MLB Best Bets Today: Odds, predictions and picks for Monday October 23rd

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MLB schedule today has 2 games

Two elimination games are on the docket today in Major League Baseball, as one series will definitely end and another one could. The Diamondbacks and Phillies play first at 5:07 p.m. ET and the Phillies are heavy favorites to finish off the series and run it back as NL champs for the second straight year. The Rangers and Astros play a winner-take-all Game 7 beginning at 8:03 p.m. ET, as Houston looks to also run it back with a pennant and also play in the World Series for the fifth time in seven seasons.

 

The last time we had two Game 7s in the LCS was actually 2020 during the COVID year. The last time in a full season was all the way back in 2004. Will that be the case or will we know the two teams that will play Game 1 in the Fall Classic on Friday?

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Here are some thoughts on the October 23 card (odds from DraftKings):

(odds as of 8:10 a.m. PT)

Arizona Diamondbacks at Philadelphia Phillies (-185, 8)

Money has hit the board overnight and early this morning on the Phillies, who are looking to put a stamp on what has been another year of getting hot at the right time. The Phillies struggled a little bit early in the season in getting off to a 25-30 start, but their 65-42 record from June 1 through the end of the regular season was bested by one game by the Dodgers and Orioles and the Braves went 71-35. Arizona, meanwhile, was 51-55 over that stretch, but a good start created enough margin for error to have a shot at the playoffs and they’ve won seven games in the postseason thus far.

It will be Merrill Kelly and Aaron Nola in a rematch of Game 2. The Phillies won that game 10-0, but they scored eight runs over the sixth and seventh innings, so it was close for a while. Kelly only allowed three hits over 5.2 innings of work, but all three of them were solo homers. He wound up being on the hook for another run in the sixth, as reliever Joe Mantiply made a mess of things.

Kelly struck out six and walked three in that start, but did allow an average exit velocity of 95.4 mph. He allowed seven hard-hit balls, including the three homers. He did mix his pitches well, which was something I talked about going into that game since the Phillies seemed to be sitting on one pitch from previous hurlers that they had faced. Kelly didn’t throw any pitch more than 28% of the time, but he made three mistakes and his offense didn’t get him any support.

Much of what I said about Kelly is still relevant in this start. He is a good pitcher with good numbers. He had a 3.29 ERA with a 4.13 xERA and a 3.85 FIP in his 177.2 innings during the regular season and he’s allowed four runs on six hits in 12 innings this postseason. Unfortunately, one of the main things I looked at coming into Game 2 is still present in Game 6.

Home: 93.2 IP, 2.59 ERA, 3.43 FIP, .183/.266/.309, .258 wOBA, 9 HR, 29% K%, 9.9% BB%
Away: 84 IP, 4.07 ERA, 4.31 FIP, .261/.333/.434, .332 wOBA, 11 HR, 22.7% K%, 9.2% BB%

Kelly, much like Zac Gallen, had way better numbers at home during the regular season. The big number to me is the K% decrease. The Phillies are so dangerous when they make contact, as seen by Kelly’s start. Only three hits, but all three were homers. The weather doesn’t look like a positive or negative for pitchers tonight, so Kelly won’t get any boosts from cold weather or wind.

Nola had one of his weaker regular seasons in recent memory with a 4.46 ERA, 3.77 xERA, and a 4.03 FIP in 193.2 innings of work, but the impending free agent has made himself some money this offseason. Nola has allowed just two runs on 12 hits over 18.2 innings with a 19/2 K/BB ratio in October. He hasn’t allowed a home run yet, which is a bit surprising for a guy who gave up a career-high 32 long balls during the regular season. Nola has 44.1 playoff innings to his name and has a 3.25 ERA with a 2.88 FIP, so he’s been a premier pitcher in these types of spots.

He cruised through six shutout innings in Game 2 and only threw 82 pitches with seven strikeouts and no walks in that start. He didn’t need to go any deeper because the Phillies had a 6-0 lead by the time the bullpen came into the equation. Nola allowed an average exit velo of 87.2 mph and six hard-hit balls, but he, too, mixed his pitches effectively and kept Arizona hitters off-balance.

The home/road splits for Nola also look way more favorable than those for Kelly.

