This article is part of our MLB Betting series.
8 Blue Jays @ 1 Rays
The Rays hitters are a little banged up. They will be without Austin Meadows (oblique) in this round and Ji-Man Choi and Yandy Diaz are each questionable for this series with hamstring injuries. Rowdy Tellez (knee) is unlikely to be available this round for Toronto. The Rays have the bullpen edge, but it's not as big as it appeared at the beginning of the season. None of the Blue Jays starters have been confirmed, while all of the Rays starters have been confirmed.
Rays have a 133 wRC+ at home against LHP. The Blue Jays' right-heavy offensive attack is hitting its stride, with a 120 wRC+ on the road against LHP in September. This matchup is relatively close but slight edge to the Rays.
No major advantage to either team with the handedness matchups, but Glasnow is the more dominant starter. Significant edge to the Rays.
Slight edge to Morton here, although I expect both starters to last no longer than five innings. The Rays' bullpen could be the difference maker if we get to a third game.
Series Bet: Injuries to Tampa Bay have lessened its huge depth edge, but they still have a slight edge there and the top-end pitching should help get them into the next round — Rays -195 on DraftKings.
5 Yankees @ 4 Indians
Both teams are close to full strength — the injured Yankees (James Paxton, Luis Severino, Tommy Kahnle) are guys they've been without for most of the season. The Yankees have an 87 wRC+ on the road against RHP, and they will face three good righty starters in this series. However, Cleveland has an 83 wRC+ at home against RHP, and they will face two in the first two games, so this should be a series where pitching and defense wins. The Yankees' Game 3 starter has not been confirmed.
Total toss-up. Hopefully, this matchup lives up to the hype.
Clear, but not overly significant edge to Carrasco.
Happ has really rebounded after a rough first couple starts of the season, but Plesac still gets the edge (4.34 xFIP vs. 3.50 xFIP).
Series Bet: This is so close. The Yankees get a slight edge for lineup and bullpen depth, while Cleveland has the starting pitching edge. The best value is Indians +110 on Draft Kings, but I probably wouldn't bet it.
6 Astros @ 3 Twins
Houston is obviously without Justin Verlander (elbow), Yordan Alvarez (knee) and Roberto Osuna (elbow), but that's been true almost all season. Josh Donaldson (calf) has had a lost season and will likely be day-to-day throughout the playoffs. Byron Buxton (concussion) is questionable. Jake Odorizzi (finger) is expected to be available but he is not stretched out. Minnesota has a 110 wRC+ against RHP at home, while Houston has a 103 wRC+ against RHP on the road. The Astros' Game 2 and 3 starters are TBD, but with Minnesota having the third-worst wRC+ (72) against LHP at home, Framber Valdez should start Game 2. However, there were rumblings a week ago about Valdez potentially working out of the bullpen in the playoffs. The Twins have the better bullpen, but the Astros have a deeper rotation, and the guys who don't get starts could be weapons in relief.
Greinke and Maeda are tied for second in the AL with 2.1 fWAR, but Greinke has given up at least three runs in seven straight starts and Maeda misses more bats. Edge to Maeda.
The Twins' offensive futility against LHP, especially with Donaldson and Buxton banged up, would give Houston the edge here if they start Valdez. If it's Lance McCullers or Jose Urquidy, Minnesota would have the slight edge.
Pineda has been pretty solid, but I'm still giving the edge to McCullers or Urquidy (or Valdez if they save him for Game 3).
Series Bet: If the Astros don't start Valdez in Game 2 or 3, I'd pick the Twins to win the series, but the best value on the board is Astros +134 on FanDuel.
7 White Sox @ 2 Athletics
Only Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel have been confirmed as starters in this series. Eloy Jimenez (foot) is expected to be available, although he might not be 100 percent. Matt Chapman (hip) and A.J. Puk (shoulder) will be unavailable for Oakland. While not official, Sean Manaea and Chris Bassitt are expected to start the first and second game, respectively. It seems like Jesus Luzardo could be a weapon out of the bullpen in the first two games, and if he is not used, he could start Game 3. Frankie Montas, who is coming off his best start of the year, would probably start Game 3 if Luzardo is used out of the bullpen.
The White Sox have been the second-best offense in baseball on the road against lefties (129 wRC+), and Giolito is significantly better than Manaea, so huge edge to Chicago.
This pitching matchup is really close and there's no big lineup advantage, given the pitcher handedness. Toss up.
I wouldn't trust either of these pitchers in a deciding playoff game, as Dunning is a rookie pitching above his head and Montas had been incredibly shaky prior to an end-of-year start against Seattle. Toss up.
Series Bet: Because of how big of an edge they have in Game 1, White Sox +107 on Draft Kings.
