Sharp Action in Rare Wednesday Night College Football Plus MLB Game 5s

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Dave Tuley’s ATS report

  • Rays beat Astros 4-1 to even their ALDS at 2-2 and force decisive Game 5 in Houston on Thursday night: ViewFromVegas is the Rays closed as +205 home underdogs (stayed Under betting total of 7.5 runs).
  • MLB playoffs: with the Rays’ 4-1 home upset of the Astros Tuesday night, home teams improve to 10-5 so far in divisional playoff round while favorites dip to 10-5; Unders take 8-7 lead with tonight’s Under; we now have 3 Game 5s over the next 2 nights.

Josh Appelbaum’s market insights

Bettors thirsty for football won’t have to wait until Thursday to sweat their next game. Today we are treated to a rare Wednesday night showdown between two Sun Belt heavyweights. We also have a pair of massive winner-take-all Game 5s in the MLB playoffs to get down on.

Historically, Game 5s of the ALDS and NLDS have provided two distinct edges for bettors. Although a relatively small sample size, underdogs have gone 10-7 (58.8%) since 2005, winning +5.74 units with an absurd 33.8% ROI (according to Bet Labs Sports). Meanwhile, visitors have gone 11-6 (64.7%), with +7.44 units won and amazing 43.8% ROI. We’ve also seen a clear edge when it comes to the total. The Under has gone 9-6-2 (60%).

Let’s get right to the three big games tonight and discuss where the public and pro money is coming down.

NCAAF

8 p.m. ET: Appalachian State (4-0) at UL-Lafayette (4-1)

Talk about two evenly matched teams in a high-stakes conference game. App State sits in first place in the Sun Belt East Division while UL-Lafayette sits in first place in the Sun Belt West Division. Both teams are offensive juggernauts, with App State averaging 47 PPG and Lafayette 44.4 PPG. Lafayette has a better scoring defense, allowing 21.4 PPG compared to App’s 29 PPG. Both teams have been good to bettors, with App State 3-1 ATS and Lafayette 5-0 ATS.

Lafayette opened as a short 1-point home favorite. With oddsmakers typically awarding 3 points for home-field advantage, this means books view App State as roughly 2 points better on a neutral field. The public doesn’t know who to take. They love backing an undefeated team, but also like Lafayette at home at practically a pick’em price. But sharps have taken a clear side.

Spread bets are virtually split, yet the line has flipped to App State -1. This is a dead giveaway that pros are siding with App State. Bettors would be wise to bypass the spread in favor of the moneyline. With books predicting a close game to begin with you’d hate to be on App -1 and push your bet if they win by a single point. We’ve also seen smart money target the Over. It opened at 68.5 and has been bet up to 70.5. The forecast calls for hot temperature in the mid-80s with little to no wind, both benefits to the over.

MLB Playoffs

5:02 p.m. ET: St. Louis Cardinals at Atlanta Braves

The Cardinals trailed in the series 2-1, but stayed alive Monday night with a thrilling 5-4 come-from-behind Game 4 win in extra innings. Now the series shifts to Atlanta for the decisive Game 5. St. Louis sends out Jack Flaherty (11-8, 2.75 ERA) while Atlanta counters with Mike Foltynewicz (8-6, 4.54 ERA). These pitchers faced off in Game 2. Foltynewicz outdueled Flaherty in a 3-0 Braves win. This line opened with the Braves listed as short -109 favorites and the Cardinals a slight -101 dog. The public says the Braves were the better team all season long and now they’re at home. So you have to take Atlanta.

However, despite roughly 60% of bets backing the Braves, we’ve seen smart money side with the Cardinals, flipping the line to St. Louis -113 and Atlanta +103. Essentially we’re seeing a classic "Fade the Trendy dog" play, with average Joes backing the Braves but wiseguys getting down on the Cards. This will be an extremely heavily bet game, giving the Cards great contrarian value (plus they have sharp action in the form of reverse line movement). Another edge to the Cardinals: Tom Hallion is the home-plate ump. Since 2005, home teams have only won at a 49.6% clip and have lost -44.48 units with Hallion behind the plate (according to Bet Labs Sports). The total opened at 8. The wind is blowing in from left-center at 5-6 MPH and two-thirds of bets are taking the under.

8:37 p.m. ET: Washington Nationals at Los Angeles Dodgers

The Nats and Dodgers have rotated wins and losses through four games. Washington is coming off a 6-1 win in Game 4 to stave off elimination. The Nats will have Stephen Strasburg (18-6, 3.32 ERA) on the mound. The Dodgers counter with young stud righty Walker Buehler (14-4, 3.26 ERA). Strasburg has been lights out in the playoffs in his career (0.64 ERA in 28 innings). In Game 2 he went six innings and only gave up 1-run in a 4-2 win at Dodger Stadium.

Los Angeles opened as a -147 home favorite and the Nats a +137 dog. The public says the Dodgers are the better team, at home and "have to win." Heavy betting has pushed Los Angeles up about 10 cents to -158. That’s when sharps started to hit the Nats at an inflated +145. The Nats have value as a contrarian dog in a heavily bet game and also a dog off of a win. Dogs off of a win have won at a 46.4% clip (+16.74 units, 7.5% ROI) since 2005.

