One of both of the League Championship Series could end today, as the Phillies are on the brink of advancing to the World Series over the Padres and the Astros are a win away from a sweep of the Yankees. With no day off in the NLCS, the Phillies would absolutely love to win this afternoon and avoid a cross-country flight back to San Diego. The Astros are hoping not to have to play Game 5 at Yankee Stadium.
With limited lead time before the 2:37 p.m. ET first pitch in Philly, let’s get to the breakdowns.
San Diego Padres at Philadelphia Phillies (-140, 6.5)
What a difference a few days makes. Sure, this game is in Philadelphia and not in San Diego, but the Padres were in the -115 to -120 range in Game 1 when Zack Wheeler beat Yu Darvish in a 2-0 affair. Home-field advantage sure ain’t worth 50-60 cents, but we’ve seen a big swing in this line as the Phillies have clearly been the better team in this series.
Both guys were extremely effective in Game 1. Darvish allowed two runs on three hits, with solo homers in the mix from Kyle Schwarber and Bryce Harper. Wheeler allowed just one hit over his eight nearly-flawless innings. He had eight strikeouts to seven for Darvish, but both guys only walked one batter and kept the hard contact to a minimum. In that game, the Phillies had an xBA (expected batting average) of .194 based on their contact quality. The Padres’ xBA was .155.
So we’re running that matchup back in a better hitting environment today. Wheeler’s velocity dropped sharply as the reached the tail end of that start after throwing just 83 pitches. It’s a big reason why he was yanked from the game. While his velocity was up relative to his season average, his last two fastballs were well under 95 mph after averaging 95.9 mph for the season. I’ll be watching closely here to make sure that his velo looks good early in the game.
Remember that Wheeler missed a month from August 21 to September 21 and only made three starts in late September to get ready for the postseason. It hasn’t affected his performance at all with three runs allowed on just seven hits in 19.1 innings of work with a 17/3 K/BB ratio, but the velo drop still merits a close eye early in this one.
Darvish has now allowed six homers in three postseason starts. He’s allowed six runs on 16 hits overall with an 18/3 K/BB ratio in 19 innings of work. The long ball was present, but not a major factor during the regular season with 22 of them allowed in 194.2 innings of work. He had a 3.10 ERA with a 3.49 xERA and a 3.31 FIP in his 30 starts.
While his stats give the appearance of home/road splits because his home ERA was 2.60 over 86.2 innings and his road ERA was 3.50 over 108 innings, his wOBA against was only two points higher on the road. He actually allowed a lower SLG away from Petco Park. His LOB% was just 12.8% lower on the road and his BABIP against spiked 59 points.
The Phillies won without using Seranthony Dominguez and Jose Alvarado yesterday, even though Bailey Falter faltered in the first by giving up four runs and only recording two outs. Fortunately for the Phillies, Mike Clevinger did not record any outs and gave up three runs. The Phillies also bashed Sean Manaea, as their splits against lefties came to the forefront once again.
I lean towards the Phillies “phinishing” off the series here, but the -135 price is a steep one to pay. This could end up a game where Philadelphia starts from behind again and then a live betting opportunity would be a good one. Their power production in this series has been thoroughly impressive and that’s the key to the playoffs. I’ve also had this series read wrong from the jump, so I’m hardly going to force something in Game 5. If we get to Game 6, though, I’ll likely be on the Phillies with a fade of the left-handed Blake Snell in a matchup against Aaron Nola.
Houston Astros at New York Yankees (-120, 6.5)
This series has been total domination up to this point. Even though the Astros have only outscored the Yankees 12-5, they hold a 3-0 series lead and New York has barely sniffed any offense. The Yankees hit two solo homers in Game 1, were gifted two runs in Game 2 and then got shut out at home in Game 3 by Cristian Javier and five relievers. Houston is just a better team in every facet and we’ve seen it play out like that.
