NL Wild Card Game Odds, Pick, Prediction: Cardinals vs. Dodgers Betting Guide (October 6)
Getty Images. Pictured: The Dodgers’ Chris Taylor and the Cardinals’ Harrison Bader.
Four of baseball’s most storied and popular franchises qualified for the wild-card round of the playoffs, which sets up two fascinating one-game playoffs on Tuesday and Wednesday. After New York and Boston face off on Tuesday, the surging Cardinals take a trip west to take on the juggernaut Dodgers on Wednesday night in the second Wild Card Game.
We didn’t quite get the chaos most neutral baseball fans had hoped for with no Game 163s or absurd tiebreaker scenarios, but instead it’s two of MLB’s hottest teams and the best wild-card team in the history of the league in the 106-win Dodgers on Wednesday night.
St. Louis will throw reliable right-handed Adam Wainwright, whose renaissance season carried an otherwise uncertain Cardinals starting rotation to the playoffs. His ERA and advanced metrics are the best they’ve been since 2015 and even at 40, the veteran has plenty of experience in playoff moments.
He’s countered by Dodgers trade deadline acquisition Max Scherzer, an eight-time All-Star, three-time Cy Young winner and 2019 World Series champion with Washington. Scherzer overcame early season struggles and may even win the Cy Young this year after an incredible run of elite pitching form since joining the Dodgers.
Cardinals vs. Dodgers NL Wild Card Game Odds
|Over/Under||7.5 (-110 / -110)|
|Time||8:10 p.m. ET|
|Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute MLB odds odds here.|
Dodgers Will Rely On Scherzer, Offense
It’s very hard to poke holes in this Dodgers team, but if you look hard enough, you can find some cracks. They don’t hit lefties particularly well. They don’t have Max Muncy — who was their best hitter this season — for the Wild Card Game and likely the NLDS as well if they reach that series.
In a one game setting, variance can run wild and manager Dave Roberts has received plenty of scrutiny for his bullpen usage and management of starting pitchers in the past.
Maybe he leaves Scherzer in too long or pushes the wrong buttons in the late game bullpen management. The Dodgers are actually the sixth-best offense in the playoffs based on wRC+ and the sixth-best defense based on defensive runs saved.
The stable of arms out of the rotation and bullpen are the main reason that Los Angeles is World Series favorites, even though its season could end Wednesday night if a few bounces go against them or one pitcher underperforms.
Since the Dodgers acquired him at the deadline, Scherzer had quality starts in seven of his first nine starts, and one of those two non-quality starts was rain-shortened in Philadelphia. He allowed just five runs in his first 58 innings in Los Angeles and played his way into the Cy Young race as his ERA lowered from 2.76 to 2.08.
If there’s any detractions, Scherzer was hit hard in his final two starts of the 2021 campaign at Coors Field against Colorado and against San Diego. He allowed 10 runs in two starts and his ERA ballooned nearly half a run.
Scherzer’s walk rate is his second-lowest rate since 2015 and his xERA of 2.89, FIP of 2.97 and xFIP of 3.24 are all among the upper-echelon of the league.
The Dodgers rank seventh in wRC+ against right-handed pitching despite their middling numbers against southpaws. One major concern for St. Louis is if its bullpen’s high walk rate becomes a problem against a Dodgers offense with the second-highest walk rate in the league. However, given Wainwright’s command, it will be difficult for Los Angeles to take free bases off him.
Los Angeles ranks eighth in ISO against righties and Wainwright’s biggest strength is pitching to weak contact with an elite defense behind him.
Can 40-Year-Old Wainwright Lift Cardinals?
St. Louis improbably won 17 straight games in September to secure its spot in the playoffs and go over its regular season win total. The Cardinals didn’t just beat up on bad teams, either, as that run included five wins against NL Central champion Milwaukee, three games against fading San Diego and two against wild card runner-up Cincinnati.
For a team with serious bullpen issues in the first half of the season, a revolving door of back-end starters and a 44-46 record at the All-Star break, the Cardinals winning 90 games seemed near impossible. But here they are.
Even though St. Louis is the worst team in the 10-team field, Wednesday is one game. And Wainwright has been excellent. His 3.05 ERA, 3.85 xERA and 3.66 FIP would tend to suggest that he’s due for some negative regression, but that doesn’t include that almost every Cardinals pitcher overperforms their metrics because St. Louis is the best defensive team in the playoffs.
The Cardinals’ +78 defensive runs saved is the best of the 10 in the playoffs and that makes an even bigger difference in the playoffs when everyone has good pitchers and run prevention becomes essential.
Wainwright had a 1.43 ERA in August and a 3.44 ERA in September through 12 starts and most of those runs allowed in September came in one bad start against Milwaukee. He’s posted quality starts in 12 of his last 14 appearances, which means he’s thrown at least six innings and allowed three or fewer runs. His ability to go deep into games is important on Wednesday to protect the Cardinals’ bullpen — the worst in the playoffs by xFIP.
In an extended series, the Cardinals’ lacking pitching depth becomes a problem. They’ve relied extremely heavily on their top relievers to pitch often and somehow, they haven’t burned out. But since the Cardinals clinched and have had some days off, that’s not much of a concern in a one-game setting.
St. Louis ranks ninth among the playoff teams offensively with a 97 wRC+ and has struggled against righties this season, ranking 17th in wRC+ against righties. Most of the Cardinals’ offensive success has come against southpaws, where they rank third in wRC+.
There’s two strong narratives in play here with the red-hot Cardinals being everyone’s darling pick to make a deep run in October after an excellent September. But most see the Dodgers as a baseball machine as they had won the NL West eight straight seasons before this year, won the World Series in 2020 and had many close calls prior to that.
Throw the narratives out and look at the numbers and while St. Louis would have almost no shot to keep up with the Dodgers’ pitching edge over the course of a five- or seven-game series, LA’s pitching edge is minimized considerably in a one-game setting.
The fact that it’s Scherzer in a win or go home is priced into the market. The Dodgers are the better team and hence are the overwhelming favorites. But from a value perspective, the only side I could play here is St. Louis. The current number as of writing is +185, and our Action projection puts the Redbirds at +186, so I can’t recommend a play at the current number.
Our Action projection also sets the total at 7.47 and the two teams’ good defenses makes it hard to trust the opposing offenses given the rested bullpens and short leashes on struggling pitchers in a win-or-go-home setting.
But if you shop around and find a number +195 or better on St. Louis to pull off the upset and win this game, it’s worth a play. The implied value is big enough considering St. Louis only needs to win about 35% of the time for a +195 or better to be worth a play.
Pick: Cardinals ML (+195 or better)