MLB Playoff Odds & Picks: How to Bet Wednesday’s 8 Wild Card Matchups

MLB Playoff Odds & Picks: How to Bet Wednesday’s 8 Wild Card Matchups article feature image
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Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images. Pictured: Paul Goldschmidt

With a record eight MLB playoff games and roughly 13 nonstop hours of baseball scheduled for Wednesday — beginning at 12:08 p.m. ET with Reds vs. Braves, and concluding with Brewers vs. Dodgers at 10:08 p.m. ET — I felt the need to step in and stop you from firing off round robins or wheeling the entire board of favorites, with a multitude of exciting betting options available.

There is plenty of actionable value up for grabs if you approach these games and series on an individual basis, as this Wild Card round is essentially the equivalent of a College World Series Super Regional — and some teams are attacking the matchup backward.

As a result, certain playoff series are only worth betting on a game-by-game basis, while others offer more significant value in the series-price market.

Below, I’ll briefly examine where we stand in each of the eight Wild Card series as of Wednesday, including four Game 1’s in the National League, and four potential elimination Game 2’s in the American League.


Reds vs. Braves Game 1 Odds

Trevor Bauer vs. Max Fried

Reds Odds +110 [Bet Now]
Braves Odds -130 [Bet Now]
Over/Under 7.5 (-105/-115) [Bet Now]
First Pitch 12:08 p.m. ET
TV ESPN

Odds as of Wednesday morning and via PointsBet, where you can get $250 FREE instantly after signing up AND your bets automatically sync to the Action app. Learn more about BetSync here.

Model Projection (full projections here)

  • Reds probability: 50.5% (-102 fair odds)
  • Braves probability: 49.5% (+102)
  • Projected total: 7.45

The Reds have navigated a similar path as the 2019 Nationals, getting hot at the right time (winning 11 of their final 14 games) behind the best rotation in baseball in order to secure a Wild Card spot during the final week of the season.

Can they ride their rocket ship into October, despite setting a franchise record for futility in batting average (.212) this season?

Cincinnati should have the starting-pitching advantage both in Game 2 and Game 3 against a depleted Braves’ staff — which only saw Max Fried make it to the finish line from its projected preseason rotation.

I see roughly equivalent value on the Reds’ Game 1 moneyline as I do their series price, however, so I will stick with a Game 1 wager down to +111 (implied 47.5%) at a 3% edge compared to my projection.

Trevor Bauer (2.17 expected ERA, or xERA) was arguably the most dominant starting pitcher (min. 200 plate appearances) in baseball during the 2020 regular season — besting Jacob deGrom (2nd, 2.63), Fried (8th, 2.97) and the rest of the league by a wide margin in batted ball metrics.

Bauer had previously raised concerns about the Astros pitchers’ using foreign substances to unnaturally enhance their spin rates — and it appears that, on the cusp of free agency, he has decided to join the party:

“I’m not using pine tar” is surely a truthful statement, but it also purposefully omits a crucial fact.

I’m not here to throw Bauer under the bus, but watch how he grips the brim of his cap incessantly between pitches with his thumb and index finger – and note that the spin rate on his entire arsenal is nearly off the chart since arriving in Cincinnati:

Fried (7-0, 2.25 ERA) deservedly inserted himself into the NL Cy Young discussion this season, and all five pitches in his arsenal netted a positive pitch value in 2020.

But as incredible as he has been to anchor the Braves’ staff every fifth day, Bauer has just been a cut above the rest of the league:

If Bauer does falter on Wednesday and his team falls behind in this series, I expect to find series moneyline value on the Reds before Game 2.

Recommended Bets

  • Reds Moneyline (play to +111)

Astros vs. Twins Game 2 Odds

Jose Urquidy vs. Jose Berrios

Astros Odds +135 [Bet Now]
Twins Odds -160 [Bet Now]
Over/Under 7.5 (-115/-105) [Bet Now]
First Pitch 1:08 p.m. ET
TV ESPN2

Odds as of late Wednesday morning and via PointsBet, where you can get $250 FREE instantly after signing up AND your bets automatically sync to the Action app. Learn more about BetSync here.

