After sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals, the Washington Nationals are headed to their first ever World Series.
Entering the MLB Playoffs as one of two NL Wild Card teams, the Nationals were nearly bounced in their one-game play-in against the Milwaukee Brewers. Down 3-1 in the bottom of the eighth, a costly Brewers error led to three runs and the lead, which the Nats never relinquished.
Then, the Nationals beat the heavily favored Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS, taking the decisive fifth game of the series by a score of 7-3. After that, the Nationals faced the equally improbable Cardinals in the NLCS, and beat them four games to nothing in a disappointingly uneventful series for Redbirds fans.
That series was not without significant controversy, however, as the MLB apparently altered the baseballs provided from those in use during the regular season (which, incidentally, were also altered from years past).
While 2019 represents Washington’s first trip to the World Series, it is not unprecedented for Wild Card clubs to make it to the big dance.
Since the Wild Card system was introduced in Major League Baseball in 1994 (and first used in 1995 due to the ’94 players’ strike), 13 different Wild Card teams made it to the World Series. On two separate occasions, Wild Card teams faced each other in the WS – the San Francisco Giants and Kansas City Royals in 2014 and the Giants and Los Angeles Angels in 2002.
To date, six Wild Card teams have won the World Series:
- 1997 – Florida Marlins
- 2002 – Anaheim Angels
- 2003 – Florida Marlins
- 2004 – Boston Red Sox
- 2011 – St. Louis Cardinals
- 2014 – San Francisco Giants
For bettors, the takeaway is that Wild Card teams that make the World Series win it about half the time. However, there’s not necessarily much useful data in that limited pool, and the Nationals will be up against a woodchipper regardless of whether they face the 103-win New York Yankees or the 107-win Houston Astros for all the marbles.
Which of those teams they’re going face is, for now, the biggest question on bettors’ minds. Most money is on the Astros, thanks to a series of multimillion-dollar wagers on Houston to win the title. Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale is said to have placed $3.5 million on the Astros, though some reports indicate that he may have spread out more than $10 million on the team via various Mississippi and Las Vegas sportsbooks.
If the Astros – up two games to one over the Yankees right now – come out on top, they will be the betting favorite against the Nationals in the World Series, and McIngvale may take home the largest combined payout in baseball betting history.
But they have to get by the Baby Bombers first, and Game 4 is scheduled for tonight after weather concerns postponed Wednesday’s contest. This has given both teams a chance to rest their pitching staffs, though that works primarily in the Yankees’ favor, as they’ve moved ace Masahiro Tanaka up to start in tonight’s game. According to Bovada, that makes the Yanks the favorites to even the ALCS at two games apiece, but the Astros are still heavy favorites to make the WS.
ALCS Game 4 Odds
- Runline: Houston Astros +1.5 (-165), New York Yankees -1.5 (+145)
- Straight: Houston Astros +113, New York Yankees -133
- Over/under: 8.5 (-110)
ALCS Championship Odds
- New York Yankees +230
- Houston Astros -320
While it’s too early to tell what the Nationals’ odds will be going into the World Series (offshore USA sportsbooks will wait until their AL counterpart is crowned before posting odds), the pre-playoffs lines on the Nats, Astros, and Yankees give a good indication of where things will stand regardless of which team takes the American League Championship.
2019 World Series Odds To Open Playoffs
- Houston Astros +200
- Los Angeles Dodgers +275
- New York Yankees +425
- Atlanta Braves +1000
- St. Louis Cardinals +1000
- Washington Nationals +1000
- Minnesota Twins +1400
- Tampa Bay Rays +1400
Of course, given that the +1000 Nationals defeated the +275 Dodgers, whichever club they meet for the MLB title likely won’t be so dramatically favored on the odds boards.
This is going to be a great World Series.