8 Brewers @ 1 Dodgers
Corbin Burnes (oblique) will be unavailable. Mookie Betts (hip) will be available, but he may not be 100 percent early in the series. Daniel Vogelbach (hamstring) will be available for Milwaukee but won't be 100 percent. Ben Gamel (quadriceps) and Brett Anderson (blister) are questionable. It looks like the Dodgers are specifically lining Clayton Kershaw up to face Brandon Woodruff, who won't be able to start for Milwaukee until Game 2. The Dodgers have five really good starters, two of whom will strengthen an already excellent bullpen. Milwaukee has an excellent back of the bullpen as well, and they will look to ride Devin Williams and Josh Hader as frequently as possible, with both relievers likely to pitch in each of the first two games in this series if they are close. Milwaukee doesn't have the offensive firepower to play catchup in games. Only Walker Buehler and Kershaw have been confirmed as starters.
Buehler threw four near-perfect innings in his tuneup start and could cruise for five or six frames in this one. The Dodgers have the second-best offense at home against righties (148 wRC+). Big edge to the Dodgers.
This is a fair fight, and Milwaukee has a respectable 122 wRC+ against LHP on the road. Woodruff famously homered off Kershaw last postseason. Slight edge to the Dodgers due to their offensive advantage.
If Milwaukee had a healthy Corbin Burnes available for this start, there could be a case for them to keep pace, but the Dodgers' massive starting pitching edge should be too much at this point. One of Dustin May or Tony Gonsolin could come in to relieve Urias after roughly four innings. Big edge to L.A.
Series Bet: Dodgers -250 on Draft Kings, with the caveat that Game 2 should be pretty close.
5 Cardinals @ 4 Padres
None of the starters have been confirmed in this series. Dinelson Lamet (biceps) is probable for Game 1. Mike Clevinger (elbow) has not been ruled out for this series, but if he pitches, it would be tough to have any confidence in him pitching to his ceiling. Carlos Martinez (oblique), Dakota Hudson (elbow) and Miles Mikolas (forearm) are all unavailable for St. Louis.
This is tough because we don't know how healthy Lamet will be. A healthy Lamet could dominate a Cardinals offense that has an 87 wRC+ on the road against RHP. Kim has been fantastic since moving to the rotation and the Padres haven't seen him yet. Toss up.
Flaherty is obviously better than Davies, but the Padres bats match up much better (136 wRC+ at home vs. RHP) than the Cardinals lineup does. Just from watching their last few games, rookie Dylan Carlson looks like the Cardinals' second-best hitter behind Paul Goldschmidt, which is not ideal. Look for Adrian Morejon to come in to relieve Davies after three innings. As crazy as it sounds, slight edge Padres.
The Padres' ability to mash righties at home should loom large in this one. Big edge to SD.
Series Bet: It will be tough for San Diego to make a deep run without a healthy Lamet or healthy Clevinger, but they have too big of an offensive and bullpen edge in this matchup for the rotation injuries to trip them up in Round 1. Padres -210 on FanDuel, but I probably wouldn't bet it at those odds.
6 Marlins @ 3 Cubs
None of the starters in this series have been confirmed. Starling Marte (ear contusion) is probable while Jose Urena (forearm) will be unavailable. The Cubs have been about league average (99 wRC+) against righties at home, and the Marlins should be starting three really good RHP in this series. The Marlins will have to win this series with pitching, because while they are solid against lefties, they have an 88 wRC+ on the road against RHP, and Kyle Hendricks and Yu Darvish figure to start the first two games for the Cubs.
The pitching matchup is fair, but the offensive matchup is not. Edge to Cubs.
As underrated as Alcantara is, Darvish is a cheat code against this Marlins offense. Edge Chicago.
Edge to Miami, but we may not get to this game.
Series Bet: Although the Marlins could be favored in a Game 3, given the pitching matchup, I think the Cubs will win in two games. Cubs -177 on Draft Kings, but I don't love those odds, given Miami's starting pitching.
7 Reds @ 2 Braves
The strengths and weaknesses of these teams is pretty clear. The Reds have arguably the best front three starters of any playoff team while the Braves have one of the most dangerous offenses in baseball. Atlanta's 137 wRC+ at home against RHP is huge, as Cincinnati's starters are all right-handed. Ronald Acuna (wrist) and Austin Riley (quadriceps) will play, but they may not be quite 100 percent.
The Reds have a 73 wRC+ on the road against LHP, and the Braves mash righties, so while Bauer is the better pitcher, Fried has the better matchup. Edge Braves.
Again, the Reds have the better pitcher and the Braves have the better offensive matchup. This time the pitching gulf is too big, however. Edge Reds.
These two pitchers are trending in opposite directions, but I'm still giving Gray a pretty sizable edge, given their track records. Edge Reds.
Series Bet: If Atlanta had a better, more proven rotation behind Fried, they'd be the clear pick. However, the Reds have such a drastic pitching advantage in Game 2 and 3, that they're the pick. Reds +113 on Draft Kings.
Even though I think both of their first-round series are very close, Cleveland at +800 and Houston at +1200 on FanDuel to win the AL are the best AL crown bets on the board.
The Dodgers are +130 on both FanDuel and Draft Kings to win the NL, but I'd rather bet them at +350 on either site to win the World Series. The Reds at +1500 on Draft Kings to win the NL is my favorite NL crown bet.
The Dodgers +350 on FD and DK, the Rays at +700 on FD, the Indians at +1600 on FD, the Astros at +2500 on FD and DK, and the Reds at +3000 on DK are my favorite World Series bets.