Richard Fletcher is on MLB tipping duty today and he believes the Washington Nationals can get the better of the St Louis Cardinals...
New York Yankees @ Baltimore Orioles - 23:00 BST
Whilst the 94-68 Yankees boasted the best season record in the American League, they did not get the better of their 93-69 divisional rivals Orioles during the year, sharing the spoils 9-9 in eighteen games, though they did sweep a series at Camden Yards 3-0 in April.
The Yankee's lefty CC Sabathia (15-6, 3.38 ERA) will start Game One, off the back of some pretty average performances against the Orioles this year. Sabathia is 0-2 in three starts (all at Camden Yards) with a 6.38 ERA in 18 innings pitched, going for 24 hits and 13 earned runs in total (the last defeat being on 8th September). However career-wise he's much better, boasting a 16-4 record with a 3.12 ERA.
The Orioles go with Jason Hammel (8-6, 3.43 ERA) who started three times against the Yankees this term, and finished 0-1 after pitching sixteen innings in total, allowing eighteen hits and seven earned runs. A key pitching advantage for Baltimore, however, is that they have a superior bullpen spearheaded by the likes of Jim Johnson who led the majors with a team-record 51 saves, contriubting to the statistic that the Orioles are 74-0 when holding a lead in after seven innings.
Whether all this will be enough to blunt the big-hitting Yankee offense led by Robinson Cano and Derek Jeter is doubtful (the Yankees hit a major league-high of 245 homers during the year). The well-rounded Yankees are 1.62 to win tonight, and have to be the selection here.
Washington Nationals @ St Louis Cardinals - 20:00 BST
With 88-74 St Louis confounding their critics to win their wild card playoff game at Atlanta 6-3 on Friday night, they now host the 98-64 Washington Nationals in the National League Division Series.
The top-seed Nationals appear in the playoffs for the first time since 1981, and start lefty Gio Gonzalez (21-8, 2.89 ERA) who struck out 201 batters in 2012. He recorded a victory in his one and only 2012 appearance against the Cardinals in August, where he was simply outstanding, pitching a complete shut-out innings and he did not allow a hit until his fifth inning.
The Cardinals go with the rejuvenated Adam Wainwright (14-13, 3.94 ERA) who went 1-1 in two starts against the Nationals this year. He was, however, hauled off after just 2.2 innings in August, going for nine hits and six runs in the same game where Gonzalez made such an impression in a 10-0 rout. But Wainwright showed great fortitude to allow just one run in six innings to record a revenge victory against the Nationals in late September.
These teams played each other seven times during the course of the regular season, with the Nationals taking the honours 4-3. This is the first game of what is likely to be another very tight series, but Gonzalez can blunt the superior Cardinals hitting to record a Washington victory tonight, and priced at evens is an excellent bet.