For the second straight year, the Philadelphia Phillies find themselves in a position to be National League champions. After getting the job done last year to advance to the World Series, the Phillies will start their journey to consecutive Fall Classics at home against a Diamondbacks team that is undefeated this postseason. We’ll preview game one of the NLCS before breaking down my two plays for the action.
Homefield advantage for the Phillies was a massive storyline of the 2022 postseason, and a year later, that remains the same. Through six playoff games, the Phillies are 5-1 overall and 4-0 at home, with two of those wins clinching their series over the top-seeded Atlanta Braves. Those four wins also give them a 10-2 record over their last 12 home playoff games, and to start off their 13th home playoff game in the past two years will be right-hander Zack Wheeler.
The 33-year-old Wheeler pitched to a 2.78 ERA during the 2022 postseason, and through two starts this year, he’s allowed just three earned runs over 13 innings for a 2.08 ERA. During the regular season, the right-hander recorded 12 innings against the Diamondbacks, and in that span, he allowed five runs (four earned) with ten punchouts. The last of those two starts did come on June 13th, so both sides are in much different places than they were at that time.
When Arizona last faced Wheeler, they were still just hoping for a Wild Card spot, and now they enter the NLCS undefeated through five postseason games. Many people have been waiting for Arizona to falter and expected it to come against the Dodgers, yet they swept that series by outscoring LA 19-6. Not only did the D-Backs' four home run 3rd inning in game three complete the sweep, but it helped them enter this series with a .530 slugging percentage and .877 OPS.
Both sides of the Diamondbacks deserve a ton of credit for putting them in this position, especially since their pitching staff hasn’t allowed more than three runs in a game this postseason. Two of those games were started by tonight’s starter, Zac Gallen, who enters this matchup with four earned runs and eight strikeouts in 11.1 innings through those two games.
Unsurprisingly, since both teams have one loss between them this postseason, they have both been successful through the game's first five innings. While they both may be successful, the Phillies are 6-0 ATS on the F5 run-line so far, and tonight, I’ll be backing their F5 run-line of (-.5) at (-115) for my first play.
This is a battle of true aces tonight, and while there is no denying Zac Gallen has been great this postseason, his fielding independent shows he’s more susceptible to being beaten tonight than Wheeler. Gallen has a 3.18 ERA, but his FIP comes in at 4.31, and after allowing 13 fly balls against the Dodgers in his last outing, he could struggle against a Phillies lineup that has a .892 OPS this postseason and averaged 11.25 hard-hit balls per game against the Braves.
For Zack Wheeler, he’s pitched to a 2.08 ERA and 1.72 FIP this postseason, so he’s very likely to remain successful tonight. Not only does Wheeler also have an 18:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio, but he’s in the 87th percentile in barrel percentage and 68th percentile in hard hit percentage, which bodes well against a Diamondbacks lineup that has produced most of their runs off the long ball.
It’s clear that I am banking on Wheeler to have a big night on the mound, but at the same time, I think one Diamondbacks player in particular could have success off him. For my prop play, I’ll be taking Christian Walker over .5 hits at (-145). In his career off Wheeler, the D-Backs first baseman is 9-17 for a .529 average and .591 wOBA.
Entering tonight, Walker has a .294 average and 1.023 OPS this postseason, and since four of his five postseason games came on the road, he should be comfortable hitting in Citizens Bank. According to statcast, Walker has an expected batting average of .427 and xwOBA of .476 off Wheeler, so I think between that and his success so far this postseason, he can pick up a base knock at some point.
Philadelphia Phillies F5 (-.5)(-115)
Christian Walker Over .5 Hits (-145)