Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:56 AM

Thursday's Best Bet

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ALCS Game 4 Betting Preview

Houston Astros vs New York Yankees, 8:08 ET, FS1

With Wednesday's proposed Game 4 getting washed out because of the weather, both the Yankees and Astros avoid what would have been considered a bullpen day for both. We will never know how that type of game would have played out, and given the depth and talent the Yankees have in their bullpen, you would have to figure they would have had the edge.

Instead, Game 4 gets pushed to Thursday as it's a rematch of Game 1 starters with Zack Greinke and Masahiro Tanaka getting the ball. Tanaka and the Yankees managed to win that series opener by a 7-0 final score, scoring three runs off Greinke in six innings and padding the lead with four more from there. Now down 2-1 in the series, New York's going to need to win Game 4 to get back on even ground with the Astros, because the last thing they want to face is being down 3-1 and needing to not only win Game 5 at home, but go into Houston and win Games 6 and 7 as well. That's not even discussing the fact about which one of Houston's stud starting pitchers they'll be up against in all of those meetings.

Therefore, it's not hard to make the argument that Game 4 could essentially be the series for the Yankees, and as a 30-cent home favorite in Game 4, you know the Bronx Bombers will get plenty of support. But is that the best betting option?

MLB Odds: Houston (+120) vs New York (-130); Total set at 8

Not only will the Yankees likely end up as a popular side for Game 4 just based on their specific situation, but with the narrative that Greinke is Houston's “weak link” growing stronger after falling in Game 1, there is support on both sides in terms of wanting to play on the Yankees and play against the Astros in this game.

And while it is true that Greinke hasn't had his best stuff since becoming a Houston Astros player, calling him a “weak link” when comparing him to what Verlander and Cole have done this year is disrespectful to all three of them. Verlander, and especially Cole, have had absolutely phenomenal seasons in 2019 and probably ever other pitcher in the majors would be considered “weaker” to the performances they've put up. Even for all the credit Verlander and Cole have gotten, that's still not giving them enough credit in that regard.

And for Greinke, yes, the transition back to the American League has come with some bumps in the road, but what team in the league wouldn't want him as their third option in a playoff series? It's not hard to figure he'd be at worst the #2 man in the Yankees rotation were he to flip sides, and he would have been considered a #1 for probably every other playoff team in the 2019 postseason outside of what Washington brought to the table.

So just because Greinke has had some issues in his new uniform, doesn't mean he should be an automatic fade in this spot. Yes, situationally, the Yankees are in a decent position to even up this series in Game 4, being at home, with their #1 guy on the hill vs a #3 for Houston, and this being the 4th time in 2019 that they've faced Greinke (twice while he was with Arizona), but I'm not ready to trust Tanaka being as dominant as he was in Game 1 (1 hit allowed in 6 IP). Given that the Yankees are going to attract the majority of the support in all likelihood because of all those things, the side is probably one of the easiest stay aways of the post season for me overall.

But it is the pitching rematch situation that leads me to a play on the total. We've only seen one specific playoff rematch between starting pitchers in these playoffs so far – St Louis/Atlanta Game 5 with Flaherty and Foltynewicz squaring off after doing so in Game 2 as well – and that result in the return match flipped both ways. St Louis lost Game 2 in an 'under' result, and then thanks to a huge 1st inning offensively, the Cardinals were able to win Game 5 and cash 'over' tickets in no time.

Flip flopping those results in rematches is a general theory that I tend to support if they make sense in other lines of thought as well, and taking the 'over' for Game 4 does seem to fit the bill (hence another reason to be tentative in backing the Yankees ML).

If the Yankees are going to even this ALCS at two games apiece, they are going likely going to do so by waking up their bats and scoring 4+ runs. This is a Yankees team that averaged 5.46 runs per game at home this year, and will now have close to 48 hours to stew about their many missed opportunities in Game 3.

In that Game 3 the Yankees had two guys on, no outs in the first inning before ultimately stranding the bases loaded, Didi Gregorius was a few feet away from a three-run shot in the bottom of the 5th, and all in all they left nine men on base, six of which were in scoring position. If Greinke is indeed the lesser of three evils these Yankees bats have to face in this series, New York will have to capitalize on those kinds of chances in Game 4, and I do believe they will.

However, at the same time, it's not like the Astros were a model of offensive efficiency in Game 3 as well, as they stranded the bases loaded in the 1st inning too, and finished the game with 10 ducks left out on the pond, all of which were out there in scoring position. Even with Tanaka on the hill, the Yankees are playing with fire if they continue to give the Astros those kinds of opportunities, as eventually they'll find there way home too. In Tanaka's two regular season starts against Houston, the Astros scored no fewer than 4 runs in either of those games, and a 4-4 type game in the late innings gives us a winning ticket on the high side of this total.

With improved weather – with winds projected to be quite strong and blowing out – and a scheduled HP umpire in Dan Bellino and his 17-12-4 O/U mark this year likely behind the plate, I believe we see the first relatively high-scoring game of this 2019 ALCS with both sides trading crooked numbers with one another.

As I said earlier, if the Yankees are going to win this game, you've got to figure they'll need 4+ runs to do so, and if you and I figure that, you know Houston does as well. From the Astros perspective, they would take great satisfaction in out-slugging this “savage” Yankees lineup on their own field to go up 3-1 in the ALCS, and they'll do their best to make it happen.

These two teams are too loaded offensively not to have at least one game in this series turn into a slugfest where the chips fall where they may in terms of the eventual winner, and I'm backing that happens here in Game 4.

Best Bet: Over 8

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