Betting The National League Playoffs

The full National League postseason is now set to begin, as the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Cincinnati Reds in the wild-card knockout game and move into the Division Series along with division winners in the St. Louis Cardinals, Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Dodgers.

Division Series play will open Thursday and Friday in St. Louis and Atlanta, then go to Pittsburgh and Los Angeles for Games 3 & 4 on Sunday and Monday. Game 5s are slated for next Wednesday, October 9, if it comes to that.

TheSportsNotebook’s MLB coverage has previewed both series matchups at the links below. Before the playoffs begin though, I’d like to take a brief look at each team’s odds to win the National League pennant, and winning each of the next two postseason rounds. Here are the current prices…

Los Angeles: 11-10
St. Louis: 2-1
Atlanta: 18-5
Pittsburgh: 9-1

Those are some really stiff odds on the Dodgers, even though I’ve picked both them and the Cardinals to move forward. Los Angeles is playing some really good baseball and have great top-of-the-rotation pitching, but St. Louis has Adam Wainwright, a deeper lineup and an organization with a demonstrated ability to win in October.

And if you think both the Dodgers and Cards are overrated? The good news here is you don’t have to choose amongst the challengers–just bet an equal amount on both the Braves and Pirates and turn a profit so long as either one ends up in the World Series.

From a historical storyline perspective, there are some interesting NLCS matchups that could come out of this. Consider the following…

Atlanta-Pittsburgh: We’ve been seeing the highlights of Sid Bream beat Barry Bonds’ throw to home in Game 7 of the 1992 NLCS, since that was the last time Pittsburgh was in the playoffs. It would be ironic if they matched up. Especially since John Smoltz, who was MVP of that series, will broadcast the NLCS this year for TBS.

Los Angeles-St. Louis: These two played a great NLCS in 1985, a six-game series that was filled with enough drama to make it feel like seven. The biggest dramatic moment was Jack Clark’s three-run jack in the top of the ninth in Game 6 to win it 7-5. Los Angeles manager Tommy Lasorda was hammered for not walking Clark, with first base open.

It’s another highlight that would be ironic this season, since Clark was just fired from a gig in St. Louis radio for saying he knew for certain that Albert Pujols used PEDs.

Atlanta-St. Louis: Not quite as much juice as the top two, but a rematch of 1996, when St. Louis took a 3-1 lead in games and then the Braves won the final three games by a combined score of 32-1. Now that’s a collapse.

Los Angeles-Pittsburgh: No real lore here, but they did play in the 1974 NLCS, and I later met a member of the Pirates pitching staff that year, who didn’t make the postseason roster, but was a member of the same Irish Catholic group I was in when living in the Steel City. Okay, so that’s noteworthy only to me.

I picked St. Louis to win the NL flag at the start of the year and since they have the best record in the National League, there’s not exactly a lot of reasons to change heart. If I were a gambling man, I’d take my shot on that Braves-Pirates combo bet, but straight up, I’m sticking with St. Louis to go back to the World Series.