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Can Judge Lead Yankees to ALCS? A Look at All Divisional Series

Aaron Judge

Aaron Judge

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

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Today marks the start of the Divisional Round of the playoffs. That means the top two seeds in the American League (Houston and New York) and National League (Los Angeles and Atlanta) are hosting the four who survived the Wild Card Round this past weekend.

The series’ odds are heavily tilted towards the top seeds who enter each series rested and with their respective pitching staffs intact. Translation: If you like a favorite to win their respective series, wait to bet on them if you are hoping to see better pricing. If they lose Game 1 the series odds should then shift to a more favorable number.

On the flip side, if you are betting momentum will carry into this series for any of the Wild Card winners, their odds are more favorable if you bet them each game as opposed to betting the series number.

If player props are more appealing than sides and totals, our friends at PointsBet have spiced up their offerings for the postseason with interesting boosts daily.

Dive into each Divisional Round series with the NBC Sports EDGE MLB analysts who have given a few thoughts on each including the outcome.

Philadelphia (+165) vs. Atlanta (-200)

Drew Silva (@drewsilv): Braves win 3-1

With their excellent front-end talent (Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola, Bryce Harper, etc.), the Phillies were built for a best-of-three and took care of business with a Wild Card Series sweep of the Cardinals. But this best-of-five set against the Braves is going to require more depth, and that element offers a clear advantage for Atlanta. The defending World Series champions advance back to the NLCS behind a deep pitching staff and an even deeper lineup.

DJ Short (@djshort): Braves win 3-1

After overtaking the Mets in the NL East, the Braves are well-rested while the Phillies had to duke it out with the Cardinals in the Wild Card round over the weekend. The Phillies have reason to feel good coming out of that series, but reality could quickly set in as they come toe-to-toe with the defending World Series champs. The Braves have the upper hand with Max Fried against Ranger Suárez in Game 1 in a hostile environment at home. It’s important that they take advantage with Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola lined up for the next two games. There’s reason for concern about the Braves’ rotation with Spencer Strider (oblique) sidelined, but that’s more of a worry for a seven-game series.

Kenny Ducey (@KennyDucey): Braves win 3-2

I find it hard to believe that the Phillies don’t get one game here considering how good Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola have been, and I do think given the history between these sides and the close 11-8 season series, which went to Atlanta this year, this one should be thrilling. With that said, the Phillies hit .158 in their two-game sweep of the Cardinals and that is simply a number that won’t cut it against a very solid staff. I expect Max Fried to come out and win Game 1 with Wheeler getting Philly on the board in Game 2. After that, the Braves’ superior offense should shine.

John Venezia (@_JohnnyVTV): Phillies win 3-2

I have to roll with Philly. They are my preseason World Series pick, so it’s only natural. If their offense can get back to putting the ball in play then they should have a much higher success rate on offense. While Atlanta’s pitching staff is good, it’s not anything lock down- especially with the uncertainty of Spencer Strider. If the Phillies can steal game 1 with Ranger Suárez v Max Fried, then you have to love your chances with Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola trying to close it out.

Seattle (+185) vs. Houston (-225)

Drew Silva (@drewsilv) Astros win 3-0

Seattle is riding high after a quick Wild Card Series sweep in Toronto, but now comes an absolute buzzsaw in the AL West-champion Astros. There was a 16-game gap between these two clubs in the regular-season standings, with Houston finishing second among all 30 major league team in combined team ERA (2.90) and seventh in combined team OPS (.743). Love ‘em or hate ‘em, the ‘Stros have all the tools to march to the World Series.

DJ Short (@djshort): Astros win 3-1

While the Mariners have been an amazing story, the fairytale will end here. The Astros are rested and have their rotation lined up exactly the way they want, including Verlander, who has a 2.34 ERA in five starts against the Mariners this season. While the Astros’ offense has run hot and cold, they simply have more firepower than the Mariners do. Wednesday’s off-day works in the Mariners favor to get Luis Castillo back on the mound, but he’ll only be able to pitch once in the series.

Kenny Ducey (@KennyDucey): Astros win 3-1

The Astros wound up taking six of the final seven games they played against the Mariners to take their season series 12-7, and I’m not sure Seattle has much of a prayer here with the stakes raised. Logan Gilbert‘s a massive regression candidate heading into a brutal matchup on the road with Justin Verlander and a high-powered offense in Game 1, and from there the Mariners shouldn’t be able to find the magic they came up with in Toronto. Houston has a massive edge in the pitching department, but Seattle should be able to even the score in the Luis Castillo game. I will give that one to the Mariners, but around that this should be academic.

