The Wild Card round is officially in the books, leaving eight teams to battle it out in the Divisional series. The playoff format now shifts to more traditional five-game series, with the better-seeded team having home field for three of them. We’ll have two division rivalries in the National League, as the Padres square off with the Dodgers and the Braves match up with the Phillies. In the American League, the Yankees will take on the Guardians while the Astros will meet the Mariners.
All of the lines for these series are now available on DraftKings Sportsbook. The Astros, Yankees, Dodgers, and Braves are all considered significant favorites, so can any team pull off the upset?
Let’s take a look at each matchup and rank the best bets for the Divisional round.
Best Bet: Guardians Over 3.5 homers (+100)
The Guardians and Rays put on a display of dominant pitching and offensive ineptitude in their Wild Card matchup. The Guardians managed to sweep the series despite scoring three total runs, including a 1-0 win in a game that was scoreless into the 15th inning.
The Guardians’ lack of power is not a new development. They averaged just 0.79 homers per game during the regular season, which was the second-worst mark in the majors. Only Detroit managed fewer homers per game, and their offense was historically bad.
So why back them to hit at least four homers vs. the Yankees? For starters, I think this series could go five games. The Yankees are an outstanding team, but they’re not nearly as good as their full-season numbers suggest. They were elite in the first half of the season, winning 69.6% of their games, but they played just .500 baseball after the All-Star break.
The Yankees’ pitching staff is also prone to the long ball. Gerrit Cole could conceivable make two starts if this series goes five games, and he’s coming off his worst season since his days in Pittsburgh. He pitched to a 3.50 ERA, and he allowed an average of 1.48 homers per nine innings.
Cole isn’t alone. Luis Severino and Jameson Taillon also allowed at least 1.24 homers per nine innings during the regular season. The Yankees also have significant question marks in their bullpen for the first time in basically forever.
The vast majority of the runs during the postseason have been scored via the long ball, so I think the Guardians are a good but to put at least four over the wall.
3. Houston Astros vs. Seattle Mariners
Best Bet: Mariners to win the series (+185)
The Mariners are my favorite upset pick in the Divisional round. No disrespect to the Astros – I think they’re an awesome team – but this Mariners squad is built for the playoffs.
Robbie Ray was obviously a disaster in his playoff start vs. the Blue Jays, but he’s still part of a phenomenal rotation. Luis Castillo was the biggest acquisition during the trade deadline, while Logan Gilbert pitched to a 3.20 ERA in his second professional season. The Mariners bullpen is also one of the best in the league, ranking sixth in ERA.
They’ll have a puncher’s chance at slowing down the Astros, who weren’t nearly as dominant this year on offense. They finished the year sixth in wRC+ after finishing first in 2019 and 2021.
The Astros were able to get the best of the Mariners during the season series, winning 12 of 19 matchups. However, the Astros only outscored the Mariners by eight total runs. That suggests that this series could be a bit closer than anticipated.
The Mariners are currently available at +185, and I’m willing to roll the dice on them at that number. If you’re looking for a slightly less risky wager, you can consider Mariners +1.5 games at -135. However, that scenario means you’d still need them to take this series to five games, and I’d rather just grab them to win the series if you think that can happen. You can always hedge the bet with a play on the Astros in Game 5 if it gets there.
Best Bet: Dodgers to sweep (+360)
The Padres were able to take care of business in the Wild Card round, knocking out a good Mets squad. They won Games 1 and 3 behind excellent pitching, despite being on the road for the entire series.
However, the Mets were clearly floundering heading into that series. They played their worst baseball down the stretch, and there were questions about whether Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom were fully healthy. The Mets’ offense also provided little resistance given their inability to hit the long ball. It’s nearly impossible to string together hits to score runs during the playoffs. The pitching is just too good, making homers even more important than usual. The Padres had no problems taking the Mets’ pitchers deep, and New York simply couldn’t return the favor.
Don’t expect that to be the case vs. the Dodgers. Their offense is the best in the business, leading the league in runs per game while ranking fifth in homers. They have elite hitters from top to bottom, and everyone in the lineup is capable of taking you deep.
The Padres’ offense also doesn’t figure to be as effective as they were against the Mets. While guys like Trent Grisham had big series, that was a major outlier. They rank just 20th in homers per game during the regular season, so they’re not an offense that’s brimming with power.
The Dodgers also had the best pitching staff in baseball during the regular season. They had the best team-wide ERA, and they ranked second in bullpen ERA. They’ve had five days off to get their pitching staff set up perfectly, while the Padres were forced to use their three best pitchers vs. the Mets.
Ultimately, the Dodgers were the best team in baseball by a wide margin this season, and I expect them to assert their dominance against their division rivals.
Best Bet: Braves -1.5 games (+140)
While everyone was focused on the Mets’ “collapse,” it seems like they overlooked the fact that the Braves emerged as one of the best teams in baseball. They started the year just 25-27, but they went 76-34 over the final 110 games. That kind of play works out to a 123-win pace over the course of a full season.
The Braves have no weakness. They have an outstanding group of pitchers, headlined by Max Fried and rookie Spencer Strider. They have a deep and talented lineup, and they’ve only gotten deeper as the year has progressed. Rookies Michael Harris II and Vaughn Grissom both had phenomenal seasons, while Dansby Swanson has become one of the best offensive shortstops in baseball.
The Phillies are a solid squad, but they’re simply no match for the Braves. They might be able to steal a game with Aaron Nola or Zach Wheeler on the mound, but I think the Braves ultimately get it done in four games or less. I like their +140 odds for -1.5 games.
All odds provided by DraftKings Sportsbook and all odds subject to change.
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