The momentum and energy in Philadelphia this postseason is something we have not seen in any other series, and as the team continues to feed off that, the wins keep coming. Behind two hot pitchers and an offense that can leave the yard at any second, Philadelphia is three wins away from their second consecutive World Series, and we’ll preview their game tonight before going over my play for the first five innings.
Both the Phillies and Diamondbacks feature a 1-2 punch of arms that have gotten them to the NLCS, but last night, the Phillies number one, Zack Wheeler, took round one. The right-hander worked six innings while allowing two runs and striking out eight diamondbacks on the way to his second win of the postseason. Like they have this entire playoff run, Philadelphia will piggyback Wheeler with Aaron Nola, who is 2-0 with 12 strikeouts and a 1.42 ERA in 12.2 innings.
Nola went through rough patches throughout the season and even allowed four earned runs over 6.2 innings in a win against Arizona in June. Not only has Nola made some changes since that outing, but he now gets them on his home mound, where he’s performed the best this season, allowing a .212 batting average against with a 28.6% strikeout percentage in 87.2 innings.
When he toes the rubber tonight in front of a crowd that hasn’t sat down in two weeks, Nola will take on a Diamondbacks lineup that is coming off their worst postseason performance. Not only was last night the Diamondbacks' first loss of the playoffs, but it was also the first time they scored fewer than four runs. Out of the team’s four hits, only one went for extra bases, as Geroldo Perdomo’s two-run home run was one of the few times Arizona threatened to make a comeback.
Getting the ball for Arizona tonight will be the second half of their 1-2 punch, Merrill Kelly. Following the disappointing outing from Zac Gallen, Kelly will make his second start of the postseason after he threw 6.1 shutout inning against the Dodgers in game one of the NLCS. In his lone start against the Phillies this year, he allowed three earned runs over six innings for a no-decision.
This entire postseason, I have continually fallen back on one bet, and that is the Phillies F5 spread or run-line. Through seven games, Philadelphia has gone 7-0 ATS on the F5 run-line, and after taking them last night, I’ll be dipping back into the well and backing their F5 run-line of (-.5) at (-110).
The Phillies right-hander pitched to a 3.40 FIP and 3.21 xFIP at home this regular season, and in his two postseason starts, he has a 2.07 FIP, so much like Wheeler last night, he should continue to find success. Through both his outings, Nola has not allowed more flyballs than groundballs, and when he did that last postseason, he was untouchable. As we saw last night with Wheeler, the more you force Arizona to hit groundballs, the less success they have.
Merrill Kelly was great in his first playoff start, but in general, he has struggled on the road this season. Through 84 road innings, the right-hander pitched to a 4.32 FIP and 4.33 xFIP with a .261 batting average against. Kelly was also able to pitch with a nice lead right out of the gate in his first outing, but if that’s not the case today, he could be affected by his 41.8% hard-hit percentage, which is in the 30th percentile.
Philadelphia Phillies F5 (-.5)(-110)