John Venezia (@_JohnnyVTV): Astros win 3-1

I love, love, love the Mariners, so I hope I am wrong here. The Astros went 12-7 against Seattle this year. Despite the roster the M’s have they had trouble with their division rival, and I see it as a case of big brother vs. little brother. Justin Verlander, the luckiest person ever (who stole the Cy Young from its rightful owner, Dylan Cease) should dominate Game 1 as Houston moves on yet again.

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Cleveland (+175) vs. New York (-210)

Drew Silva (@drewsilv) Guardians win 3-2

This has an upset feel. Cleveland’s contact-driven lineup and run-prevention-minded pitching and defense led to a two-game Wild Card Series ouster of the Rays. There’s no question that the Yankees’ offense presents a greater challenge than Tampa Bay’s, but consistency has been an issue from the hitters that surround Aaron Judge. Expect a lot of free passes for Judge and for this one to go the distance, with the Guardians coming out on top in a wild Game 5.

DJ Short (@djshort): Guardians win 3-2

There’s no doubt that the Yankees have the star power in this series, but are they the best team? The Guardians were the hottest team in the majors going into the postseason while the Yankees were an even 35-35 during the second half, albeit with a very good September. The Yankees have the early edge in the series with Cole going in Game 1, but it could be close to a wash after that. If the Guardians’ staff can prevent Aaron Judge from hurting them, they have a very good chance of navigating this Yankees’ lineup.

Kenny Ducey (@KennyDucey): Yankees win 3-0

It was very cute to watch the Guardians skate by the Rays thanks to two swings of the bat, but they won’t be afforded the same cushion by the Yankees. Cleveland’s staff is full of pitchers with ugly peripherals, and Shane Bieber in particular has not only struggled with hard-hit balls but with the Yankees, who own a 5.74 ERA off of him in three career starts. Without a win in the Bieber game, this should be over very quickly. The Yankees’ three-man rotation quietly might be the best in the American League this year.

John Venezia (@_JohnnyVTV): Guardians win 3-2

Surprise! I said last series the winner of Cleveland-Tampa beats the Yankees. The reason being is NYY is so top heavy, and they rely so much on Aaron Judge offensively. The Guardians have a better pitching staff front to back, and if they can beat Gerrit Cole in Game 1 with Cal Quantrill, then it is open season. This is a longshot play, but I think it is entirely realistic. Cleveland is no push over. Look for Jose Ramirez to take over this series.

San Diego (+185) vs. Los Angeles (-223)

Drew Silva (@drewsilv) Dodgers win 3-1

It’s hard to ignore that the Dodgers went 14-5 against the Padres during the regular season. I’m not sold that the NL West champs are as loaded as their overall 111-51 record would suggest, but they will -- and should -- come into this best-of-five series with great confidence. That quick-strike lineup and the depth of starters (and hybrid starters) should cause more and more headaches for San Diego. Look for the Dodgers to put one more 2022 dagger into the Friars.

DJ Short (@djshort): Dodgers win 3-0

The Padres outclassed the Mets in the Wild Card round, but now they have one of the best teams in recent MLB history awaiting them. One could argue that more weird things can happen in a five-game series, but it would be easier to make that claim if the Padres have their rotation lined up the way they want. Instead, they’ll have to rely on Mike Clevinger and his 4.33 ERA in Game 1. It’s not ideal. He’s actually posted a 9.69 ERA in three starts against the Dodgers this season. If Julio Urías can take care of business in the series opener, the Dodgers have a big edge. The Padres’ best hope in the series is keeping things close enough for their bullpen advantage to bear fruit.

Kenny Ducey (@KennyDucey): Dodgers win 3-0

Let’s not kid ourselves, this won’t be close. The Dodgers won the season series 14-5 over their division rivals with a couple Padres wins coming as the season lost meaning to the NL West champions. I’m not sure how this team loses more than four games all postseason considering how good its lineup is, and any questions about the starting rotation are foolish considering the season that Tyler Anderson just had, and given Clayton Kershaw‘s numbers are as good as they’ve ever been. This is close to a perfect team, and one which seems to have that same magic which got them a World Series a couple of years ago. Expect Trayce Thompson and Cody Bellinger to continue coming through in the clutch, and for this ridiculous stable of arms to shut down an offense that’s been bad all year, even after acquiring Juan Soto and Josh Bell. Simply put, the Mets’ arms folded, but the Dodgers’ are elite and well-rested.

John Venezia (@_JohnnyVTV): Dodgers win 3-1

It’s hard to say there is any better team in the MLB than the 111 win Dodgers. LA is 14-5 against San Diego this year and despite the addition of Juan Soto, LA is easily the better team here so I can’t roll with the Padres. Julio Urías should dot in game 1 and set the tone for a quick series for LAD.

Enjoy the games and enjoy the sweat.

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