Corbin (14-7, 3.25 ERA) vs. Walker Buehler (14-4, 3.26 ERA)
- Nationals Moneyline: +150
- Dodgers Moneyline: -180
- Over/Under: 7.5
- First pitch: 9:37 p.m. ET on TBS
I set the Nationals as a +154 (implied 39.3% win probability) moneyline underdog in Game 1, so I see the slightest line value (0.7%) at +159 (implied 38.6%) but not enough value to make it actionable.
I did set the total at 7.7 and would have a lean to the over in this contest, but I’m unwilling to pay the substantial vig (-125) currently listed on the over – and would wait to see if the juice comes down to -115 before seriously considering betting it.
Rather than playing the Nationals straight up in Game 1, I placed a moneyline wager on them to win the five-game series, at odds of +201.
I project the Nationals as a shorter underdog over the entirety of the series (+148, an implied win probability of 40.3%) than I do for Game 1 alone.
At odds of +200 (implied win probability of 33.3%), there’s a seven percent gap in expected value between my projection and the listed odds, and I see value on the Nationals series price down to +180 or even +175.
As always, shop for the best number.
The PICK: Washington Nationals Series Moneyline
The Nationals are coming off an emotional come-from-behind win against the Brewers and now face the most dangerous team in the National League… oh, and Walker Buehler.
Buehler is holding opponents to a .196 batting average in the first inning and he has had pretty good success against the top of Washington’s batting order, too.
- Trea Turner: 0-5, 2 K
- Adam Eaton: 1-4, K
- Anthony Rendon: 3-6
- Juan Soto: 0-5, 2 K
At a short price due to the Nationals getting to the plate first on the road, I will take my chances and back Los Angeles to get on the board first.
As an added bonus, I am going to sprinkle a few shekels on Justin Turner to hit a home run at +420. Turner is 12-for-32 (.375), with two homers and three doubles against Patrick Corbin.
Of the 11 batters with at least 30 career at bats vs. Corbin, nobody has a better batting average against him than Turner.
The PICK: Dodgers (-104) to score first & Dodgers (+114) lead after 3 innings, Justin Turner to Hit a Home Run +420