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BOSTON RED SOX (106-70) at ST. LOUIS CARDINALS (106-71)
After an unusual ending for the second consecutive game on Sunday, the World Series is tied at 2-2 with the Cardinals playing their final home contest in Monday's Game 5 versus the Red Sox.
After an obstruction call ended Game 3 and gave the Cardinals victory, Game 4 also ended in atypical fashion as Boston closer Koji Uehara picked off St. Louis pinch-runner Kolten Wong at first base to seal the 4-2 victory. LF Jonny Gomes was the key bat for the Red Sox in the win, hitting a three-run homer that would prove to be the deciding factor. Gomes was not originally in Sunday's starting lineup, but took the place of Shane Victorino who was scratched because of tightness in his back. Victorino is considered questionable for Monday. The Red Sox enter Game 5 as slight underdogs with Jon Lester (18-9, 3.52 ERA) taking the mound for the second time this series. In Game 1, he pitched 7.2 scoreless innings as the Red Sox cruised to an 8-1 victory. Hell face the same counterpart he did in that contest in St. Louis ace Adam Wainwright (21-11, 2.87 ERA), who had unusual struggles in that game. With a shaky defense behind him, he gave up five runs (three earned) in only five innings, well below his 7.1 innings-per-start average this season. The Cardinals will need him to pitch more like he has in his career during the playoffs, with a 2.37 ERA and 0.96 WHIP in 17 career outings. Defending home field is huge for the Cardinals in this one with a 60-29 record (.674) at Busch Stadium before the series will conclude at Fenway Park. The Red Sox, after Sundays win, are an outstanding 48-40 on the road (.545, second-best in majors).
Lester (1.27 WHIP) was fantastic in Game 1, striking out eight Cardinals and walking only one while giving up five hits in his 7.2 scoreless frames. That just builds on an already tremendous postseason during which he is 3-1 with a 1.67 ERA and 1.07 WHIP in four starts. Overall he has a 2.22 ERA and 1.10 WHIP over 12 career postseason appearances. Lester will benefit from having a much better defensive catcher behind the plate in David Ross for Game 5 as opposed to Jarrod Saltalmacchia whose defensive shortcoming loomed large in both Red Sox losses this series. Lester could also be getting a big break with Cardinals slugger Allen Craig questionable to play because of his lingering foot injury. Craig barely made it to first base as a pinch-hitter in Game 4 when his hit reached the right-field wall. His unavailability would only hurt a St. Louis team that is 22-26 this season against lefty starters even more. If the Cardinals have one advantage, it could be Lesters middling splits on the road this year, where he has a 4.18 ERA and 1.40 WHIP. If the lefty does struggle, hes fortunate to have the Boston bullpen behind him that has an absurdly good 1.38 ERA and 1.14 WHIP while limiting opponents to a .221 BA this postseason. Part of that has been manager John Farrells willingness to use everybody, with starters Felix Doubront and John Lackey throwing a combined 3.2 scoreless innings of relief on Sunday night.
Wainwright (1.05 WHIP) has generally been brilliant this season, leading his team to a 25-13 record (.658), which includes a 2.25 ERA and 0.89 WHIP this postseason. He certainly wasn't sharp in Game 1, though he wasnt helped that the St. Louis defense committed multiple errors behind him. The guy to register the biggest hit off him was 1B Mike Napoli, who nailed a three-run triple in the first inning, but he will not start with normal DH David Ortiz shifting over to first base in the National League park. And of the four Red Sox hitters that Wainwright has faced at least five times in his career (OF Shane Victorino, SS Stephen Drew, OF Jonny Gomes and C David Ross), the foursome is a combined 13-for-72 (.181 BA) with 17 K's, but three of those players have homered off the right-hander. Ortiz has been absolutely huge in the World Series, going 3-for-3 with two runs on Sunday and improving his batting average to .727 (8-for-11) in the series with two homers, 5 RBI and five runs. Wainwright will be happy to pitch at home in this one though, where he had a 2.36 ERA and 0.92 WHIP in 19 starts during which the Cardinals went 13-6. Though Wainwright typically doesnt need it as much as he did during his last start, the St. Louis bullpen has been reliable all season with a 3.35 ERA and 1.21 WHIP. Theyve been way better than that this postseason with a 2.30 ERA, 0.86 WHIP and .186 opponents' BA over 43 innings.
MLB Series Betting- L.A. Dodgers at San Diego
The San Diego Padres (+12.3 units) have the best record in the National League at 22-12 and also have the fattest lead of any division leader at 3.5 games after sweeping San Francisco this week. The Dodgers have also been playing well of late though, winners of their last four games. That backdrop makes the teams’ meeting in Los Angeles this weekend’s feature series. Let’s take a look at it. Sportsbook.com has San Diego installed as a -130 favorite to take the 3-game set.
