Ness Notes: Friday, Oct 16

by Larry Ness

This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at I like to call it my daily 'random thoughts' on the sports betting world, although I'll pass along that my therapist refers to it as "thoughtful commentary." 

The Astros were able to avoid getting swept by the Rays by winning 4-3 in Game 4. The two teams went with "bullpen" games for Thursday's Game 5, as neither start saw the third inning. George Springer crushed John Curtiss' first pitch over the fence in left field to give the Astros the lead in a game in which they never trailed. Brandon Lowe homered in the third to tie it for Tampa Bay but Houston went up 3-1 on a two-run double by Brantley. Solo shots by Tampa's Arozarena and Choi sent the game to the 9th tied at 3-all. Astros closer Pressley stranded the potential go-ahead run on second base in the top of the ninth, before Carlos Correa belted a walk-off HR with one out in the ninth inning. The game-ending blast came off Nick Anderson, who had entered a tie game in the bottom of the eighth and had retired all four batters he faced before Correa's blast.<p>As we head to Game 6, here's the setting. The Rays have now lost two in a row but still lead the best-of-seven series 3-2. As for the Astros, they became just the fourth team out of 39 ever to trail a playoff series 3-0 and even force a Game 6. The 2004 Boston Red Sox (in the ALCS against the NYY), are the only team to win a series after losing the opening three games. The Astros attempt to keep their season alive with a third straight win Friday night, as the Game 6 starters are Houston left-hander Framber Valdez and Tampa Bay lefty Blake Snell. It's a rematch of Game 1, which the Rays won 2-1. Framber pitched six innings in that contest, allowing two runs on four hits and four walks, while striking out eight. Snell earned the win by allowing one run on six hits and two walks over five innings with just two Ks. Tampa Bay is favored (-135) and the over/under is 8. 

The Dodgers were MLB's most-dominant team during this COVID-shortened season but they found themselves in an 0-2 'hole' as they faced a Game 3 against an Atlanta team that was 7-0 this postseason. However, LA hitters 'took no prisoners' with an 11-run first inning that set a record for the most in any inning in postseason history. The Dodgers compiled 18 total bases in that 32-minute top of the first, the most in postseason history for any inning. Their three HRs and five extra-base hits each tied records for single postseason innings. However, a 15-3 win doesn't count any more than a 2-1 win does. 

The Dodgers sent Clayton Kershaw to the mound in Game 4, while the Braves countered with 22-year-old Bryse Wilson, who was making his first career postseason start. Game 4 was 1-1 after five innings, as Wilson matched Kershaw. Wilson held the Dodgers scoreless in the top of the sixth but in the bottom of that inning, Kershaw had yet ANOTHER postseason 'meltdown!' The Braves sent 11 batters to the plate and scored six runs in the sixth-inning, chasing Kershaw and breaking the game wide-open. Kershaw never got an out in the 6th, leaving after allowing four runs in five innings. Meanwhile, Wilson went six innings and allowed just one run in his first postseason appearance! The first three batters in Atlanta's lineup, Acuna, Freeman and Ozuna went a combined 8 of 14 with six runs scored and six RBI (Acuna hit two HRs). The 10-2 Atlanta win puts the Braves ONE win away from their first World series appearance since 1999. Atlanta manager Brian Snitker announced prior to Game 4 that he would NOT bring Fried back until Game 6, so it will be a "bullpen" game for Atlanta, while the Dodgers will hand the ball to Dustin May, who has pitched 4.2 scoreless innings over three appearances this postseason, including 1.2 innings in relief against Atlanta in Game 1. Starting pitching uncertainty has become 'common' this postseason so there is currently no price on this game.

