Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:56 AM

AL Wild Card Best Bet

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Wednesday's MLB Betting Preview
Tampa Bay at Oakland (ESPN, 8:09 p.m. ET)

Really meaningful baseball is back in all of our lives now with the playoffs set to go on Tuesday night, and Wild Card games can be a great way to kick off what should be a great October. Yet, generally speaking, since these Wild Card games were instituted in 2012, you generally don't want to close with a plus-sign beside your name in the ML prices.

Only three underdogs (outside of general pick'em range) have gone on to play in the Divisional round, so Rays backers have that working against them.

MLB Wild Card History & Trends (2012-2018)

The price seems to matter more than the site for these games, as road teams do own a 8-6 SU advantage overall, doing most of that damage in the National League with a 5-2 SU record.

Over on the other side, AL home teams have won three in a row – all three as hefty -160 chalk or greater – and only the first Wild Card game back in 2012 saw the underdog closing at plus-money win the game outright.

That was the great Baltimore Orioles team of 2012 that had a breaking-in Manny Machado, a Chris Davis that wouldn't strike out 80% of the time, Adam Jones and Nick Markakis, and even Jake Arrieta on the initial climb of winning a Cy Young.

This year, the Rays have that underdog role working against them as they visit an Oakland franchise that's 0-2 SU in Wildcard games in the past. But the A's are also the only MLB franchise to make at least two Wild Card games and not win at least once, so it's not like history's completely on their side either.

Opening Odds: Tampa Bay (+126) vs Oakland (-136); Total 7.5

Line Movements | Expert Picks

Still some pitching decisions to be made in this one for the hosts in Oakland, as Tampa's already decided to go with Charlie Morton this year and hope that the 2019 version of Charlie Morton stays hot. Morton was a huge reason as to why Tampa Bay found themselves in this game this year, and the way he closed out the year with his Rays team winning each of his last five starts was quite impressive.

And while Morton is coming off an impressive start of one-hit ball in six innings pitched, as good as that has to make some feel about he and the Rays chances in this game, it's got me a bit queasy. With it coming at the end of a solid stretch of pitching performances for Morton and it being do-or-die, that queasy feeling gets a little worse when thinking about backing Tampa Bay.

2019 Meetings (Athletics 4-3, Under 5-2)

June 10 - Rays (-240) 6 vs. Athletics 2, Under 9
June 11 - Athletics (+140) at Rays 3, Under 9
June 12 - Athletics (+136) at Rays 2, Under 8.5

June 20 - Athletics (-110) 5 vs. Rays 4, Over 7.5
June 21 - Rays (-101) 5 at Athletics 3, Under 9
June 22 - Athletics (-105) 4 vs. Rays 2, Under 9
June 23 - Rays (+115) 8 at Athletics, Over 9

Oakland's Wild Card history without a win in multiple appearances can be a mental hurdle if the A's let it. Last year's trip to New York for this game ended poorly for the A's as they went the bullpen day route that Milwaukee's likely to use some variation this year and got burned for it.

But Oakland fans only have to look to the Colorado Rockies as an example of the most recent team to get back to the Wild Card game after losing it the year before, as a 2017 NL Wildcard road loss turned into a 2018 NL Wild Card win for them.

It will be interesting to see who the A's start (and for how long), but it is hard not to like them at home for this game. Moneyball deserves a shot in a full playoff series for the first time since 2013, and the A's just have consistently better offensive production from their big names like Chapman and Olson to trust they'll get the job done. Last year's loss in New York was a necessary experience for those guys to improve, and it pays off with a Wild Card win this year.

Besides if you root for chaos in the playoffs at times, who's got a better shot to take out Houston then a division rival in the A's right?

Best Bet: Oakland ML

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