Last updated April 4th, 2015
For just the second time since the wildcard was established in the 1994 season, the two winners, the San Francisco Giants in the NL and the Kansas City Royals in the AL will meet in the World Series (Game 1 is Tuesday, 8pm EST).
With both teams riding the wave of what could be unprecedented success, this series looks to garner interest both in the ratings and in the sportbooks.
This year’s MLB season was hard-fought and brought about many surprise division winners and playoff contenders. For the first time since 1985 the Royals made their way back to October baseball and the Giants, winners of two of the last four Fall Classics, did just enough in the regular season to earn the final postseason spot. Both teams played solid baseball all season but frankly, more than timely hitting or a late surge, the Royals and Giants were beneficiaries of a 2012 rule change.
Much to the chagrin of baseball purists already lamenting one wildcard, MLB came to the decision to add a second one following the 2011 postseason. As part of the new rule it was decided that the two wildcard teams in each league would face each other in a one game play-in to decide who would advance to the NLDS.
In both 2012 and 2013, the rule had no major effect as only one wildcard team, the St. Louis Cardinals, made it to the championship series. The other three lost, possibly as expected, in the divisional series.
But in 2014, the year of the underdog, both wildcard winners find themselves advancing to the World Series. In addition to winning baseball’s biggest prize, a record is also on the line for the winning team. Because of the extra wildcard game win, the World Series winner will have won the most games in a single MLB postseason.
So however you look at it, luck and timing did have something to do with the runs of both of these teams.
Game One Pitching Matchup: (SF) Madison Bumgarner vs (KC) James Shields
The matchup of teams may not be powerhouse but the matchup of aces, at least in game one, is exactly what you expect from two teams in the World Series.
For the National League, the man is Madison Bumgarner (pictured). The de facto ace of the San Francisco staff, Bumgarner was a no-brainer choice to be on the mound in game one. The 25-year-old lefty is no stranger to the postseason as he has been to the playoffs in three of his first five full years in the big leagues and has won the World Series twice with a chance to do it again this year.
In addition, Bumgarner had a career year in 2014, posting a 2.98 ERA, 219 strikeouts and a win-loss record of 18-10 in the regular season. With an ERA of just 1.42 in four starts, 31.2 innings pitched and 28 strikeouts, the San Francisco ace has been one of the best pitchers the entire postseason.
For the American League, the man is James Shields. The 32-year-old righty began his career in 2006 as one of the centerpieces of the Tampa Bay Rays’ attempts to revitalize a dying franchise. Thanks in large part to Shields, the Rays did just that as in 2008, just Shields’ third year in the league, the team reached the World Series. It was throughout the course of this postseason run that Shields garnered the nickname, “Big Game James.”
And while Shields did come up big in 2008 despite his team’s loss, he hasn’t quite been as big game as of late. This season, Shields entered the playoffs with a 3.21 ERA, the second best mark of his career. But in the postseason, Shields has struggled. With an ERA of 5.63, Shields has already allowed 21 hits in 16 innings. This is just seven hit less than he allowed in 25 innings back in 2008.
Both Shields and Bumgarner have big game potential even if just one has shown it this postseason. That is not to say that Shields won’t return to the form he had in the past but even if he does, matching what Bumgarner has done so far will be tough.
World Series Betting Picks
The winner of the series should be the San Francisco Giants, hoisting their third championship in six years.
The Royals are the team of destiny no doubt but I tend to get swept up in the trends here. The Giants are underdogs in the series, likely because the Royals have home field advantage. The underdog has won every series this postseason and during the past two Giants’ championship runs, the underdog reigned supreme as well.
When it comes to the numbers, both of these teams are worthy of having gotten to this point. Their bullpens have been near perfect and with a 1.78 ERA for the Giants and 1.80 ERA for the Royals, have been near identical as well.
The main Kansas City advantage has been their lineup. Offensively, KC is the better team based on the numbers but the Giants, on paper, have more potential. San Francisco started to realize this potential against the Cardinals and they look primed to continue the pace they have been on since last week.
And even if the Giants offense isn’t quite as explosive as KC, sometimes the best offense is a good defense. If you watch Buster Posey behind the plate or Hunter Pence in the outfield, just to name two, there is no doubt San Francisco has a good defense.
Here is our betting picks advice for Game 1, the Series and a couple of interesting prop bets:
- To Win Game 1: It is pretty to safe to say that if Bumgarner, the Giants’ lefty continues to pitch the way he has, San Francisco will win game one on the road. As it is, they are favored 1.5 runs in the pivotal first game. For game one, I advise the bet on the Giants -1.5 runs @ betting odds of +155 with BetOnline or 5Dimes sportsbooks.
- To Win World Series: So in the end, it will be the pitching and the defense that reigns supreme as it tends to do in the World Series. Take the Giants to wrap this up in six and continue the dynasty that has been growing since 2010. You can bet on the Giants @ best odds of +102 with BetOnline for the World Series win.
- Game One Total Strikeouts: The numbers sit at 5.5 on strikeouts for both Shields and Bumgarner. Bumgarner averages seven strikeouts a start this postseason and Shields averages five. Expecting both of these starters will go at least six innings, take the over on 5.5 for both starters. You can make both these two wagers with Bovada Sportsbook, where it is -155 odds for Bumgarner and -140 for Shields.
- MVP: This could be a tough one. Based on the playoffs so far though and my prediction of a win for the Giants, my money is on the favorite, Buster Posey (8/1). Bumgarner projects as having the second best odds with Kansas City’s Alex Gorden and Eric Hosmer following close behind. Neither is a bad pick and it is safe to say that if Kansas City does win, Gordon and Hosmer will have been a big reason why. That said, I’m going Posey for this one because of his ability to impact both the offensive and defensive sides of the game like only a catcher can. Bet on Posey for MVP at 8/1 with either BetOnline or Bovada.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.