MLB Playoffs 2023: League Division Series Predictions, Schedule, Odds & Best Bets: It's all about pitching for Twins and Astros
Thirty teams took the field on MLB Opening Day, and only eight remain today. The Commissioner’s Trophy is getting closer and closer for the eight teams, but the path to the World Series will only get more difficult as time goes on. We’ve reached the Divisional Round of the MLB playoffs, which features four series that are best-of-five games. For the Orioles, Astros, Braves and Dodgers, the first-round bye was crucial. Those four teams haven’t played a real game since last Sunday, while the Rangers, Twins, Phillies and Diamondbacks played on Tuesday and Wednesday to earn a spot in this round.
Of the four series, it’s hard to narrow down which one I’m looking forward to the most. To be honest, I don’t think I’ll be able to pick. I’ve been looking forward to the playoffs since April when I realized this would be a special season, and now that we’re here, I can’t wait to see how it unfolds. I’ve analyzed each Divisional series and provided my best bet for each one, so let’s get straight to it! Don’t forget to check out my MLB Playoffs best bets and MLB World Series picks too.
MLB Divisional Round Odds
Below are the Divisional round matchups with odds to win the series provided by DraftKings Sportsbook.
Texas Rangers (-105) vs Baltimore Orioles (-115)
Minnesota Twins (+135) vs Houston Astros (-160)
Philadelphia Phillies (+145) vs Atlanta Braves (-170)
Arizona Diamondbacks (+175) vs Los Angeles Dodgers (-205)
Oddsmakers are expecting the Rangers-Orioles ALDS to be the most even, with the Orioles listed as a narrow favorite. On the flip side, the Dodgers are the biggest favorite as they face the Diamondbacks, but don’t count out the Snakes just yet.
MLB Divisional Round Previews and Best Bets
Texas Rangers vs Baltimore Orioles ALDS best bet
The Baltimore Orioles begin a best-of-five series against the Texas Rangers at Camden Yards this weekend, and they have numerous advantages heading into Game 1. Firstly, the opening two games of the series will be in Baltimore. Home-field advantage can become a difference-maker for certain teams, and there are specific parks that are more rowdy than others — Camden Yards is one of those parks. As for the probable pitchers, Brandon Hyde has held his cards close to his chest. However, I would be extremely surprised if Kyle Bradish was not Baltimore’s Game 1 starter. Bradish was the ace of the Orioles this season as he posted a 2.83 ERA in 30 starts. But at home, the right-hander posted a 2.23 ERA and limited hitters to a .199 batting average. I’m expecting him to be countered by Dane Dunning, a reliever-turned-starter for Texas. Since the Rangers used Jordan Montgomery and Nathan Eovaldi in the Wild Card, neither starter will be rested enough for Saturday. I chalk that up to a Game 1 win for the O’s.
On Sunday, the Orioles can choose between Grayson Rodriguez and John Means. I’m leaning towards it being Rodriguez so that the rookie can pitch in a non-hostile environment. Plus, Means looked fabulous in his two starts on the road after returning. Rodriguez has a 2.58 ERA in 13 starts since being brought back up, so he seems like the perfect Game 2 option against who I assume will be Montgomery. However, if Texas decides to give the lefty five days of rest instead of four, it would likely be either Cody Bradford or Andrew Heaney on the mound, and neither is a reliable option. If Baltimore can travel to Arlington with a 2-0 series lead, I would feel very confident with Means on the mound. And even if it goes to Game 4, the Rangers would have to start either Bradford or Heaney in a must-win game. If Baltimore plays their cards right, the O’s could win the series in four games. My best bet is for the O’s to win Game 1 and then the series, and this wager can be found at DraftKings under Game/Series double. Alternatively, you can pivot to the Orioles to win the series at -115 odds, but since I believe the O’s win Game 1 with Bradish, I prefer the plus-odds payout.
Best bet: Orioles Game 1/Orioles Series Double (+145)
Minnesota Twins vs Houston Astros ALDS best bet
My best bet in the Wild Card round between the Twins and Blue Jays was for the series to finish with under 17.5 runs. There’s a chance that was the easiest win of my betting career since only six runs were scored in two games. The main reason I took the bet in the first place was Minnesota’s pitching, which is the best staff of the eight remaining teams. Pablo Lopez and Sonny Gray combined for 10.2 innings of 1-run ball, and since the Twins only needed two games to beat the Jays, that means Joe Ryan is expected to start Game 1 of the Divisional round on extra rest. That’s about all we know right now because the Twins could pitch Bailey Ober or Kenta Maeda in Game 2, but Pablo Lopez would be on his normal four days of rest on Sunday and be on track to start Game 5 if needed. With all things considered — it’s a nice problem to have. One thing we do know is that Minnesota’s game plan is to win by scoring only a few runs. You won’t see the Twins outslug the Astros because that’s not their identity. Between their elite starting pitcher and plethora of stellar relievers, the Twins will force the Astros to play their style of baseball.
