MLB Playoff Odds, Expert Picks, Projections for Saturday’s Wild Card Games, Including Rays vs Guardians, Phillies vs Cardinals

MLB Playoff Odds, Expert Picks, Projections for Saturday’s Wild Card Games, Including Rays vs Guardians, Phillies vs Cardinals article feature image

Stacy Revere/Getty Images. Pictured: Kyle Schwarber and the Phillies celebrate Friday’s Game 1 victory.

Throughout the Major League Baseball playoffs, I will provide a daily breakdown summarizing my thoughts on both futures and individual games for that day.

Below, I will address how to handle betting on these playoff series, whether on the series moneyline or a game-by-game basis, while using my daily MLB Model projections.

You can find my projections for every MLB game in the Action Network App (on both the PRO Projections tab and the game pages) and our Projections Hub (which you can bookmark).

You can also shop for the best lines on our odds page.

Using my projections, where can we find actionable value on Saturday?

Series Moneyline Corner

Here are my updated series moneyline projections for the Wild Card round:

Our positions from before Game 1 on the Phillies (+120) and Padres (+150) are in good shape, while our bet on the Rays (+110) is obviously in peril. Hopefully, we go 2-1 at worst on those three plus-money bets.

Looking at the updated futures market before Game 2, I would pass on adding more to Guardians-Rays or Phillies-Cardinals.

I would need something closer to -253 (71.7% implied) to back Philadelphia at a two percent edge, and the best price I can find overnight is -275 at DraftKings. We'll ride both our series moneyline and win series 2-0 prop (+265) into Game 2.

I don't see value in betting more on the Guardians-Rays matchup. The favorite is closer to the value side (-350 at MGM), but I would need a price nearer to -310 (75.6% implied) to consider backing the AL Central champions.

The Blue Jays are worth betting to come back and defeat the Mariners, and I bet Toronto's series price at +210 (Caesars) before Game 2.

I project the Blue Jays as roughly 59.5% favorites in either of their next two games, and the fair odds at that projection would be closer to +182 as a moneyline rollover.

Usually, my price target would be closer to +174 (36.5%), at a two percent edge compared to my series price. However, +182 seems like a more suitable price target, considering a rollover likely gets you to those odds or better.

I would consider adding to my Padres position at -191 (65.6% implied) or better or playing back on the Mets at +229 (30.4% implied) or better, though I doubt either team reaches that price target. And I have straight bets on the Padres for Game 2, anyway.

Tampa Bay Rays at Cleveland Guardians, 12:07 p.m. ET

Tyler Glasnow vs. Triston McKenzie (full projections here)

Glasnow returned this September after undergoing Tommy John surgery in August of 2021. He's only tossed 13 2/3 innings across six minor league and major league appearances and thrown 235 pitches this season.

The early signs are encouraging (6.2 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 10 K) — including a three-inning stint against the Guardians — and his velocity has seemingly returned to previous levels:

Still, the sample is limited, and it's equally likely that a pitcher just one year removed from Tommy John suffers a setback as it is that he continues to progress in his recovery.

Moreover, Glasnow is not fully stretched out. He progressed from 50 pitches against the Guardians on September 28 to 65 pitches against the Red Sox on October 3. And he'll likely get capped at 75-80 pitches for Saturday's start.

Against some teams, that could be enough to get through five innings. But Glasnow relies on the strikeout (30.1% career), and as I previously mentioned, Cleveland had the lowest strikeout rate (17.3%) against right-handed pitching this season; with far superior offensive splits against righties (11th) as opposed to lefties (27th).

The Guardians will look to spit at his breaking balls, foul off his fastballs in the zone, rack up his pitch count and get into the Rays' bullpen as quickly as possible.

Jalen Beeks (3.70 xERA, 3.26 xFIP, 3.16 SIERA) or Jeffrey Springs (3.27 xERA, 3.29 xFIP, 3.32 SIERA) should be the first man up behind Glasnow; to force Cleveland back into its lesser split. Beeks hasn't pitched since mid-September, while Springs — who spent most of the season in the rotation — would make his first appearance on fewer than four days' rest since April.

I'd expect the Rays to save Drew Rasmussen (3.46 xERA, 3.56 xFIP, 3.74 SIERA) for a potential Game 3. While I trust Kevin Cash and the Rays' organization as much as any team to figure out how to optimize their pitchers, they'll also need to find a way to scratch runs across against a surging Triston McKenzie.

