After a split in the first two games, a hugely important Game 3 is on tap for Friday night between the Padres and Phillies. Hopefully the teams enjoyed the luxuries of modern travel on their off day, because it is the last one that they will get in this series. If this series were to go seven games, the teams would play five straight days, including the five-hour and 40-minute flight from Philadelphia to San Diego following Game 5 on Sunday.
This is a big swing game at 7:37 p.m. ET featuring Ranger Suarez and Joe Musgrove on a day when the ALCS takes a break for the one and only time in the duration of that series.
San Diego Padres at Philadelphia Phillies (-120, 7.5)
It had to be a long flight back to the Keystone State for the Phillies, who squandered a 4-0 lead and ultimately lost by an 8-5 count. Philadelphia scored four in the second against Blake Snell on some batted ball luck, a ball lost in the sun and a few well-timed rockets, but the Padres quickly answered with two solo homers of their own and then scored five runs without a homer in the fifth.
Manager Rob Thomson made his first major misstep by going to Brad Hand instead of one of his other relievers (Jose Alvarado?) in the fifth. The damage had already been done, as Aaron Nola allowed four hits and four runs before recording the second out of the inning, but Hand came in and hit the first guy he faced, followed by two singles that plated three runs.
Managerial decisions are magnified so much in the postseason and Thomson’s faux pas cost the Phillies a chance at winning both games in San Diego. Yes, Hand needs to pitch better, but that was a very high-leverage spot with second and third and two out and you needed to end the inning there with one of your best options.
Anyway, Friday is a new day with a new game and the Phillies send out Suarez and this is where the series gets really interesting. Suarez is a fine starting pitcher, but he’s not Nola or Zack Wheeler. Meanwhile, Musgrove is San Diego’s second-best starter and I could honestly make a case that he’s better than Yu Darvish. If the Phillies can win this game, they’ll only need two more wins and they’ve got one more start each from Wheeler and Nola. If they can’t, the task at hand gets much more challenging.
Suarez did not look great last round against the Braves. It’s a bad matchup for him, but he walked five over 3.1 innings of work. He somehow only gave up one run on a solo homer, but allowed three hits and struck out five. He managed to weave in and out of a lot of danger, but still only got 10 outs on 86 pitches. He had nine whiffs in 32 swings, gave up two absolute missiles, a lazy fly ball and four balls in play below 80 mph.
That’s the key for Suarez. His Hard Hit% against was 34.7% this season. The walks can and will pop up, but he’s a pitch-to-contact guy, which means it comes down to command and defense. The command was good for the most part during the regular season with a 3.65 ERA, 3.78 xERA and a 3.87 FIP. The defense is the part of the equation that he can’t control, but the Phillies do not excel at it.
By wRC +, the Padres were 3% above league average against lefties. It’s always important to use wRC +, especially with teams that have a low offensive park factor that drags down most of their other numbers. This is a pretty neutral matchup for Suarez, but he can make it a bad one if he’s erratic again. He’s also unlikely to generate a similar strikeout rate against a Padres lineup that puts more balls in play than the Braves.
Musgrove owned a 2.93 ERA with a 3.27 xERA and a 3.59 FIP in his 181 regular season innings. In two postseason starts, he’s been dynamite with two runs allowed on seven hits over 13 innings. He’s struck out 13 and walked four while pitching the Padres to victory in the Wild Card Round against the Mets and gave them a chance until the offense answered in the series win over the Dodgers.
Musgrove only allowed four hard-hit balls in that start against the Dodgers and had 13 whiffs on 45 swings. He’s also been throwing a little harder this postseason, which has increased his spin rates across the board (shout-out Buck Showalter!). Frankly, we should see a lot of guys with increased spin rates given the relationship between velo and spin. That’s one of the reasons we see such a huge increase in strikeouts and swings and misses. Guys aren’t really holding back anymore.
As I mentioned prior to the start of the series and also prior to Game 2, the Phillies are much better against lefties than righties. They had a 102 wRC + during the regular season against righties. They struck out more and walked less. Musgrove should be a much tougher matchup for them than Snell was. Musgrove has a little better home run rate than Darvish. The Phillies only had three hits in Game 1 and only hit the two mistakes from Darvish.
One last note on Musgrove that surprises me is that his home run rate and his overall numbers were better on the road than at home, even though Petco Park really does suppress offense. Ironically, a bad start at home against the Phillies was a big part of the reason why, as he allowed six runs, including five in the sixth on two multi-run homers.
Both bullpens are in good shape here, but that may not be the case as the series goes along. Between San Diego’s top-end relievers being better and the advantage with Musgrove over Suarez, I’m on the Padres here. Suarez struggled in that NLDS start and did not pitch well down the stretch in his final 31.2 innings with a .341 wOBA against and the most homers he allowed in any month. It’s hard to expect him to be sharp here, which should allow the Padres to play from in front.
DraftKings once again has the worst favorite number (and worst underdog number) in the market, as you can find -115 or potentially lower at some shops. Every cent matters. It’s imperative to shop around. With -115ish pretty widely available, that’s what I’ll list it as here, but see if you can squeeze out a few cents better.
Pick: Padres -115