Model Projection (full projections here)

  • Astros probability: 43.7% (+129 fair odds)
  • Twins probability: 56.3% (-129)
  • Projected total: 8.75

Normally I wouldn’t give much credence to a streak or a trend, but the Astros should have the mental edge in Game 2 after overcoming the Twins’ main relief corps on Tuesday in a 4-1 comeback win, extending Minnesota’s record-setting postseason losing streak:

The AL Central champions now sit on the brink of elimination against baseball’s most maligned franchise, and their lineup is much less frightening without the presence of Josh Donaldson — who was left off of the Wild Card roster with a calf injury.

I generally find that Jose Berrios (career 4.35 xFIP) is overrated in the betting markets and I was high on Jose Urquidy (14 K, 2 BB over past three starts, 20 IP) coming into the 2020 season.

The Mexican righty — whom you might remember from a crucially dominant effort (5 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 4 K) in Game 4 of the 2019 World Series — took a while to recover from a bad case of COVID-19, but he has a very solid four-pitch arsenal, and can certainly go toe-to-toe with Berrios:

I do see some value on the Astros series price (listed -180) before Game 2, as I would set the Houston the line closer to -257 to take one of the final two games; but I’m not laying interested in laying significant juice on the lesser team.

I also see some value on the Over in this game, after projecting the total for 8.7 runs. Furthermore, umpire Manny Gonzalez has shown a strong lean to the Over (56.8%) in his career, and there is a stiff wind blowing out to right field in Minnesota on Wednesday:

Data via SportsInsights

Recommended Bets

  • Over 7.5 (up to -120, 0.5 units)

Marlins vs. Cubs Game 1 Odds

Sandy Alcantara vs. Kyle Hendricks

Marlins Odds +140 [Bet Now]
Cubs Odds -165 [Bet Now]
Over/Under 8 (-110/-110) [Bet Now]
First Pitch 2:08 p.m. ET
TV ABC

Odds as of late Wednesday morning and via PointsBet, where you can get $250 FREE instantly after signing up AND your bets automatically sync to the Action app. Learn more about BetSync here.

Model Projection (full projections here)

  • Marlins probability: 38.7% (+159 fair odds)
  • Cubs probability: 61.3% (-159)
  • Projected total: 8.48

The Marlins were one of the most aggressive teams on the basepaths in 2020, finishing second in MLB with 51 steals on a 78% success rate in order to compensate for a below-average offense.

Although, after acquiring Starling Marte at the trade deadline, the Tropical Fish did manage to post a league-average 100 wRC+ over the final month of the season.

Miami’s speed will put Willson Contreras to the test defensively, but Chicago’s catcher should be up for the task — he is a poor pitch-framer, but adept at keeping runners in check, recording positive defensive runs saved value in the running game throughout each season of his MLB career.

Things could turn in a possible Game 3 scenario, however, as David Ross confirmed Jon Lester as his probable starter in a potential decider. When you can’t control the running game, the Marlins will send you to hell in a handbasket — and pitchers tend to unravel quickly.

So, if this series goes the distance, Chicago could have major problems in Game 3, but Miami’s playoff-worst bullpen (5.39 xFIP) needs to lock down a lead behind Sandy Alcantara (3.72 xFIP) or electric rookie Sixto Sanchez (4.08 xFIP) first.

The contrast in styles between Alcantara and the precise Kyle Hendricks (3.78 xFIP) should be delightful – and the matchup between Sanchez and Yu Darvish (2.82 xFIP) is must-watch TV.

But I will stick to just watching, for now — I don’t see any projection value for any single game or series wagers in this matchup.