NFL home teams are a modest 40-36-1 SU (.526) Y-T-D, while going just 33-42-2 ATS (44.0%) with home dogs going 6-18 SU and 10-12-2 ATS, through five weeks. NFL games had averaged a combined 51.3 through the first four weeks of the 2020 season, the highest since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. Week 5 games averaged 51.8 PPG but over/under numbers have been adjusted up, as seven games went over and seven stayed under. Peering a little closer, let me note that the seven games which went over averaged 62.9 PPG, while the seven that went under averaged just 40.7 PPG. After five weeks, there have been 42 overs, 33 unders and two 'pushes.' 

There are just four remaining NFL unbeatens as the season moves to Week 6. Seattle is 5-0 (4-1 ATS) and is one of four teams which has a Week 6 bye. The others are the Chargers, Raiders and Saints. The other unbeatens are all 4-0, a group that includes Green Bay (4-0 ATS), Pittsburgh (3-1 ATS) and Tennessee (1-3 ATS). On the flip side, we have three winless teams at 0-5. Atlanta is joined by MetLife co-tenants the NY Giants and NY Jets. Atlanta fired head coach Dan Quinn at the beginning of the week and Jets head coach Adam Gase may not be far behind. Gase led Miami to a 10-6 season in 2016 but was fired after going 6-10 and 7-9 the next two seasons. For some unexplained reason, the Jets hired him in January of 2019. The Jets went 7-9 last season and have now opened 0-5. How do you like him so far? The Giants have a first-year head coach in Joe Judge but while the Falcons and Jets are a combined 1-9 ATS, the Giants have been somewhat competitive, going 3-2 ATS.<p>Tracking the three unbeaten teams playing in Week 6, the 4-0 SU & ATS Packers will play at the 3-2 Bucs in a 'Battle of the Bays' (Green vs Tampa), as Rodgers (13 TDs / 0 INTs) and TB 12 go head-to-head. Green Bay is a one-point road favorite. The 4-0 but 1-3 ATS Titans are home against the 1-4 Texans, who are coming off their first win of 2020 last Sunday, 30-14 over the Jags. Tennessee is favored by 3 1/2 points. Then there is 4-0 (3-1 ATS) Pittsburgh hosting NFC North rival Cleveland, which is 4-1 for the first time since 1994. The Browns lost 38-6 in Week 1 at Baltimore but have won four straight, scoring 30-plus points in each win. When was the last time the Browns scored 30 points or more in four straight games? Try 1968! Cleveland leads the NFL averaging 188.4 YPG on the ground, while the Steelers are holding opponents to an NFL-low 64.0 rushing YPG. Pittsburgh is favored by 3 1/2-points.

The 0-5 Falcons are in Minnesota to take on the 1-4 Vikings but note that Minnesota has covered three in a row (Vikings are favored by four points). The 0-5 Giants (but 3-2 ATS) are home to 1-4 Washington, which comes in having lost four in a row (allowed 30 points or more in each), after upsetting the Eagles 27-17 in Week 1 (Eagles led that one 17-0 but never scored again). The Giants are favored by 2 1/2-points. Then we have the 0-5 Jets (also 0-5 ATS) at Miami, where they'll face the 2-3 Dolphins. It's a 'homecoming' for Gase but I doubt either Miami or New York (New Jersey?) want to claim him. Miami is favored by 9 1/2-points.

SNF features the Rams at the 49ers. The 49ers represented the NFC in last year's Super Bowl but enter this game just 2-3, while the Rams are 4-1. Both are looking up at 5-0 Seattle in the NFC West. The Rams are favored by 3 1/2-points. It's another MNF doubleheader in Week 6, with an excellent game between the 4-1 Chiefs and 4-1 Bills joining the regularly scheduled game (Arizona at Dallas). The Chiefs and Bills are both coming off Week 5 losses, with the defending Super Bowl champs favored by 4 1/2-points. Dallas lost starting QB Dak Prescott for the season last week and will turn to Andy Dalton at QB. The Cards are 3-2 and a slight favorite (1 1/2 points) over the 2-3 Cowboys who are 0-5 ATS but sit atop the NFC East, as the Giants, Philadelphia and Washington are a combined 2-12-1.

Good luck...Larry

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