Go with the Detroit Tigers - on at 1.83 - to win on the road versus the Baltimore Orioles in game one of their American League Division Series.
Both these teams might have won divisions, but they are not built the same coming into this Thursday contest. The Tigers had to navigate the far more competitive AL Central, while the Orioles cruised to victory in the East. Being pushed until the end of the season, puts the Tigers in the better competitive mode for the playoffs.
Even if you’re not buying on that sentiment, consider these two clubs’ head-to-head record in 2014. Detroit won a commanding five-out-of-six games against Baltimore. Along those lines, when they went travelled to play at Camden Yards in mid-May, the Tigers swept the series. In other words, there won’t be any away-from-home intimidation.
As for the pitching match-up, Orioles’ starter Chris Tillman enters this game having posted a 4.15 ERA over his past two starts. After a stellar August in which he registered a 1.33 ERA, he came back to the ground in September with a 3.23 ERA. He did pitch well in his one start against Detroit, picking up the team’s only win against the Tigers this year, but, it’s important to point out that this will be Tillman’s very first post-season start. Nerves will, no doubt, play a factor when he faces the AL’s second-best run-producing offence.
For Detroit, Max Scherzer gets the baseball. He had a great season (18-5 with a 3.15 ERA) and comes into this game hot (2-0 with a 1.38 ERA in his past two starts). As for his post-season track record, it’s good – especially at the Division Series level. In five ALDS appearances he’s 3-0 lifetime with a 1.66 ERA.
In Anaheim, look for the Los Angeles Angels and the Kansas City Royals to combine for more than 8 runs in their opening ALDS contest; take it at 2.02
I don’t think any pundit expected Royals manager Ned Yost to approach his team’s AL Wild Card game the way he did. He was both erratic (subbing his best pitcher, James Shields, for the less than best option late in the game) and incredibly aggressive at times (his team stole a jaw-dropping seven bases). This approach is the perfect combination for runs, runs, runs – both the ones his team will give up and the ones they can score.
Perhaps Yost will make a complete 180-degree turn now that his team has earned a spot in the division round of the playoffs, but one would expect him to be bolstered his Wild Card triumph. Either way, whoever Yost trots out to the pitcher’s mound for this game, they’ll have to face an Angels team that led the AL in run production.
A final point to keep in mind. These two teams faced each other six times in 2014. The teams averaged a robust aggregate of nine runs a game – and that was before Yost went completely cowboy with his managing decisions.