Will we have only one day with four games this weekend or will we have two? The Atlanta Braves, Seattle Mariners and Los Angeles Dodgers face elimination on Saturday, so we’ll see if those teams are able to extend their respective series and keep their World Series hopes alive. Baseball starts at 2:07 p.m. ET and runs late into the night with two NLDS games and two ALDS games on October 15.
Braves/Phillies starts the day as the early game, followed by an early start in Seattle for the Mariners’ first home playoff game since 2001. The Yankees and Guardians flip venues and start in Cleveland at 7:37 p.m. ET and the Dodgers and Padres wrap up the night at 9:37 p.m. ET.
Atlanta Braves (-125, 9) at Philadelphia Phillies
The Braves opted to go with Spencer Strider fresh off of the injured list in Game 3 and it backfired badly. Strider only recorded seven outs and gave up five earned runs in Philadelphia’s 9-1 blowout win over the reigning World Series champs. Now Atlanta gives the ball to Charlie Morton with the season on the line. Fortunately, Morton is no stranger to elimination games and his teams have won all four times they’ve faced a win or go home scenario.
Morton wrapped up the regular season with a 4.34 ERA, a 4.11 xERA and a 4.26 FIP. By the standards of the starters that we’ve seen to this point, Morton’s numbers are some of the worst. He had major command issues this season and allowed 28 home runs in his 172 innings of work. He still struck out 205 batters, but had his highest BB% since 2018 and yielded the most hard contact of his career.
Atlanta does have Jackson Stephens in long relief if needed, but Jake Odorizzi was used up in Game 3. Atlanta’s primary reliever have not pitched much in this series, so manager Brian Snitker may call upon guys like AJ Minter, Raisel Iglesias and Kenley Jansen to get four or more outs if required.
The Phillies are going with Noah Syndergaard after he worked a relief inning in Game 1. Opting for the right-handed Syndergaard over the left-handed Bailey Falter could allow the Phillies to do some sort of piggyback scenario in which neither guy has to turn the lineup over twice. With the lopsided margin of victory in Game 3, Philadelphia was able to hold back guys like Zach Eflin and Seranthony Dominguez. Furthermore, each reliever threw 15 or fewer pitches, so everybody should be available if called upon.
The Braves do catch a break here facing Syndergaard. Their biggest weakness on offense is striking out and guys like Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler can generate a lot of swing and miss. Syndergaard only struck out 16.8% of the batters that he faced over 134.2 innings of work. He posted a 3.94 ERA with a 4.43 xERA and a 3.83 FIP. Nine of his 24 starts came with the Phillies, where he had a 4.12 ERA with a 3.66 FIP and an even lower K%.
The Phillies are not a very good defensive team, which is a big part of the reason why Syndergaard’s BABIP against jumped from .276 to .319 when going from the Angels to the Phillies. He did exercise good command in terms of his Hard Hit% and home run rates, but the Phillies just don’t do well converting batted balls into outs. That will be a huge key in Game 4.
You can see the concerns with both pitchers by the fact that Circa opened this total at 9, easily the highest of the postseason to this point. Betting action did bring that total down a bit, since the playoffs are generally played in a lower-scoring environment, but it was quite interesting to see a line posted that high.
I do agree with the potential for offense, but I’m not taking Over 9 in a playoff game.
Houston Astros at Seattle Mariners (-120, 7)
Seattle’s season is on the line after some missed opportunities in Houston. The Mariners led going into the bottom of the ninth in Game 1 and led after five innings in Game 2, but came away with neither one of those victories. Seattle was 62-4 with a lead after five innings during the regular season, but the bullpen and the manager have faltered in late-game situations.
The team’s fate may very well rest on the shoulders of 24-year-old George Kirby at an amped-up T-Mobile Park. Kirby had a 3.39 ERA with a 3.31 xERA and a 2.99 FIP for the season, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. He allowed 12 home runs over his first 64.1 innings of work, but only allowed one homer in his final 65.2 innings. He improved and sequenced his pitches better in the second half of the season, which was a huge development for the Mariners as they closed in on their first postseason berth since 2001.
The problem with Kirby is that he had what we call “reverse platoon splits”. Generally speaking, a right-handed pitcher fares better against right-handed batters and worse against left-handed ones. Well, Kirby held lefties to a .210/.250/.303 slash with a .245 wOBA, while righties slashed .324/.354/.492 with a .366 wOBA. The Astros are more balanced than previous versions by handedness, but this has always been a lineup that goes as its right-handed batters go.