McKenzie looks like a sleeper AL Cy Young candidate for 2023. He has made considerable strides in the second half of the season (2.34 ERA, 3.30 xFIP, 22.2% K-BB%) relative to the first half (3.20 ERA, 4.14 xFIP, 17.4% K-BB%).

All of his underlying metrics are trending in the right direction. McKenzie is getting strike one more consistently and inducing chases and whiffs outside the strike zone with greater frequency.

And he's gotten a bit lucky, too — with a low BABIP (.237) and a high strand rate (80.3%). Still, McKenzie is undoubtedly amid a breakout; and I want to buy stock in the 25-year-old coming off a 190-inning campaign:

Remember Triston McKenzie? The stud pitcher who spun a career high 14 strikeouts last night?

— Cleveland Guardians (@CleGuardians) August 20, 2022

Friday's starters left these bullpens well-rested for Saturday. And with Tampa expected to play matchups behind Glasnow, we should be in line for another tightly contested and low-scoring affair.

I don't project value on either side of the moneyline, I would play Cleveland at -104 (50.9% implied) or better, at a two percent edge compared to my number.

I bet the Under 6.5 shortly after Game 1 ended, but I wouldn't go below 6 (-106) on the total compared to my number (5.58). And I'm not interested in betting an F5 Under 3 with my projection at 2.9.

Seattle Mariners vs. Toronto Blue Jays, 4:07 p.m. ET

Robbie Ray vs. Kevin Gausman (full projections here)

As I mentioned in the Series Price section above, I bet Toronto to win the series at +210 before Game 2 and would place that bet down to +183.

Regarding Game 2 itself, I have a similar betting approach as Game 1 — targeting Toronto on the first-five innings (F5) moneyline and avoiding a stacked Seattle bullpen.

While we lost our F5 bet on Friday, we placed that wager at -122 before closing at -140 at the same book. The consensus market price was around -135 at the close.

I see a similar edge on Gausman (3.34 xERA, 2.76 xFIP, 3.77 SIERA) over Ray (3.59 xERA, 3.58 xFIP, 3.50 SIERA), though that differential essentially boils down to offensive quality relative to similar pitchers; with the gap tightening in the later innings where Seattle has the pitching advantage.

While Toronto ranked higher against right-handed pitching (118 wRC+, 3rd) this season, they performed equally well against lefties (115 wrC+, 7th) and outperformed lefties (119 wRC+, 4th) as opposed to righties (114 wrC+, 3rd) in the two months after the trade deadline.

The Mariners (110 wRC+, 6th) weren't far behind against righties down the stretch.

Still, my model projects Toronto's offensive edge worth about 6.1% percent relative to the F5 moneyline, with an additional defensive advantage worth about 1.4%.

While Ray went on a dominant run from June to early September (15 starts, 2.27 ERA, 3.12 xFIP) after introducing a sinker to his pitch mix, his final five starts (5.27 ERA, 4.36 xFIP) were nearer to his first 12 outings as a Mariner (4.97 ERA, 3.86 xFIP).

He throws a fastball or slider more than 97% of the time and will face a Toronto offense that ranked sixth against fastballs and third against sliders — on a per-pitch basis — this season.

Gausman dealt with a laceration to a pitching hand finger in his last start and left early — though the Jays' staff said he would have pitched through it "if the situation were different."

He features a sharp slider and a nasty splitter. The Mariners ranked 20th and 28th against those respective pitch types in 2022.

Kevin Gausman, 85mph Slider and 84mph Splitter, Overlay.

— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) September 5, 2022

I projected Toronto's F5 moneyline at -169 (62.8% implied) and would place that bet up -155 (60.8% implied) at a two percent edge compared to my number.

I would need something closer to -136 to bet Toronto on the full game moneyline, so we'll ride their series price instead.

Regarding the totals, I would consider betting an Over 7 at -109 or better, given the concerns surrounding both starting pitchers. However, I'll have to wait for that price to come into range, with the best available number currently sitting at -115.

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San Diego Padres vs. New York Mets, 7:37 p.m. ET

Blake Snell vs. Jacob deGrom (full projections here)

I anticipated finding an edge on the Padres in a Snell vs. deGrom Game 2 matchup, and that came to fruition with the Mets losing Game 1.

Our +150 series ticket is in an optimal position. Still, I'm happy to bet Snell and the Padres against a Mets offense that has been far closer to average against lefties, as opposed to their No. 1 ranking against righties (post-trade-deadline).

