MLB Down to Final Four
In this unique COVID-19 sports world, we've seen the Stanley Cup and NBA Finals completed this fall. The US Open and French Open have been played in tennis, along with the US Open and PGA Championship in golf. And the horse racing Triple Crown finished up while college football and the NFL are in full schedule mode.
Now it is time to crown a Major League Baseball champion, and the League Championship Series are just underway. The Los Angeles Dodgers have been the odds-on favorite since the original spring training began in February.
They are among the four teams left and are still the betting favorites at +160, down from +350 at the beginning of the season.
The National League Championship Series features the Dodgers against the Atlanta Braves, who are +400 to win it all.
Neither team has lost in the playoffs, bringing 5-0 postseason records into the NLCS as the top two seeds. They will meet on a neutral field in Arlington, Texas, with limited attendance allowed.
In the first five games of the playoffs, the Dodgers posted a 2.00 ERA, while both Clayton Kershaw and Julio Urias earned two wins. The back of the bullpen was a bit of an issue, as usual closer Kenley Jansen faltered twice, but Brusdar Graterol and Joe Kelly cleaned up with saves.
The Dodgers only hit two homers in five games but averaged six runs per game as outfielders Cody Bellinger and Mookie Betts combined for 13 hits, five doubles and nine RBI.
Atlanta launched seven home runs to sweep Cincinnati and Miami in the first two rounds. Catcher Travis d'Arnaud and shortstop Dansby Swanson each had two, while outfielder Marcell Ozuna drove in five.
Braves pitching allowed five earned runs in five games, with Ian Anderson going 2-0 with 17 strikeouts in 11 2/3 innings.
The American League Championship Series is being played in San Diego, and the Tampa Bay Rays (+210) took the first game over the surprise Houston Astros (+450) with a 2-1 win on Sunday night. The Rays had the best record in the American League this season and pitched their way past the New York Yankees in Game 5 of an American League Division Series.
Outfielder Randy Arozarena slugged three homers in the first two rounds while batting .444. He was complemented by catcher Mike Zunino, outfielder Manny Margot and outfielder Austin Meadows with two homers each.
The Tampa Bay pitchers posted a 3.63 ERA in the first two rounds and recorded 72 strikeouts in 62 innings. Tyler Glasnow went 2-0 with 20 strikeouts heading into the ALCS, while Peter Fairbanks has two postseason saves.
Houston was one of two teams to make the playoffs despite finishing the 60-game regular season under .500. The Astros slugged their way past the Minnesota Twins and Oakland A's to reach the ALCS.
Houston hit 13 homers in the first two rounds, four by SS Carlos Correa, as they averaged nearly seven runs per game.
The oddsmakers expect a Tampa Bay-Los Angeles World Series. The Rays are -350 to win the ALCS with the Astros at +275 to take the best-of-seven series.
They expect a closer NLCS, with the Dodgers at -225 to head back to the Fall Classic after a year's absence, with the Braves at +170.