Home: 87.2 IP, 3.29 ERA, 3.40 FIP, .212/.251/.380, .272 wOBA, 12 HR, 28.6% K%, 5.0% BB%
Away: 106 IP, 5.43 ERA, 4.55 FIP, .262/.307/.460, .327 wOBA, 20 HR, 23.1% K%, 6.2% BB%

So, that’s something to keep in mind if he does have to make a road start in the World Series, as Game 2 would be on Saturday. If the Rangers win, the World Series is in Arlington. If the Astros win, the World Series is in Philadelphia. Of course, the Phillies still have to win this series, but looking ahead, it could be a thing for Nola.

But, it is not a thing tonight. This is a big price and understandably so. I’m not excited to lay the hefty number on Nola and the Phillies, but I do think they end the series tonight. It’s tough to lay a home run line in an elimination game as well, since the Diamondbacks will manage and play like there’s no tomorrow. I’m not sure there’s a super creative way to play the Phillies other than lay the moneyline price, which I will say is a much more palatable number in faraway places if you have access to those types of things.

Texas Rangers at Houston Astros (-125, 9)

Given the circumstances, it is hardly surprising that Max Scherzer struggled in Game 3 for the Rangers. He was coming off of a low-grade teres major strain, which was said to take longer to recover than the amount of time Scherzer needed to return. By pitching in Game 3, he was set up for a start on full rest in Game 7. After seeing what the returns were in Game 3, maybe the Rangers wish they had a different plan in place, but rotation depth was a concern all season long and even a compromised Scherzer seems better than the other options.

But, we may need to see it to believe it, as he allowed five runs on five hits over four innings and 63 pitches in Game 3. He struck out four and walked one, as he allowed a double, a homer, and three singles. Scherzer allowed a run to score on a wild pitch in the second and then the backbreaker was that Martin Maldonado sliced a single to left that plated a pair. Maldonado has been Houston’s weak link on offense all season and got a clutch hit with two outs.

There weren’t many silver linings in that start. Scherzer’s velocity looked fine, but he allowed an average exit velo of 97.3 mph, so he didn’t locate his pitches well. He had eight whiffs in 28 swings and allowed nine hard-hit balls. With a side session in between starts, it’s hard to fix a lot of the things that plagued Scherzer. It was good to see the velo, but the command was not there and that’s much harder to find.

On the Houston side, Javier turned in another fine outing, as he allowed two runs on three hits over 5.2 innings. He allowed a two-run homer in the fifth and that was it for the damage, but he did only have three strikeouts. The four hardest-hit balls allowed by Javier came in the fifth and sixth innings. So, I do wonder if the Astros will make it a point to have a shorter leash with him in this game.

One thing to discuss with Javier is that he’s back at home now in the friendly confines of Minute Maid Park. Javier made his last start in Arlington and he, like both pitchers in the NLCS game, has some home/road splits to his name.

Home: 68 IP, 3.71 ERA, 3.65 FIP, .237/.305/.401, .307 wOBA, 7 HR, 24.9% K%, 7.4% BB%
Away: 94 IP, 5.17 ERA, 5.24 FIP, .232/.312/.441, .323 wOBA, 18 HR, 21.9% K%, 10.2% BB%

MMP can be a really good pitcher’s park, especially when the roof is closed. The roof was closed for Game 6 and I anticipate that it will be again tonight. Javier had a higher K% and his SLG against was 40 points lower. 

Also of note is that Bryan Abreu appealed his suspension and MLB is still sitting on the decision, so he may not be available for Game 7. He pitched in Game 6 and I’m not sure why it takes the league three days to figure out an answer when they don’t have any other pressing matters at hand. I would assume that they at least uphold the suspension for a game, so I wouldn’t think he’s available tonight, but we’ll have to see.

I’m going to side with the Astros in this winner-take-all affair. There are some numbers out there with regards to Javier that point to improved fastball movement and he’s definitely thrown the ball better of late. He’s allowed two runs on four hits in 10.2 innings in this postseason and held the opposition to a .269 wOBA in September, even though he got a little unlucky with a 4.11 ERA. He had 40 strikeouts in 30.2 innings, which was impressive given the lower totals throughout the season.

I just don’t think that Scherzer is going to be as sharp as he needs to be and that will allow the Astros to play from in front. The Rangers bullpen is still shaky, despite some heroics from Jose Leclerc in Game 6. I think Houston wins and advances and I think we have a rematch of the 2022 World Series when all the dust settles tonight.

Pick: Astros -125