The total opened at 7 and we’ve seen the juice rise to -120 on the Over, signaling over liability. The wind is blowing out to dead-center at 5-8 mph. Alfonso Marquez is an "over" ump as well. Since 2005, the Under has won just 47% of the time (-20.01 units) with Marquez behind the plate.

Be sure to tune in to Wedneday’s VSiN Market Insights Podcast for an up to date betting breaking for all three of the big games, plus any sharp action hitting the NHL slate. The podcast will be posted at around 3 p.m. ET.

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Jeff Fogle’s stat pack on MLB

Tampa Bay (+210) got to Justin Verlander early, then coasted to a 4-1 victory over Houston in the remaining American League divisional series. That forces a fifth and final game Thursday at Minute Maid Park in Houston.

Total Bases + Walks: Houston 12, Tampa Bay 25
Starting Pitchers: Verlander 3.2 IP, 4 ER, 5 K’s, Castillo 1.2 IP, 0 ER, 3 K

It was a “bullpen day” for the Rays. Markets have had trouble properly pricing those for good teams that can string together hard throwing arms. Verlander didn’t have his best stuff (as game announcers kept emphasizing), allowing two home runs while allowing four earned on 84 pitches in just 2.2 innings. Six pitchers combined for the Rays, none throwing more than 30 pitches.

Big pre-series underdog Tampa Bay actually leads scoreboard and “offensive bases” through the first four games. Houston was fairly dominant at home, winning 6-2 and 3-1 on 20-9 and 16-10 “total bases plus walks.” But Tampa Bay won 10-3 and 4-1 on 29-14 and 25-12. Through four games, it’s Tampa Bay 17-13 on 73-62.

Gerrit Cole is expected to start Thursday’s Game 5 for Houston. Tampa Bay can bring back opening game starter Tyler Glasnow, or could structure another gauntlet after a traveling day that could include contributions from Game 3 winner Charlie Morton (five innings on 93 pitches Monday) and Blake Snell (started G2, but recorded the last two outs Tuesday night). In G2, Cole closed around -270 over Snell, though perceptions of Tampa Bay’s ability to compete have changed since then.

Thursday’s winner advances to face the New York Yankees in G1 of the ALCS Saturday. Houston would host NYY, the Yanks would host TB.

Today’s playoff games

Three of today’s four contenders are thrilled with their starting pitchers, so let’s focus on them.

St. Louis: Jack Flaherty
Flaherty was lights out in the second half of the season. He might win the NL Cy Young award based on that alone. You regulars know we prefer handicapping with sharp staples like xFIP (a “fielding independent” pitching stat designed to run along the same scale as ERA), strikeout percentage, and home run rate over a larger sample size. For the 2019 season, Flaherty finished with a 3.64 xFIP, a 29.9% strikeout pct., and 1.15 home runs allowed per nine innings according to fangraphs.com.

In his only playoff appearance, Flaherty allowed three earned runs in seven innings, tiring late on his way to a high 117-pitch count. He’s the clear ace of this staff. How long can he throw Wednesday?

Atlanta: Mike Foltynewicz
The least impressive arm in today’s mix. Foltynewicz posted a 4.73 xFIP, a 21.4% K-percentage, and a vulnerable 1.77 HR/9 ratio. Like Flaherty, he has been sharper recently. The Atlanta righty threw seven scoreless innings on just 81 pitches in his prior outing in this series. And he’s only allowed eight earned runs in 48.2 innings dating to Aug. 23. But Braves fans know he’s the least “sure thing” of Wednesday’s starters.

Flaherty and the Cards were -115 when these pitchers met in in Atlanta in Game 2. You should expect today’s rematch to close within arm’s reach of that price. Whether you focus on the full season or recent form, the Cards get the nod in starting pitching. Atlanta has home field and the more explosive offense.

Washington: Stephen Strasburg
Strasburg saved the day in the wild-card game vs. Milwaukee with three scoreless relief innings. He then allowed only one run in six innings in a Game 2 victory over Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers. For the year, he’s posted a 3.17 xFIP, a 29.9% K-rate, while allowing 0.94 homers per nine innings. The Nats are as confident as you can be on the road against a #1 seed with Strasburg on the mound.

LA Dodgers: Walker Buehler
His numbers are very similar to Strasburg’s for the season, finishing with a 3.37 xFIP, a 29.2% K-percentage, and 0.99 homers allowed per 9 innings. Buehler was a beast in the series opener, striking out eight while not allowing a run in six innings of a joint shutout.

Oddsmakers, sharps, and the public always give LAD respect at Chavez Ravine. These offenses are similarly strong after you adjust stats for park effects. Slight edge to the Dodgers. Buehler closed around -170 in the opener vs. Patrick Corbin. Kershaw closed around -160 in G2 vs. Strasburg. Where will this one settle?

Perhaps more importantly, are thousands of Dodgers’ NLCS and World Series futures tickets about to go up in Strasburg’s smoke?

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