New York should have Starling Marte (153 wrC+ vs. lefties) and Darrin Ruf (116) back in the lineup against a southpaw for the first time since early September.

Still, Snell has looked dominant in the second half, as his pitch velocity has increased; approaching his career-high on September 21:

The velocity bump has translated to his entire arsenal, and he's redoubled his slider usage — and drastically increased its effectiveness — as a result.

Conversely, Jacob deGrom may be pitching through injury after missing most of the 2022 campaign.

Through his first six starts of the season (all in August), deGrom averaged 99.4 mph on his fastball and 93.1 mph on his slider. In his past five outings, those levels have dipped to 98.5 mph and 92.2 mph, respectively.

And while those numbers remain elite (in addition to a 1.51 xFIP over that span), deGrom has allowed three runs or more in four of those five outings and appears to be 90% of his peak self, with his velocity trending in the wrong direction:

I projected the Padres as 40.9% underdogs (+144 implied odds) for Game 2 and would bet San Diego's moneyline down to +157 (38.9% implied) at a two percent edge.

You can also look to play the Padres' F5 moneyline at +175 or better at a comparable edge; I'll wait for more books to open lines before firing into that market.

Based on opening odds, I don't see value in the total in either half of the matchup unless an Over 5.5 (-102) or F5 Over 2.5 (-113) comes into play.

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Philadelphia Phillies vs. St. Louis Cardinals, 8:37 p.m. ET

Aaron Nola vs. Miles Mikolas (full projections here)

After stealing Game 1 at the death, the Phillies are in a significantly better position to win Game 2 and lock up this series, with Aaron Nola (2.74 xERA, 2.77 xFIP, 2.80 SIERA) facing Miles Mikolas (3.89 xERA, 3.80 xFIP, 3.99 SIERA).

Although we're already riding the Phillies series price and sweep tickets, I see an edge on the Phillies F5 moneyline, as I did on Thursday.

I view Nola as a superior pitcher to Friday's starter, Zack Wheeler. And Nola is coming off the best outing of his career after tossing six perfect innings against the Houston Astros' primary lineup in a playoff-spot-clinching performance.

Nola was amped up for that start — posting a season-high 94.1 mph average on his fastball — just the seventh time he's crossed that threshold in his career. He continually got ahead in the count against a great lineup and rarely got to two balls against any hitter.

Nola posted a 3.6% walk rate this season, second behind Corey Kluber (3%) among qualified pitchers, and this stat is staggering:

Most Ks by a pitcher with <30 walks in a season, all-time:

1884 – Jim Whitney* – 270
2022 – Aaron Nola – 235

*In 1884, 6 balls earned you a walk

— 𝐃𝐚𝐧 𝐑𝐨𝐜𝐡𝐞 (@RochesRWinners) October 4, 2022

And as I have continually mentioned, this Cardinals' offense is far better against left-handed pitching than they are against righties.

Moreover, the Cardinals' best pitcher — All-Star closer Ryan Helsley (2.04 xERA) — appeared to re-aggravate his jammed middle finger during his ninth-inning meltdown. And even if he avoids the playoff IL, he won't be available on Saturday after tossing 33 stressful pitches on Friday.

Despite forcing the Phillies into their lesser split by deploying a right-handed starter, I still see a significant edge on the Phillies' F5 moneyline for Saturday. I projected Nola's F5 moneyline at -142 (58.7% implied) and would bet it up to -131 (56.7% implied) at a two percent edge.

While I would consider betting the Phillies' full-game moneyline at around -115 (53.5% implied), compared to my projection at -124 (54.4%) implied, I already have money tied to their series price and sweep prop; so I don't see an additional reason to double down.

If you didn't ride the series moneyline or prop tickets, I would allocate one unit to their F5 Moneyline (to -131) and a half-unit to the full-game moneyline (to -115). Otherwise, you can just bet the F5 line.

Bets for October 8

  • Rays/Guardians Under 6.5 (-107, 0.5u at PointsBet), bet to 6 (-105)
  • Philadelphia Phillies F5 (-120, 1u at BetMGM), bet to -131
  • San Diego Padres (+160, 0.5u at PointsBet), bet to +152
  • Toronto Blue Jays F5 Moneyline (-148, 0.5u at FanDuel), bet to -155
  • Wild Card Series Price: Toronto Blue Jays (+210, 1u at Caesars), bet to +183

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