Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:52 AM

MLB Series Best Bets - ALCS & NLCS

MLB Playoffs - Championship Series Betting Preview

The Final Four are left standing in the MLB playoffs and there will be fans allowed at these games and that should actually bring back some weird normalcy to playoff baseball. Considering the biggest heels in the game – the Houston Astros – now have to finally deal with some heckling, you've got to wonder if that chip on their shoulder has room to get any bigger. But I'd look for the Astros to continue to try and ride this "FU" attitude as far as they can.

A rematch of the 2017 World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers - where this whole Houston story started - would be something wouldn't it?

Odds to win 2020 World Series

  • L.A. Dodgers +160
  • Tampa Bay Rays +210
  • Atlanta Braves +400
  • Houston Astros +425

It would be foolish to completely disregard what the Braves and Rays bring to the table in these league championships, especially when Tampa Bay's actually a -167 favorite to advance. The only other World Series appearance for this Rays franchise was 12 years ago, falling in five to another NL East team – Philadelphia.

A potential series Rays/Dodgers championship would give Los Angeles pitcher David Price a few reasons to be stirring at home, as the two teams that finished with the best record in this unique season would be squaring off for the title.

But who wants that either, especially when....

How to Handicap the NLCS

Series Price

  • Los Angeles Dodgers (-230)
  • Atlanta Braves (+195)

The Houston Astros may have thrived using that FU to the world attitude in these playoffs so far, but they should have plenty of company on that tour from these Atlanta Braves for how much they are getting disrespected here. Let's take a look at it from a Braves perspective for a moment.

They opened up the playoffs against a Cincinnati team that everyone was supposed to be dreading because of the three-man rotation they could throw at anyone. Reds pitching did their job, the hitting couldn't do a lick, but Atlanta still came out of that series with a sweep, and not allowing a single run against.

Ok, no problem, the Reds missed a ton of opportunities (they did), and the Braves caught a break here playing an overachieving Marlins club. Atlanta came in around the -275 to -300 range for the series, but still there was enough Marlins love throughout the three games to believe that wouldn't have ended in a Braves sweep as well. But the Braves did what -300 favorites are supposed to do. Swept away their opponent, and oh, posted two shutouts again as well.

So the Braves have won all five games they've played in the postseason – as the Dodgers have – have done so with four shutout victories (some earned, some lucky), and are still priced like this? What else do they have to do to get some respect? Win all five games by a shutout?

The Dodgers could win this series and there is no doubt the fact that all of this core has been in this spot multiple times in recent years has to count for something. But if there are questions about what Atlanta does past their first few starters, those same ones have to be asked about the Dodgers as well.

I'm all for story line, and if the Dodgers get back to the World Series, I would love for it to be against the Astros. But the story line love is partially swallowing up the reality of how good this Braves team is too, as this may be the furthest they've gone in the playoffs in a long time, but this is a confident bunch right now. Winning all of your playoff games so far and all but one of them by shutout; how can you not be confident.

And yet, they know they are not the sexy pick, the Dodgers are going to be the ones the majority want (and expect) to get through this round. That perspective is reflected in this price. They don't buy it, nor do they see themselves in that light, nor do I, at least at these odds.

Best Bet: Atlanta Braves +195

How to Handicap the ALCS

Series Price

  • Tampa Bay (-170)
  • Houston +150

The term “best bet” is used much more loosely with this play, as there is a lot I do like about the Rays. They are the better team here, deserve this price, but I also don't think they'll run away with this series either. It makes the potential for jumping on them in-series much more likely, and probably more attractive, simply because this series should at least go six games. But as someone who can be a sucker for a good 'heel' story, I've been frustrated with myself for a few days now that I didn't see this coming from Houston earlier. I just didn't believe they were that good of a baseball team this year when they entered the playoffs.

But the motivation they've got to show the world that they can still win without cheating has to be extremely powerful, and with the way they've been hitting HR's in these playoffs they've got every right to be brash. Some teams thrive with that huge chip on their shoulder, and what a statement it could be for the Astros to win this year. It would be as if to say we didn't need to cheat to win, we did it to make our lives easier. How arrogant would that be?

The Astros may indeed revert back to that sub-.500 baseball team they were in the regular season, but I'm alright with that happening taking them as an underdog. The idea of them having a rematch with the Dodgers in a World Series where it's way easier to hear the stuff said on the field is so enticing, and big picture, the idea of believing that at least one of these two underdogs gets through has crossed my mind for this play as well.

I'm willing to add a Houston play to that card now, with the potential to add in Tampa on the other side should they get down and the price is right. But riding the heels until the end is always fun. They tend to get their chance at the championship and screw it up. Remember that if the Astros do go on to their 3 rd World Series in four years.

Best Bet: Houston Astros +150

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