It’s not easy making it to the World Series from the wild card round, but last year, the Philadelphia Phillies proved it was more than possible. Last season, the Phillies had to go on the road for the first round of the postseason, but this year, they get to play in front of their home crowd that lives for the idea of a “Red October.” Philadelphia will be hosting the Miami Marlins in the series, and we’ll preview the first game before going over which side I’ll be backing.
With the way the Atlanta Braves played this season, the NL East division race was essentially decided before the All-Star break, which meant the Phillies and Marlins would have to grind it out in a loaded wild card race. While the Phillies put themselves in a good enough spot to avoid most of the chaos, the Marlins were in the thick of it until the end.
Miami had to deal with the injury bug for most of the season, so the young Marlins likely would not be in this position without guys like Luis Arraez, who hit .354 with a .396 OBP. In terms of pitching, an elbow injury will have Sandy Alcantara out for the rest of the season, which means young lefty Jesus Luzardo will open this series on the mound.
In 178.7 innings this season, Luzardo pitched to a 3.63 ERA with 208 strikeouts. The lefty made two starts against the Phillies this season and went 2-0 with a 3.65 ERA in 12.1 innings. Those numbers are certainly solid, but as we saw last season, the Phillies lineup comes alive at home in the postseason, and they also hit .256 with a .778 OPS against lefties this season.
While the Marlins will rely on their youth to anchor them on the mound, the Phillies will hand the ball to veteran Zack Wheeler in game one. In 192 innings, Wheeler managed a 3.61 ERA, and he closed out the season by averaging 2.3 earned runs allowed over his last ten starts. In three starts against Miami during the regular season, the right-hander took three no-decisions but would pitch to a 3.00 ERA in those 18 innings.
After going 6-2 at home last postseason, the Phillies open this series favored at (-155) on the moneyline, and I’ll be backing them for my play. The playoffs bring a different atmosphere to Citizens Bank Park, and while Jesus Luzardo may have found success against the Phillies earlier in the season, their lineup has been hitting lefties well over the last month.
Over the past 30 days, Philadelphia is 12th in hard hit percentage and 10th in OPS, wOBA, and wRC+ against lefties. The Phillies also have the 5th best pull rate against lefties in that span, which sets them up nicely against Luzardo since his 28.5% flyball rate is well above league average, and his 9.6 barrel percentage is in the 23rd percentile. A real weakness for the Marlins is their bullpen, as they pitched to a 5.43 ERA with the 7th highest hard-hit percentage allowed over the last month.
Miami closed the regular season with solid numbers against right-handed pitching, as they ranked 9th in wRC+. However, Zack Wheeler has been strong against the Marlins his whole career, and he also has a 3.69 xFIP at home and a 3.58 FIP for the second half of the season. With a 5.1% barrel percentage and .229 xBA, Wheeler is the ideal man to have on the mound to get this series started with a win.
Philadelphia Phillies (-155)