As far as probable pitchers go, I’m expecting Game 1 to be Ryan against Justin Verlander followed by Lopez against Framber Valdez. The pitchers for Games 3, 4 and 5 will be decided based on how the series is going, but I would expect for Cristian Javier to get Game 3 and possibly Hunter Brown or J.P. France in Game 4. Houston knows that this won’t be a slugfest, so they can’t roll the dice and start Jose Urquidy. But back to Game 1 – Verlander at home in an ALDS matchup sounds like the perfect spot for him. The ace had a 3.31 ERA and limited hitters to a .236 batting average in 11 regular season starts with the Astros. If he can give 5-6 innings of 1-2 run ball, he would put the Astros in a great position to win. The reigning AL Cy Young will more than likely be followed by Valdez, who has an immediate advantage over Minnesota’s lineup. That’s because the Twins had the 5th-worst batting average and 5th-highest strikeout rate against lefties in the regular season. Even if this series goes to five games, I’m projecting for about 6-7 runs per game, which comes out to 30-35 runs. In reality, I think this series ends in four games with less than 30 runs scored.
Best Bet: Under 34.5 series runs (-105)
Philadelphia Phillies vs Atlanta Braves NLDS best bet
The Phillies had the unlucky draw of playing the Braves in the NLDS. There are two ways to look at this: One, the Braves had a week off and their offense is as rested as can be, so the Phillies are in deep, deep trouble. Or two, the chances of beating the Braves are much higher in a five-game series than in a seven-game series. But the second option becomes a little less appealing when realizing Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola are unavailable for Game 1. And it gets even more unappealing when remembering that Spencer Strider is toeing the rubber for the Braves in Game 1. My best guess is for Ranger Suarez to be the Game 1 starter for the Phillies since you can’t start Taijuan Walker in a must-win game and Cristopher Sanchez got bullied by the Braves in the regular season. Suarez is a veteran pitcher who has been in this position before, but the lefty struggled at the end of the season with a 5.20 ERA and a 1.37 WHIP in five September starts.
Since this Divisional round features a divisional matchup, it means the Phillies have already seen Strider a few times in the regular season. Based on Philadelphia’s stats against him, I’m sure there’s nothing else the Phillies would want more than to avoid seeing him. Strider made four regular-season starts against the Phillies and went 4-0 with a 2.42 ERA and limited the hitters to a .192 batting average, .225 on-base percentage and .512 OPS. The hard-throwing quad-monster also had 38 strikeouts in just 26 innings, so not only is he starting on his home mound (which he has better splits on), but he is also facing a lineup that has dominated not once, not twice, but four times in the regular season. Oddsmakers agree with the Braves winning Game 1 since they are -200 favorites, so while I would avoid that bet and the -170 price of Atlanta to win the series, I would happily take them to win Game 1 and then the series at a near-even price. This is the best way to back the Braves in the NLDS.
Best Bet: Braves Game 1/Braves Series Double (-105)
Arizona Diamondbacks vs Los Angeles Dodgers NLDS best bet
This is a very difficult series to predict because each team has a huge flaw that will very likely be exposed. But first, let’s back up. I did not expect the Diamondbacks to be in this position. The Snakes had a brutal Wild Card draw which sent them to Milwaukee to face Corbin Burnes and Freddy Peralta in a best-of-three series. I expected the series to be over in two games, so for that part I was right, but it was the wrong team. Arizona knocked around Burnes and Peralta enough to earn a sweep, and the storyline of the series was how dominant their bullpen was. The Diamondbacks pen, which I wouldn’t have ranked as an above-average unit, threw 9.1 scoreless innings in the Wild Card. However, the series is no longer a best-of-three, and that should put a lot more stress on the Arizona bullpen because Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly are the only reliable starting pitchers on the Snakes. After those two, it’s all hands on deck from the Arizona bullpen mixed in with some hope that Brandon Pfaadt can give 4 or 5 innings without getting shelled.
The Dodgers are not the same team that they were in the first half of the regular season. That’s because Dustin May, Tony Gonsolin, Walker Buehler or Julio Urias are no longer a part of the starting rotation. That leaves Clayton Kershaw, who was fantastic in the regular season, with Lance Lynn and a pair of rookies. It doesn’t matter that the Dodgers used to have a great starting rotation or used to be a postseason giant – this team has a massive flaw. After Kershaw, I have no faith in a Dodgers starting pitcher to have a quality start against the Diamondbacks. Lance Lynn is hardly a pitcher I’d want to put my trust in, and Bobby Miller and Ryan Pepiot are two rookies that had a combined 30 starts in the regular season. Inexperience and a rotation with no depth could be costly for the Dodgers, even if their offense is loaded with star power. In a five-game series, I think the Diamondbacks can do enough to either catch the Dodgers off guard, like the Padres did last season, or win two games and cover their +1.5 game spread.
Best Bet: Diamondbacks +1.5 games (-140)
Read our Game 1 Arizona Diamondbacks vs LA Dodgers predictions