Recommended Bets

  • Pass

White Sox vs. Athletics Game 2 Odds

Dallas Keuchel vs. Chris Bassitt

White Sox Odds -100 [Bet Now]
Athletics Odds -120 [Bet Now]
Over/Under 7.5 (+105/-125) [Bet Now]
First Pitch 3:10 p.m. ET
TV ESPN

Odds as of late Wednesday morning and via PointsBet, where you can get $250 FREE instantly after signing up AND your bets automatically sync to the Action app. Learn more about BetSync here.

Model Projection (full projections here)

  • White Sox probability: 56.5% (-130 fair odds)
  • Athletics probability: 43.5% (+130 fair odds)
  • Projected total: 7.91

After their Game 1 win, the White Sox are now listed at -255 (implied 72%) to win one of their next two games and advance, and I see a 10% projection edge relative to that price, personally setting the line at 82% or -455.

I see Chicago as a favorite in each of the next two games, and you will likely get them at a plus-money price in both contests, so you might as well stick to playing them straight — especially if you jumped in on their -110 series price before Game 1.

As I mentioned on Tuesday, the new-look White Sox finished with a 112 wRC+ (sixth in MLB) in the regular season, compared to a 101 wRC+ for the A’s, who were below average (97 wRC+) after the season-ending injury to Matt Chapman.

Furthermore, Chicago played significantly better defense than Oakland, recording +23 Defensive Runs Saved, compared to -19 for the Athletics, who have major holes in the infield defensively (-9 at 2B; -8 at SS; injury to best defensive 3B and player in the game) outside of Matt Olson (+5).

I have heard a couple of analysts tout Oakland’s bullpen advantage — but it doesn’t really come across in the metrics.

Chicago finished eighth in bullpen xFIP (4.22), one spot ahead of the A’s (4.27), who owned slightly better command of the zone (+1.9% in K-BB%), but who also had an outlier strand rate (82.2% — about 10% above league average) which is likely to regress.

The White Sox also got their best reliever, Aaron Bummer (career 3.55 xFIP), back just in time for the playoffs and added fireballing 2020 first-round pick, Garrett Crochet, to their bullpen late in the year:

I project the White Sox as F5 and full game favorites on Wednesday, and I would play those lines to -105 and -112, respectively.

Recommended Bets

  • White Sox F5 Moneyline (play to -105)
  • White Sox Moneyline (play to -112)

Blue Jays vs. Rays Game 2 Odds

Hyun-jin Ryu vs. Tyler Glasnow

Blue Jays Odds +120 [Bet Now]
Rays Odds -140 [Bet Now]
Over/Under 7 (-125/+105) [Bet Now]
First Pitch 4:07 p.m. ET
TV TBS

Odds as of late Wednesday morning and via PointsBet, where you can get $250 FREE instantly after signing up AND your bets automatically sync to the Action app. Learn more about BetSync here.

Model Projection (full projections here)

  • Blue Jays probability: 34% (+194 fair odds)
  • Rays probability: 66% (-194)
  • Projected total: 7.12

Similar to the White Sox, it’s not so much that Tampa Bay’s series price didn’t increase as much as I would expect following their Game 1 win, it’s more so that I showed pretty substantial value on their chances before that first Game — and I am higher on them overall than the rest of the market.

There is a massive discrepancy between these two teams in the bullpens and on defense, as the two clubs are at opposite ends of the spectrum.

Toronto was the second-worst defensive team in the majors, returning negative value at every position on the field, but they did save their best pitcher, Hyun-jin Ryu (3.32 xFIP over the past two seasons) for their biggest game in several years.

Unfortunately for the Jays, Tyler Glasnow (2.75 xFIP in 2020; 2.94 in 2019) has been one of the best pitchers in baseball over the past two seasons, dominating with his fastball/curveball combination:

Only two pitches in baseball had a strikeout rate over 60% (200 attempts) in 2020: Tyler Glasnow‘s curve (66.7%), and Devin Williams’ (Brewers) changeup (61.2%). 