The Yankees have struck out 41 times against just nine walks in this series. They also have just 12 hits. Houston is just 3-for-17 with RISP in the series, otherwise the final scores would look even more lopsided. Aaron Judge’s postseason from hell has continued, as he is just 5-for-32 with two homers, three RBI, just one walk and 14 strikeouts. He really hid a lot of the problems that this Yankees lineup had throughout the course of the season.
Something else that has been interesting this postseason is that the Yankees are 1-for-13 in 2-0 and 3-1 counts in the postseason, 0-for-7 against Houston and they’ve swung and missed at 33.3% of those pitches. Their Chase Rate on those pitches is 32.4%, so they’ve been too aggressive and have not taken advantage of good hitter’s counts. Inside Edge MLB tweeted about those numbers.
Lance McCullers Jr. threw six shutout innings and scattered two hits and a couple of walks in his ALDS start against the Mariners. He reportedly banged his elbow on a bottle during the celebration after the win and got pushed back a day, but I sort of feel like maybe the Astros wanted to match Javier up with Gerrit Cole and roll out McCullers against Nestor Cortes.
This will be the seventh start for McCullers in an elimination game out of his 10 career postseason starts. The Astros are 5-1 in the previous six, so we’ll see how they do here. He finished the regular season with a 2.27 ERA, a 3.57 xERA and a 3.49 FIP over just eight starts, as he missed most of the year. In his 47.2 innings, he struck out over a batter per inning, though he did walk 22. He’s an extreme ground ball guy, not quite as far out there as Framber Valdez, but 50% of his balls in play were worm-burners this season and he’s over 55% for his career. What that also means is that he’s only allowed 57 homers in 718.2 innings of work, so it is extremely hard to hit homers off of him.
Cortes has allowed three runs on nine hits in 10 innings this postseason. He only has five strikeouts out of 42 batters faced, but gave the Yankees five shutout innings in the clinching Game 5 against Cleveland. He allowed all three runs in his Game 2 start, including a home run to Amed Rosario.
This will be Houston’s first time facing a left-handed starter in the postseason. They were third in wOBA at .340 and second in wRC + at 124 during the regular season, meaning they were 24% better than league average in that split. Compare that to their performance against right-handed pitchers, where they were ninth in wOBA at .317 and wRC + at 107.
I have tons of concerns about the Yankees in this game. First, McCullers only throws about 24% sinkers. The slider is his primary pitch, followed by the curveball. We saw the Guardians pitching staff have tremendous success with breaking balls on the outer half of the plate against the Yankees. Houston has done the same in this series. McCullers’ arsenal is well-tailored to that type of approach.
Second, as mentioned, the Astros hit lefties better than righties and right-handed batters did fare substantially better against Cortes. The numbers weren’t good with a .202/.251/.339 slash in 526 plate appearances, but way better than the .110/.180/.159 slash from lefties in 89 PA.
Third, the Astros are getting next to nothing from Jose Altuve and Yordan Alvarez in this series. They’re getting nothing from Altuve in the playoffs period, as he started 0-for-25 before a single last night. Alvarez is 1-for-10 with a couple of walks and six strikeouts. Yet, here the Astros are one win away from another AL Pennant.
Fourth, the Astros bullpen has pitched 29 innings this postseason with two runs allowed on 13 hits and 39 strikeouts. Their 0.62 ERA is the best of any playoff team and opposing batters are hitting .134. They’ve been aces this postseason. New York’s bullpen has been solid, but not on Houston’s level.
Finally, if this is a close game, Wandy Peralta is likely to be less effective than he was against Cleveland with this Houston lineup. A lot of the relievers for the Yankees are suspect with their injuries and everything else that has popped up. If they can get to Clay Holmes, that would be great, but they haven’t in this series to this point.
At plus money, and with + 110s or 105s available, the Astros are the play today. You can find better than the + 100 at DraftKings if you look around the market. Either way, I think McCullers matches up well and Houston has additional lineup and bullpen advantages.
Pick: Astros at the best price you can find