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Tuesday's MLB Betting Preview The final week of the marathon MLB regular season is here, and while most playoff teams are basically set in the National League – chances are it's a Washington/Milwaukee wildcard game – over in the American League we've still got three teams fighting for those two wildcard spots. Oakland currently holds the edge in that regard with a 1.5 game lead over 2nd place Tampa Bay, but with Cleveland just a half-game behind the Rays, chances are we get a photo finish.
Oakland at Los Angeles Angels (10:07 p.m. ET)
Oakland and Cleveland are heavy road chalk against division rivals tonight, and it's the former's trip to LA to face an Angels team that is wrapping up another highly disappointing season that I'm choosing to focus on. Of the three wildcard contenders, Oakland's got the most wiggle room right now, and while they would prefer not to have to use it, it's never a bad thing to have.
Getting into the wildcard game is goal #1 for the A's, but with their positioning now, they would prefer to host that contest and with games against the Angels and Mariners left in the regular season, they've got two division foes to get by to do so. But will they slip up against the Angels tonight who may look to play spoiler?
MLB Odds: Oakland (-215) vs LAA (+195); Total set at 9.5
The A's have won six in a row against the Angels this season, with LA's last win dating back all the way to the end of June. It's just been another miserable season for this Angels team that is now going on 4+ years of not coming close to living up to expectations as the world's best player (Mike Trout) is left to spend another fall watching the MLB playoffs from his couch. Trout's been shut down for 2019 for a few weeks now as you hope this organization can retool this roster correctly in the winter to make 2020 one where they become contenders, but at this point, until we wait and see what roster moves come, it's hard to believe 2020 will be any different.
On the flip side, Oakland just continues to use their “moneyball” approach be playoff bound (likely) for the second straight season, and after losing in the wildcard game a year ago, the motivation was clearly there to have another run at it in 2019. And during the last week of the regular season, when motivation is a huge issue for 80% of the league left playing out the string – like the Angels are – that's not the case with the A's right now.
However, it's because of that scenario where you get teams 'needing' to win vs teams that don't care that you get some pretty big odds on the contenders this year. It's why many handicappers will swear off the final few weeks of the year and wait until the playoffs to dive in again. That approach is completely understandable, but the flip side of that argument is that you can miss some pretty juicy underdogs at the same time as well.
That's not to say the Angels are going to be at their best tonight, but a +200ish home dog price is tough to ignore, especially when the entire betting market has already pencilled in an Oakland win. Betting percentage numbers at VegasInsider.com currently show 80+ of the ML action already on the A's this evening, and at least on paper, there is plenty to like about the A's chances. They are the better team, the healthier team, they've beat LAA six straight times, have more to play for, and have one of their trade acquisitions in Homer Bailey on the hill to try and get the job done. Put that all together and you can understand why the majority of the market has no problem laying that chalk with Oakland tonight.
Yet, even with all of that support, this line has only jumped up 10 cents from the opener of -205. Relatively speaking, that's a small move this time of year for a team in Oakland's playoff position against a non-contender. I mean, just look at the Cleveland/Chicago White Sox game tonight for comparison, as that's a relatively similar scenario – Cleveland needing to win, and on the road as heavy chalk – and that line has jumped 45 cents (-230 to -275) with similar 80%+ support. You can cap the players and their advanced stats all year long to find success (and you should), but at this point in the season, capping the market is probably the better approach.
While it's hard to make strong arguments in terms of lineup construction, pitching matchups, essentially the player-based approach for the Angels tonight, the lack of a market move relative to say the Cleveland game, is telling in it's own right. Playing spoiler is never fun, and while the Angels couldn't really 'spoil' anything for the Yankees or Astros last week, stepping up and playing quality baseball against Oakland could actually spoil the A's season.
Homer Bailey's not likely to pitch seven shutout innings like he did in his last emotional outing against KC, and the Angels do actually own a win over him this year when they beat him and the Royals 7-3 back in late-April. LAA has won three of Dillon Peters last four starts overall (against the Yankees, Red Sox, and White Sox no less), and the lone loss in there was a 4-3 defeat here at home to the Cleveland Indians.
So there is precedent for the Angels to step up and put their best foot forward tonight, and with plus-money odds on the +1.5 RL, I do believe that's the best way to go here. After all, all those perceived negatives (lack of motivation, lack of talent etc) on the Angels side tonight that has everyone backing Oakland could still come into play, but don't be surprised if the Angels make the A's work extremely hard for that victory tonight, if they get it at all.
Best Bet: Los Angeles Angels +1.5 (+125)
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