Given their significant bullpen advantage against Toronto, I’ll stick with betting the Rays on the full game moneyline for the second-consecutive day, even though I show a small edge on their F5 moneyline too.

Recommended Bets

  • Tampa Bay Rays Moneyline (play up to -160)

Cardinals vs. Padres Game 1 Odds

Kwang-hyun Kim vs. Chris Paddack

Cardinals Odds +140 [Bet Now]
Padres Odds -165 [Bet Now]
Over/Under 8.5 (-105/-115) [Bet Now]
First Pitch 5:08 p.m. ET
TV ESPN2

Odds as of Wednesday morning and via PointsBet, where you can get $250 FREE instantly after signing up AND your bets automatically sync to the Action app. Learn more about BetSync here.

Model Projection (full projections here)

  • Cardinals probability: 47% (+113 fair odds)
  • Padres probability: 53% (-113)
  • Projected total: 7.55

The fact that the Padres waited as long as possible to announce a Game 1 starter probably isn’t the best sign.

Both Mike Clevinger and Dinelson Lamet left their final outings of the season with arm tightness and their status for the postseason remains in flux.

I counted out Clevinger, and included Lamet — but if the latter, who posted a 3.30 xFIP, is either hindered by the injured or forced to miss his start, the Padres chances of winning this series decrease significantly.

Even if Lamet pitches, I show the Cardinals winning this series 47% of the time — implied odds of +113 — and you can bet their series price down to +150, a 7% edge.

Furthermore, I show value on Kwang-hyun Kim (4.52 xFIP) to pull the upset against Paddack (3.77 xFIP) and the Padres in Game 1, and I would bet them down to +130.

The Cardinals were the best defensive team in baseball this season, recording 32 Defensive Runs Saved in 60 games — or more than one half run per game. They returned positive defensive value at every position except right field, with Tyler O’Neill (+9 DRS), Kolten Wong (+6), and Tommy Edman (+6 combined at multiple positions) as their notable standouts.

Perhaps more so than any other pitcher in baseball, Kim pitches to his defense, and though his .217 BABIP is due to regress, the man allows a ton of weak contact too, ranking in the 84th percentile in hard-hit rate, and boasting a 50% ground ball rate — making Wong the primary defender quite often:

Offensively, the Padres have a far deeper and superior lineup (115 wRC+) than the Cardinals (93 wRC+), and they own the best bullpen xFIP (3.42) in baseball since the trade deadline, but their starting pitching could be neutralized in this series without Lamet, and St. Louis is the far superior defensive team, even though the Padres (+5 DRS) are above average too.

As a result, St. Louis is the value side. They do the little things that don’t necessarily show up in the box scores or upon basic player analysis, but they have been the best defensive team in the National League over the past two years, which is what has kept them in the hunt.

Lastly, I also see value on the Under 8.5 runs in Game 1, compared to a projected total of 7.55, and I would play that to -110.

The combination of two above-average defensive teams, two fresh bullpens, and one below-average offense is a recipe for a low-scoring contest.

Recommended Bets

  • Under 8.5 (play to -110, 0.5 units)
  • St. Louis Cardinals Moneyline (play to +130)
  • St. Louis Cardinals Series Price (play to +150)

Yankees vs. Indians Game 2 Odds

Masahiro Tanaka vs. Carlos Carrasco

Yankees Odds -125 [Bet Now]
Twins Odds +105 [Bet Now]
Over/Under 8 (-110/-110) [Bet Now]
First Pitch 7:08 p.m. ET
TV ESPN

Odds as of Wednesday morning and via PointsBet, where you can get $250 FREE instantly after signing up AND your bets automatically sync to the Action app. Learn more about BetSync here.

Model Projection (full projections here)

  • Yankees probability: 48.9% (+105 fair odds)
  • Indians probability: 51.1% (-105)
  • Projected total: 8.55

Cleveland’s series price fell to +320 (implied 25%) following their game 1 loss, which is just about in line with my projection (26%), but they remain the value side in Wednesday’s contest, and you can bet their Game 2 moneyline at +110 or better.

