First off, I would like to apologize for being out of commission with these previews the last couple of days. Colin Wyers and I discovered a bug that recently surfaced in the projections that caused the slugging percentages of everyone to inflate. Fortunately, the effect was equal for both teams, so while it would not be prudent to publish the slash lines until the bug is fixed, the actual odds of winning the games is not affected. Therefore, until we feel comfortable with the individual projections, I am going to bring you the odds for each matchup with a bit of a what-to-watch-for preview.
Rangers @ Yankees: Rangers lead 3-1
Projected Runs: Yankees 4.83, Rangers 3.94
Odds: Yankees 59.43%, Rangers 40.57%
Seems like only yesterday that this series got off to quite a raucous start, and yet here we are with a potential elimination on the doorstep. Sabathia and Wilson will square off, just as they did in the first game of the series, and PECOTA is heavily favoring the Yankees. For those of the opinion that momentum is very real and is certainly playing a role, I completely understand your skepticism at those odds. The Yankees have effectively been dormant for 35 of the 36 innings so far, and Cliff Lee has only been on the mound for eight of those frames. And while getting shut down by Wilson and Colby Lewis isn’t exactly embarrassing, it is quite strange for such an offensive powerhouse to suddenly lose its might. Coming into the series, pitching was the question mark.
Sabathia will look to bounce back after a poor first time out, but his performance won’t matter all that much if the Yankees can’t get on the scoreboard. As far as key matchups go, look for Derek Jeter against Wilson to try and set the table early for the Yankees, and it will be interesting to see how platoon specialists Jeff Francoeur and Jorge Cantu perform against the lefty Sabathia. I’m inclined to side with PECOTA on this one, as the Yankees cannot possibly continue to play so poorly, and while I still believe the Rangers will advance to the World Series, I don’t believe they’ll win this game.
Phillies @ Giants: Giants lead 2-1
Projected Runs: Giants 4.52, Phillies 4.26
Odds: Giants 52.78%, Phillies 47.22%
The Phillies had high hopes entering this series, as they would be able to throw out arguably the best trio of starting pitchers in the major leagues, coupled with a high-octane offense that was sure to find its groove with everyone finally healthy. Their best-laid plans have not come to fruition. The offense has gone dark, and the pitching has been merely good. Sure, a couple of breaks haven’t gone their way, but these weren’t calls that instant replay would fix. Watching this team it is somewhat hard to believe they actually won 97 games in the regular season. Fortunately for Phillies, the offense has been both sporadically dominant and dreadful, so the they could score 10 runs tonight as easily as none at all, which is certainly concerning but a reason for Phans to remain hopeful.
The pitching matchup is fairly tough to assess. On paper, Bumgarner had better numbers this season, but he doesn’t have much of a basis from a true talent level standpoint. On the other side, Blanton has not thrown a meaningful pitch in three weeks. We’re likely to hear tonight how Blanton shut the Giants down in an August start, but that has no real bearing on this game. What will be interesting is how Blanton fares in terms of getting his groove back. A pitcher can throw all the simulated games he wants to, but it is much different throwing to actual batters in a stadium with fans going crazy. Look for the Giants to jump on Blanton early, operating under the mindset that a pitcher throwing with so much of a layoff will look to just get it over the plate in the early going.
The key matchup for the game will be Bumgarner vs. Jayson Werth. Werth represents the only potent power from the right side in the Phillies lineup, and he has been notoriously effective against southpaws in the past. Home runs don’t come cheap in San Francisco, but for the Phillies to succeed, the free agent to be will have to step up his efforts. For the Giants, look for Aubrey Huff to get back on track against a more hittable right-hander, which will also be key given that the Giants offense hasn’t exactly exploded either.
PECOTA pegs the Giants to take a 3-1 lead, but at 52/48, the game is practically a coin flip. With all of Philadelphia clamoring for Roy Halladay on short rest to replace Blanton, don’t be surprised if Kentucky Joe goes out and tosses a gem. Then again, if the Phillies don’t score, a team can’t win 0 to -1, so it might end up moot.