Yordan Alvarez has carried the load in this series so far and is a left-handed batter, but he’s a unicorn that can simply hit everybody and everything. Kirby’s huge second-half improvements absolutely caught my attention, but the reverse platoon thing is weighing on my mind. He also struggled down the stretch, allowing 10 runs on 18 hits in his last three starts over 12.1 innings against the A’s, Rangers and Tigers. Suffice it to say that the Astros are better than those teams.
I’m not overly fond of Lance McCullers Jr. in this matchup, though. McCullers worked 47.2 innings during an injury-shortened season. He struck out well over 25% of batters, but also walked over 11%. The Mariners have been one of the league’s more patient lineups throughout the season, so they could accumulate some traffic on the bases with Lance’s lack of control. That being said, what do I keep telling you about the playoffs? Offense is driven by the home run. McCullers had a 50% GB% and only allowed four homers in his eight starts.
He did also only make one start from September 22 through the end of the regular season and it came 12 days ago, so he could be a bit rusty. For a guy who walks a fine line from a control standpoint, rust can be a major hindrance. Even though T-Mobile Park generally suppresses offense, I do think that these two offenses could find some early success in this game. The moment is simply enormous for Kirby, and while his second half was very good, he faced the Rangers three times, Angels three times, Tigers twice, Nationals, A’s, Braves Guardians and Astros.
The Astros bullpen has only allowed one earned run on four hits in 8.1 innings of work to this point. They’ve been stingy and should have Luis Garcia to follow McCullers if he gets into trouble. It could also be Cristian Javier or Jose Urquidy, depending on who would line up as the Game 4 starter if necessary.
Though they struggled in Game 1, I still like the Seattle bullpen quite a bit. They’ve got some really good arms back there. I think I’m looking for some fireworks at the start here against these two pitchers. With a full-game total of 7, we’ve got a 1st 5 total of 3.5 and even money on the over. That’s a bet I feel like is worth making.
Pick: 1st 5 Over 3.5 (+ 100)
New York Yankees (-120, 6.5) at Cleveland Guardians
It isn’t a true coin flip by betting standards, but the Guardians have to feel pretty good about where things stand in this series. They left the Bronx with a split and find themselves in what will be their smallest underdog role of the series in Game 3. Triston McKenzie has had a sensational season and he can pen another impressive chapter if he holds the Yankees at bay here. On the other side, Luis Severino should be salivating for a crack at the light-hitting Guardians.
The first thing you need to know about this game is that the ballpark should play really big. We’re seeing another 6.5 total here from this series, but Progressive Field actually has normal dimensions unlike Yankee Stadium. There is also a high wall in left field that can turn some homers into doubles. Having been in Cleveland for just about 35 years of my life, I can attest to being at Guardians games in a lot of different conditions. When it’s not hot and humid, that park plays big.
This will shock you, but it will not be hot and humid in Cleveland on October 15. Far from it, actually. During the game, temperatures will be falling into the mid-40s and wind chills will drop to around 40. It will also be windy in The Land with a westerly wind. The stadium faces northeast, which means that a westerly wind should push balls towards foul territory on the first-base side. It shouldn’t provide helping winds and would be likely to knock down balls hit to left field.
That could really hurt the right-handed-heavy Yankees, while potentially providing a small boost or at least a neutral setting for Cleveland’s lefty-laden lineup against the right-hander in Severino.
The conditions should really benefit McKenzie, who is an extreme fly ball pitcher that forces hitters to use the big part of the yard. Center fielder Myles Straw had nine putouts in Game 2 of the Wild Card Round, many of those while McKenzie was on the mound. Triston finished the regular season with a 2.96 ERA, a 3.54 xERA and a 3.59 FIP. He actually got stronger as the year went along in K%, HR/FB% and other metrics, which was a big surprise to me going from 141.1 innings in 2021 to 191.1 innings in 2022. He’s not exactly built like a workhorse, but he did well with the increase in workload.
McKenzie had pretty neutral splits against lefties and righties, but I’m really fixated on his fly ball stylings and these weather conditions. He also pitched extremely well at Progressive Field with a .248 wOBA against, a .196/.245/.313 slash and just seven of his 25 homers in 81.1 innings. I think it will be another tough day for Yankees hitters, who probably make more contact, but should make a lot of harmless contact.
Severino is much tougher to peg here. He missed more than two months from July 13 to September 20 and came back to make three starts covering 16 innings against the Pirates, Blue Jays and Rangers. The Guardians lineup still isn’t anything to write home about, but this looks to be their best matchup to date in this series. Severino allowed a 41.3% Hard Hit%, 14 homers in 102 innings and had a 44.3% GB% with an unsustainably low BABIP of .243. He still throws hard, but he’s not Gerrit Cole and he’s not a lefty like Nestor Cortes, as the Guardians struggled with lefties all season long.
