Anibal Sanchez faces off against Miles Mikolas in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series at Busch Stadium on Friday. Just like we all wrote it up. But that doesn’t matter anymore because this is where we are now.
The Nationals come in flying high after taking down the 106-win Dodgers in five games, while the Cardinals might have even more confidence after their 13-1 beat down of the Braves in the deciding game of their division matchup. Now, the Nationals will attempt to advance to their first Fall Classic in franchise history against the team with more World Series titles than anyone in the NL. From the opening pitch to the final out, we break down the best way to wager the odds for Game 1 of the NLCS.
WASHINGTON NATIONALS AT ST. LOUIS CARDINALS (-130, 8 @ BETAMERICA)
Mikolas taking the ball for the Cardinals in Game 1 isn’t much of a surprise with the way the rotation innings have worked out and for the fact, that the right-hander has been much better pitching at Busch Stadium. He owns a 2.98 ERA and a 1.03 WHIP in 16 starts at home this season.
And while the Cards have definitely been able to but up some crooked numbers during this run, their lineup is arguably the most inconsistent of all the teams that made the postseason. In their three wins in the ALDS they averaged 8.3 runs per game and in the two losses they plated just one run. St. Louis also ranked 23rd in the Bigs when it came to scoring runs in the bottom of the first at just 0.51 per contest.
Sanchez is the type of pitcher that can give this lineup problems. Take the opening frame to be scoreless.
Pick: Run in 1st Inning – No (-120)
FIRST FIVE INNINGS
Sanchez can give the Cardinals problems by using an effective change up and locating his fastball. Sanchez pitched to a 2.42 ERA and a 0.85 WHIP in his final four starts of the regular season and followed that up with a solid performance in Game 3 of the NLDS where he allowed just one run on four hits with nine strikeouts over five innings. Teams are also hitting below .200 against Sanchez over that five game stretch. And while the Nationals have the better lineup on paper, they’ve done most of their damage after the fifth inning, averaging just 1.5 runs in the first five innings over six postseason games.
Pick: Under 4 First Five Innings (+100)
Mikolas did make two starts against the Nationals this season, and while he only gave up four runs, Washington got to him for 15 hits in 12 innings pitched. Here are the career stats for some of the Nats against Mikolas. Juan Soto is 3-8 (.375), Anthony Rendon is 4-9 (.444) and Howie Kendrick is a ridiculous 8-11 (.727). We’re not sure if Washington can steal game one or not, but we do like them to have more hits in the final box score.
Pick: Most Hits – Nationals (-105)
FULL GAME TOTAL
While we think this one may be low-scoring early on, that could turn around come the later innings. Washington was the third best team in the Bigs when it came to scoring in the sixth inning or later at 2.40 per contest. And if you’re name isn’t Andrew Miller the Cardinals bullpen has shown some blemishes during the postseason.
And everyone knows the issues surrounding the Nats’ pen. The only team with a worse bullpen ERA this season was the Baltimore Orioles. Let that sink in. The postseason hasn’t been much better as they currently have a 6.63 ERA and are allowing opponents to hit .273 against them thus far. With none of their starters expected to come out of the pen in this one, the only reliever that looks reliable right now is Daniel Hudson. This one goes Over late.
Pick: Over 8
FULL GAME SIDE
That is the exact reason we like the Cardinals in Game 1. The advantage in bullpens is clear right now, and while the Nationals starters may give them the edge by series end, in this one the Cardinals will have a leg up. While it seems overblown to call a Game 1 must-win, with the gauntlet of Nationals starters staring them in the face in the next three games, it would be a big problem if they dropped this one. The Cardinals are also 21-9 in their last 30 games at Busch Stadium. Those angles give St. Louis the edge in Game 1.
Pick: Cardinals -130