It is elimination day two of the LCS series. Two teams have the chance to punch their ticket to the World Series and three of the better young pitchers in baseball take the mound today, including a battle of lefties in the ALCS.
Houston Astros (+122) at Tampa Bay Rays (-132)
Weather: 81 degrees, clear skies, wind blowing left to right at 9 MPH
The Astros are back in the series after being down 3-0 to the Rays. Framber Valdez is the third pitcher charged with keeping Houston’s season alive. Valdez issued four walks in Game 1 against Tampa Bay, but has allowed two runs or less over his past four starts. He is the highest-priced pitcher on FanDuel today (second highest on DraftKings).
Rays ace Blake Snell makes his second start of the series. The lefty allowed one run over five innings in Game 1 and should see extended innings after a bullpen-day loss on Thursday. Snell is the Bales Model’s top pitcher today on both sites and the Rays are seeing the most money coming in on them from a betting standpoint.
The Rays have been abysmal at the plate this series, leaning on pitching, superior defense, and Randy Arozarena to carry them to wins. Tampa Bay has three hitters with a batting average over .300 and five hitters batting below .200, including three of their top of the order hitters. The Astros can thank Jose Altuve and Michael Brantley for being offensive forces, but have seen consistent production from Martin Maldonado and Josh Reddick from the bottom of their lineup as well.
Tampa was a top-five regular season offense against southpaws according to Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+). Houston was bottom 10 in wRC+, batting average, on-base and slugging percentage, and OPS. Tampa struck out the most against lefties, while Houston was 29th. The Rays did walk the most against lefties. All of this is to say Valdez will have to miss bats in the zone to be successful, while Snell will have to hope the balls put in play by the Astros continue to be weak.
This will be the game of the day and both pitchers deserve to be in DFS lineups.
Atlanta Braves at Los Angeles Dodgers
Weather: 65 degrees, clear skies, wind blowing right to left at 7 MPH
No line is set for tonight’s game as of this writing. Atlanta has not chosen a starting pitcher for Game 5.
Dustin May gets to slow down the Braves offense in attempt to stave off elimination. The righty depends on a sinker and cutter, but it is his curve that can be devastating in the instances that he uses it (13.4% of pitches). May has not pitched more than a few innings in his three postseason appearances, so this could be an opening situation. May ranks last of the three pitchers on the Bales Model, and if he is nothing more than an opener, his value is severely stunted.
Atlanta has a difficult choice to make – start Max Fried on short rest or try another bullpen day. Bryse Wilson came up huge in Game 4 and allowed the Braves to rest some of their relievers.
The lack of days off between games has put a strain on pitching, but it is much more realistic to the regular season than elongated postseason series.
Like majority of the games in the NLCS, I expect runs to be scored, making it easy to fade pitchers from this game (unless Fried starts).
Stacks on Stacks
No surprise that the Dodgers continue to top the list, but without a known starter it is tough to pick them as the best stack. Without a starter announced, Max Muncy, Mookie Betts, and Justin Turner remain top 10 bats on the slate.
The Braves stick out as another expensive stack. Ronald Acuna Jr. had his best game of the NLCS Game 4, and is a reverse-split hitter, meaning he hits better against righties than lefties. Acuna, Freddie Freeman, and Travis d’Arnaud are top 10 hitters for Atlanta and make for a solid three-man stack.
The Astros are the team to stack in the early game. The top of the order is clicking, and if Alex Bregman finds a little more consistency, the Astros stack could be a slate-winner.
Tampa Bay is a team to sprinkle into your lineup and not to stack.
Mike Brosseau has not been able to string at-bats together this postseason, but he was an auto-play against southpaws in the regular season. He sits atop the Bales Model today and should be in lineups with Arozarena.
Mike Zunino – bad hitter, but one of Tampa’s best hitters this series. Cheap hitting opens up avenues to higher-priced hitters and stacks.
Martin Maldonado has three hits, two walks, and a double in the ALCS. He is priced as the worst catcher of the presumed starters on both sites but is salary relief that has contributed offensively.
Hunter Renfroe will never hit for average, but he did hit a home run every eight at-bats against southpaws in 2020.
Willy Adames had nine extra-base hits and six walks against lefties in 2020. He is the cheapest and top shortstop on the slate.
The Braves do not rate well beyond the top four hitters. The Dodgers have a solid bullpen, but they have been hit in this series, and closer Kenley Jansen is not the same pitcher from a few years back. I will ride the Braves wave of hitters despite the Bales Model’s warnings.