Cleveland was the best defensive team in the American League this season, recording 26 Defensive Runs Saved and returning positive value at every position except for Third Base.

Carlos Carrasco rounded into form this season and was sharp down the stretch (2.72 FIP, 3.36 xFIP in September) after battling cancer in 2019, and I show him as a slightly better pitcher (career 3.25 xFIP, 3.65 in 2020) than Masahiro Tanaka (career 3.52 xFIP, 4.19 in 2020, 4.29 in 2019).

Furthemore, the Indians benefitted in a way from a blowout Game 1 loss, rather than a tighter Game 1 loss, as they were able to save James Karinchak both for Game 2 and Game 3.

The righty ranked seventh in baseball with a 2.22 xERA in 2020, dazzling with his fastball/curveball combination:

Recommended Bets

  • Cleveland Indians Moneyline (play to +110)

Brewers vs. Dodgers Game 1 Odds

Brent Suter vs. Walker Buehler

Brewers Odds +195 [Bet Now]
Dodgers Odds -245 [Bet Now]
Over/Under 8 (+100/-120) [Bet Now]
First Pitch 10:08 p.m. ET
TV ESPN

Odds as of Wednesday morning and via PointsBet, where you can get $250 FREE instantly after signing up AND your bets automatically sync to the Action app. Learn more about BetSync here.

Model Projection (full projections here)

  • Brewers probability: 34.5% (+190 fair odds)
  • Dodgers probability: 65.5% (-190)
  • Projected total: 7.42

The only reliever who was clearly better than Karinchak in 2020? Milwaukee’s Devin Williams, who posted an MLB best 0.86 FIP, 1.09 xFIP, and 1.49 xERA.

Williams’ changeup was the single best pitch in baseball this season — and he throws it more than half the time (52.7%).

The Brewers struggled to find their footing offensively, however, as Christian Yelich has yet to overcome his 2019 injury, showing concerning plate discipline metrics and defensive metrics — with the latter indicating that he isn’t fully healthy.

He has continued to hit the ball hard, however, ranking in the 99th percentile in exit velocity and 98th percentile in hard-hit rate, but he’s not putting himself in the right counts to succeed.

A short series plays to the Brewers’ chances. They don’t have the pitching depth to compete with the Dodgers in a five- or seven-game series, but even in a three-game series, they are in a serious hole. Los Angeles is too good in all three facets of the game, ranking first offensively (122 wRC+), sixth in xFIP (3.99), and second in Defensive Runs Saved (+29).

There are some potential warning signs, however. Walker Buehler (3.93 xFIP) has still yet to find his best form this season, and he has thrown only four innings (on Sept. 24) since September 8 while dealing with a blister issue.

Kenley Jansen showed a late-season velocity decline and Cody Bellinger (114 wRC+ vs. 162 in 2020) fell into a relative slump after his MVP campaign.

I show only a small edge on Milwaukee’s series price, however, and I would need +350 or better (implied 22.2%) in order to consider an underdog series wager before Game 1.

Otherwise, the odds and the total look to be correct for Game 1 of this series, and I don’t see any actionable value on either the side or total.

Recommended Bets

  • Pass

Recommended MLB Playoff Bets (Sept. 30)

  • Reds Moneyline (play to +111)
  • Astros/Twins, Over 7.5 (up to -120, 0.5 units)
  • White Sox F5 Moneyline (play to -105)
  • White Sox Moneyline (play to -112)
  • Tampa Bay Rays Moneyline (play up to -160)
  • Padres/Cardinals, Under 8.5 (play to -110, 0.5 units)
  • St. Louis Cardinals Moneyline (play to +130)
  • St. Louis Cardinals Series Price (play to +150)
  • Cleveland Indians Moneyline (play to +110)

[Bet any team at PointsBet today and win $125 if they get a hit. Seriously.]

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