That being said, Severino still had a 3.18 ERA with a 2.94 xERA and a 3.70 FIP, so he had really good numbers. This is just the best of the matchups that Cleveland has seen so far and I can’t say that about the Yankees.
The obvious concern with taking Cleveland for the full game is that Emmanuel Clase is likely unavailable. He worked a season high 2.1 innings and threw 33 pitches. I would think he’s only available in an emergency. James Karinchak threw 29 pitches and was very wild in his appearance, so he’s also a guy that you may not trust, though he did have seven swinging strikes out of 13 strikes.
I think the world gets to see Sam Hentges tonight as the first man out of the Cleveland pen. Hentges had a 2.32 ERA with a 2.48 FIP in his 62 innings of work with a big strikeout rate, strong command numbers and held righties to a .277 wOBA while completely neutralizing lefties with a .172 wOBA and a 34/3 K/BB ratio. You can get multiple innings from him and I think this is the spot to deploy him with Clase's situation and Karinchak's rocky inning yesterday.
I’m cautiously optimistic about the Guardians here because I think this start plays about as well as possible for McKenzie, who has been given an excellent blueprint from Cal Quantrill and Shane Bieber about how to attack this team. However, he’s also a bit different in that he works up in the zone more and relies more on a big, loopy curveball as opposed to the cutters and sliders that have befuddled the Yankees to this point.
I’m going to watch this price and see if I can do a little better on Cleveland as the afternoon goes along. It’s hard to see a lot of line movement on a college football Saturday, but you never know. If the price doesn’t get better, I’ll still have a small wager on the Guardians at the + 105 widely available. But, for the purposes of the article and the posting time, I’ll call it a pick at the current number.
Pick: Guardians + 105 – wait to see if the price improves
Los Angeles Dodgers (-125, 7.5) at San Diego Padres
Just as we all expected, the Dodgers and their 111 wins in the regular season are on the brink of elimination against the Padres. San Diego has stepped it up to another level in these playoffs, particularly in the bullpen with 16 straight scoreless innings. The Dodgers have uncharacteristically struck out at a high rate in this series and have done so a lot of the time with men in scoring position.
The teams had chances once again yesterday, as they combined to go 1-for-19 with RISP and the Dodgers took an 0-for for the second straight game in that department. They haven’t had a hit with RISP since the third inning of Game 1. That’s how you lose a playoff series. Yesterday’s game marked the first time I really, truly felt like the Padres could win this series. Bob Melvin is doing a masterful job managing the bullpen and the team is overcoming a poor series from Juan Soto and Josh Bell.
I think a discussion needs to be had about the new playoff format here. The teams that had the long layoffs have had mixed results on the pitching side, but all four have gone through long lulls offensively. When you talk about the quality of pitching in the postseason, getting back to “game speed” is not easy and that may be part of what we’re seeing here. It’ll be something I have to consider in the postseason moving forward.
Anyway, as far as Game 4 goes, the Game 3 hero of the Wild Card Round is back on the bump in Joe Musgrove. The Dodgers are sending out Tyler Anderson and this is not the greatest of formats for a guy like that. You can bob and weave as a pitch-to-contact guy, but it’s so much better and easier to just go for the strikeout. Per my good buddy @MLBdream, five of the eight playoff teams have a K% over 25% thus far, including these two.
Anderson only had a 19.5% K% during the regular season. He finished with a 2.57 ERA, a 3.10 xERA and a 3.31 FIP because he was stingy with walks and home runs. He also only allowed a 28.5% Hard Hit%. That puts a lot of pressure on the Dodgers defense and we’ve seen some teams make some fielding blunders to decide games thus far. That’s why strikeouts are prioritized. Any ball in play has a chance to be bad.
The southpaw was at least successful as more of a throwback to the olden days and was actually better in the second half than the first half. It’s just my bias against these types of guys in the playoffs that I can’t remove. He may ultimately have a lot of success.
Musgrove struck out nearly 25% of opposing batters during his stellar regular season with a 2.93 ERA, 3.27 xERA and 3.59 FIP. He did struggle a bit in the second half, yielding a .441 SLG and 13 of his 22 homers in just 77 of his 181 innings, but that didn’t prevent him from having a strong Game 3 start against the Mets. What a story this would be for the San Diego native if he can pitch the team to a first-round upset of the Dodgers.
Admittedly, I haven’t had a great feel for this series. I had the Dodgers in both games at home and won one and lost one. I felt like yesterday’s game had the potential for runs, and it did with 19 AB with RISP, but Petco Park played as the run-suppressed environment that it usually does. I don’t have any picks or even live betting thoughts here.