The big fear going into last night’s NLCS game four was that the Chicago Cubs would show life with their backs against the wall. They did just that and wound up taking a tight 3-2 battle.
Tonight the Cubs have another chance to stave off elimination and they can do it in front of their home crowd at Wrigley Field. Unfortunately, they have to try to do it against L.A.’s best arm, as elite southpaw Clayton Kershaw (18-4, 2.31 ERA) toes the rubber.
Kershaw is notorious for his playoff failures, but with a trip to the 2017 World Series on the line, the Dodgers come in as -170 favorites at Bovada to end this thing tonight.
Is that the bet we take, or is there a more profitable angle? Let’s break down game five of the NLCS to find out:
Our first instinct is to take the savings with Kershaw and run. However, we’re not doing ourselves any good by only providing knee-jerk bets.
The Cubs could still make this a series. They pulled out a tough win last night, are back at home and can force a game six with a win tonight. They are clear underdogs, but we saw them storm back from a 3-1 hole to win the World Series last year.
Because of that alone, Chicago is in play here. The value we’re getting with an upset pick at +145 is pretty nice, especially since the Cubs are home underdogs in a huge playoff game.
One thing I’m not interested in is this Total. It’s really low thanks to Kershaw and this Total has been tough to top in this series, but you just can’t know what’s going to happen with Jose Quintana (11-11, 4.15 ERA) on the other side.
We need to go one way or the other here and Quintana probably helps clear things up for us. Chicago traded for him for exactly this reason – so they’d have another reliable arm that can work them out of a jam in the postseason.
This is quite the jam for Quintana, especially since the Dodgers wreck left-handed pitching. The Cubs are stacked and could get to Kershaw, but L.A. has the better matchup, by far.
Los Angeles wrapped up the 2017 regular season ranked 2nd in home runs against lefty hurlers. The home run count has dipped in the playoffs, but they’ve been raking as a unit (#1 in batting average against lefties) during their hot run.
Quintana has been strong so far in the playoffs. He put in fine work against the Washington Nationals and in his last start held L.A. to just two runs off of two hits across five innings.
That’s impressive, but it’s going to be hard to envision Quintana holding serve yet again. Even if he does, the Dodgers have been delivering late-game heroics throughout the playoffs and would be a threat to do so again.
Everything comes back to Kershaw, though. If you want to ride the Cubs narrative, you can. They’re the defending champs, they’re at home, they have the talent to earn this upset and counting them out could be a mistake.
But Kershaw has to carry this team at some point. Eventually, he has to be the reason they find high-level success and I think we see that tonight with a vintage performance.
That has not been the case so far in these playoffs for Kershaw. In two starts he has just 11 strikeouts and boasts a weak 4.76 ERA. He’s also struggled in this matchup, dating back to the regular season.
Some would point to this giving the Cubs life, but I think it’s actually a set-up for Kershaw to deliver an absolute gem. If he can do that, the Dodgers offense will chip in enough to stave off any magical Chicago comeback and put L.A. back into the World Series for the first time since 1988.
As far as MLB betting goes, we never get Kershaw with this low of a line. The playoff atmosphere is dumbing down the value for us and while there might be some risk here, I can’t pass on it.
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