Last night was a prime example of why you never want to give a Philadelphia athlete or their fans any extra ammunition. After Bryce Harper took matters into his own hands yesterday with two home runs, the Phillies find themselves one win away from the NLCS for the second straight year. We’ll preview tonight’s game before going over my two plays.
The last time Spencer Strider was in Citizens Bank Park for a playoff game, he let up five earned runs and lasted just 2.1 innings. Atlanta’s ace did turn in a good outing against Philadelphia during game one of this series despite taking the loss, as he worked seven innings with eight strikeouts and two runs allowed (one earned).
After the Phillies fans were chanting “We want Strider” last night, the third playoff meeting between him and the Phillies lineup is shaping up to be a good one. Following their 11-hit performance that included six home runs in last night’s 10-2 win, the Phillies lineup is now hitting .267 this postseason with a .521 SLG and .869 OPS.
Philadelphia recorded four hard-hit balls off Braves starter Bryce Elder yesterday before he was pulled from the game after 2.2 innings of work. Elder was on pace with the Braves' first two starters in this series in terms of hard-hit balls, as Philadelphia had seven hard-hit balls against both Spencer Strider and Max Fried.
While the Braves are still trying to figure out the best way to get this Phillies lineup out, Philadelphia seems to have the Braves offenses number so far this series. Aside from two late home runs in game two, Atlanta’s lineup has not looked like the one we watched all season.
Now facing elimination in Philadelphia for the second straight year, the Braves will face lefty Ranger Suarez. In game one, Suarez was pulled after 3.2 innings, but in that span, he allowed one hit and struck out four. There is a chance Rob Thompson decides to pull him early again tonight and put the game into the hands of his bullpen that has only allowed three earned runs this entire postseason.
The total for the first five innings is set at 4.5, and I’ll be taking the under for my play at (-120). As I mentioned, the Phillies' pitching staff has a plan that has worked against the Braves offense. Atlanta has scored just one run in the first five innings of this entire series, and when they faced Ranger Suarez in game one, they registered no hard-hit balls.
In his one regular season start against Atlanta during the regular season, Suarez allowed one earned run over six innings. There is a chance he gets pulled early again tonight, giving way to a Phillies bullpen that has allowed just two earned runs in this series. When the bullpen took over for Suarez in game one, they allowed four hits over 5.1 innings of work.
When Spencer Strider faced the Phillies in game one, he got 22 swings and misses, which, aside from his lone postseason start against them last season, is on par with how he’s been against the Phillies. In eight regular-season appearances against Philadelphia, he is 8-0 with a 1.90 ERA. Between that and the fact that he pitched to a 2.90 FIP and 3.01 xFIP during the second half of the season, I think he can keep Atlanta in the game early.
Bryce Harper has continued to add to his Hall of Fame resume this postseason, and he’s been one of the few guys on the Phillies to find success against Strider. That said, my prop play for the game is Harper to have over .5 hits at (-149). Harper is hitting .278 against Strider in 18 at-bats and was able to take him deep in game one of this series.
According to statcast, Harper has a .283 expected batting average off the Braves right-hander, and he certainly enters this matchup with a lot of momentum. Harper hit .352 with a 1.081 OPS at home this season, and he is 5-11 in this series with an OPS of 1.113 or higher for all three games. This is the type of game Harper lives for, and I think he finds his way on base at least once.
F5 Under 4.5 (-120)
Bryce Harper Over .5 Hits (-149)