Last season a messy divorce between owner John Moores and his wife Becky left the Padres in limbo and the organization was cut to barest of minimums, except for the face of the franchise Adrian Gonzalez. Last year’s rag-a-muffin bunch won 75 games somehow, however most baseball experts considered that a fluke and oddsmakers put a cap of 71 wins on San Diego for 2010 with its new ownership that lacks deep pockets.
What has caused the Pads to be so good this season, tremendous pitching. San Diego leads the NL in ERA at 2.61, as they concede the lowest batting average at .221 and lowest on-base percentage at .291. Those numbers improve at spacious PETCO Park, where the Padres allow a mere 2.4 runs per game, which leads to 11-5 record.
Offensively, San Diego was last in most major categories a season ago and while this group doesn’t remind many of Cincinnati’s “Big Red Machine” of 1970’s, they are at least adequate at 4.3 RPG.
In the series opener, former Dodger John Garland (4-2, 1.71 ERA) will start for the Padres. “Garland has done a heck of a job,” Los Angeles manager Joe Torre told the Dodgers’ official website. “He’s a good guy to settle down a young staff. He’s simple: ‘Just give me the ball.’”
With the L.A. offense scoring 5.3 RPG, San Diego is 9-1 vs. NL teams scoring 5.3 or more runs game on the year and is a -140 money line favorite at Sportsbook.com with total Ov7.5. Garland last pitched on Saturday and is 11-1 UNDER when working on five or six days rest over the last two seasons. (Team's Record)
The Dodgers will give the ball to Ramon Ortiz (1-1, 5.16) who is making his first start since May, 26, 2007 after 14 relief appearances this season having spent 2008 in Japan and 2009 in Triple-A.
“It’s been a long time, almost two years,” Ortiz said. “I’m a very positive guy. I knew I could do this, being back in the big leagues.”
Game 1 Edge: San Diego
While much of the state of California wants to boycott Arizona, don’t count the Dodgers (-5.7) among them, after sweeping the Diamondbacks into downtown Phoenix, giving them four straight wins and six of seven to square up their record at 17-17. Los Angeles ownership is going thru the same thing San Diego did as Frank and Jamie McCourt are involved in bitter divorce proceedings which includes who actually owns the team.
Though the Dodgers are second in the league in runs scored, they have a team ERA of 4.68, which is 12th in the senior circuit, very un-Dodger like. Because of the divorce, GM Ned Colletti is unable to make any moves that might improve their pitching and is scrambling for five reliable starters and an inconsistent bullpen.
One of the more dependable starters has been Clayton Kershaw (2-2, 3.96) who once again followed up with brilliance off a stinker. He threw just 1 1/3 innings against Milwaukee in allowing seven runs and followed that up with eight shutout innings on two hits and nine strikeouts against Colorado his last time out. The Dodgers are 8-2 when the young lefty pitches the second game of a series and are 27-11 on Saturday’s.
Kevin Correia (4-2, 3.97) takes the ball for the Friars, who have averaged 9.2 runs in his six starts. Correia in fact is 20-0 when his team totals four or more runs in his career. San Diego is 5-0 when he the middle game starting pitcher and they are perfect 7-0 against left-handed opposing hurlers since Apr. 20. Correia will pitch with heavy heart, since his brother was tragically killed in hiking accident last week.
Game 2 Edge: Los Angeles
At press time, Wade LeBlanc (2-0, 1.61) is not officially listed as the starting pitcher for the Padres, though it is his turn in the rotation. The easy tossing port-sider finished last season outstanding and has continued into this year. LeBlanc’s fastball seldom hits 90 MPH, but his late-breaking curveball and devastating change-up causes a large number of ugly swings. This will be the only day game in the series and if he starts as presumed, LeBlanc has 0.82 ERA in two daytime contests.
With L.A.’s lack of maneuverability, the one pitcher Torre needed was Chad Billingsley (3-2, 4.82) who has not had command most of the season. Off last year’s second half fade, Torre has a quick hook for Billingsley, who has yet to pitch past six innings this season for a club that needs extended outings to protect what has been mediocre bullpen work. The right-hander is 8-4 with a 2.71 ERA in his career against the Padres, 3-2 with a 2.77 ERA at PETCO Park.
Game 3 Edge: San Diego
This I-5 series will be surrounded by ample excitement with Saturday’s conflict a sell-out and the other two contests either will be or very close to. This will be a good test for both clubs still early in the 2010 campaign as a gauge to where they are in the division. As long as San Diego doesn’t get too excited, their superior pitching should be enough to capture the series.
Sportsbook.com series odds: Los Angeles Even, San Diego -130
StatFox Edge Pick: San Diego