MLB Best Bets Today: Odds, predictions and picks for Thursday October 19th

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MLB schedule today has 2 games

We’ve officially got ourselves a series in the Lone Star State. The Astros came away with an 8-5 victory, as Max Scherzer didn’t have it and Cristian Javier had just enough of it. The road team is 3-0 now in that series, as Houston led 5-0 and both bullpens struggled their way through the rest of the game.

 

Game 4 features Jose Urquidy and Andrew Heaney, a bit of a surprise starter in some respects for the Astros, as I’ll talk about shortly.

Will we wind up with a series in Phoenix? The D-Backs went home down 2-0 and will turn to Brandon Pfaadt in hopes of making things competitive, while the Phillies go with Ranger Suarez after getting dynamite starts from Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola. 

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Here are some thoughts on the October 19 card (odds from DraftKings):

(odds as of 6:00 a.m. PT)

Philadelphia Phillies (-135, 9) at Arizona Diamondbacks

The Phillies are laying a number on the road, as Suarez and Pfaadt are the listed starters with two rested bullpens following the travel day on Wednesday. Philadelphia has clearly looked like the better team through the first two games of the series, winning both by a combined score of 15-3, including the 10-0 Game 2 victory.

The margin of victory isn’t what you want to look at in the postseason because low-leverage relievers often mop up games in hopes of saving better arms for bigger spots. The Diamondbacks tried to sneak Joe Mantiply in there to preserve the 3-0 deficit, but he would end up letting an inherited runner score and then three more runs of his own. Ryne Nelson mopped up the next inning, which means he apparently won’t be the Game 4 starter. Sizable deficits can become laughers with lightly-used arms and lesser-caliber arms thrown into the fire.

So, I wouldn’t put too much stock in the 10-0 game, but at the same time, the Diamondbacks have had just four at bats with a runner in scoring position through two games. The Phillies have had 17, along with hitting six home runs. It seems to be very clear which postseason offensive profile was sustainable and which one wasn’t.

It will be up to Pfaadt to give his team a chance in this one, as he has allowed three runs on nine hits with six strikeouts and a walk in two postseason starts covering seven innings. He went 2.2 innings against the Brewers with three runs allowed on seven hits and followed that up with 4.1 shutout innings against the Dodgers. The 25-year-old rookie has certainly embraced the challenges of the postseason and that start against the Dodgers was in Arizona’s only game at Chase Field of the playoffs so far.

What concerns me the most here is that Pfaadt allowed 22 home runs in just 96 innings during the regular season. Even after his July return to the rotation, where he posted a 4.22 ERA with a 4.35 FIP in 70.1 innings of work, he allowed 13 long balls. He did allow 15 of the 22 home runs on the road and home/road splits are a common theme for the Diamondbacks, but he allowed a .314/.367/.521 slash at home with a .376 wOBA and a .253/.290/.545 slash with a .349 wOBA on the road.

The cool, calm, and collected Suarez has allowed one run on four hits through two playoff starts covering 8.2 innings. He had a 4.18 ERA over 125 innings during the regular season and actually struggled with 10 runs on 14 hits in 11.1 innings over his final two starts against the Mets and Pirates before looking like a different guy with higher stakes here in the playoffs.

In the second half, the Diamondbacks ranked 15th with a 105 wRC+ against lefties at home, posting a .328 wOBA. That will be the lineup Suarez will face, but he is well-equipped to pitch away from power with a 48.5% GB% and only 13 HR allowed in 125 frames. He’s had a 54.2% GB% in his two playoff starts to this point, so this game may come down to the Phillies infield and Arizona’s batted ball luck.

As a lefty, Suarez may be able to contain Arizona’s running game. To this point, the Diamondbacks have not been very aggressive on the bases, but they may have to take more chances moving forward. They cannot compete with Philadelphia’s home run barrage, so they’re going to have to try and generate more offense. They haven’t had enough baserunners and have trailed too much to really run, but if they get some guys on in this game, they’re going to have to push the issue. To me, that’s the only way to really try and keep up.

Ultimately, we’re looking at two teams that just aren’t on the same level right now. The Phillies don’t have the benefit of the home crowd, but hostile environments aren’t really a thing for them at this point. Pfaadt struggled badly in a stressful Game 1 situation against the Brewers and then pitched well with a 2-0 series lead against the Dodgers, where most of the pressure was on the opposition. Here, in the biggest start of his career, the youngster has all the pressure in the world because falling down 3-0 would very likely mark the end of the season.

I prefer the Phillies pen to the Arizona pen if push comes to shove in this one, and it likely will. Also, I love how aggressively JT Realmuto has called games with Suarez behind the plate, knowing that he doesn’t have to ask him to work super deep into games. Suarez did give the Phillies five innings last time out and I think we’ll see the same here.

I think Philly is just too good and there’s just a lot of pressure on Pfaadt to perform, so I’ll lay the number here.

Pick: Phillies -135

Houston Astros at Texas Rangers (-120, 9.5)

The thing about a best-of-seven series compared to a best-of-five series is that it really challenges a team’s rotation depth. We’ve seen both Jose Urquidy and Andrew Heaney in the playoffs already, but the stakes are higher here. Heaney was the Game 1 starter for the Rangers against the Orioles after Jordan Montgomery and Nathan Eovaldi were used in the Wild Card series against the Rays. Urquidy pitched Game 4 against a Twins lineup that wasn’t doing much offensively and a decidedly lesser group than the Rangers.

That being said, what happens here with these two guys feels like anybody’s guess. I’m surprised to see the Rangers opt to go with Heaney, as he is left-handed and Dane Dunning is right-handed. Presumably, Dunning was the other choice, but it seems like he will come in as the second part of a piggyback as opposed to the starter. I guess I can see Texas’s thought process in that Heaney may be a better fit for opening the game, whereas Dunning can be maybe more of a fireman and either keep the Rangers in the game or potentially help them extend a lead.

Truth be told, you’re kind of picking your poison with the Astros, since they’re so good offensively against pitchers of either handedness, but I tend to prefer shying away from using lefties because of the right-handed nature of the Astros lineup. However, you’ve still got Yordan Alvarez and Kyle Tucker to worry about.

Heaney worked 3.2 innings in that Game 1 start at Camden Yards and allowed a run on two hits. He only struck out one batter, but also only walked one and set the game up for the Rangers, who followed with two Dunning innings before turning it over to the relievers. I presume we’re looking at a similar 3-2 or 2-3 type of plan here, which would be the hope if everything goes according to plan. 

Heaney finished the regular season with a 4.15 ERA, 4.55 xERA, and a 4.66 FIP in 147.1 innings of work. He was better at home with a .328 wOBA against and a 4.06 ERA than he was on the road with a 4.29 ERA and a .345 wOBA against. Righties hit 22 of the 23 homers he allowed, but they also had 513 plate appearances compared to 128 for lefties. Lefties had a higher batting average and OBP than righties.

Dunning, who I consider a lock to pitch in this game, allowed a run on two hits against eight batters in his two innings during Game 1. He struck out one and walked one. Dunning finished the regular season with a 3.70 ERA, 4.48 xERA, and a 4.27 FIP in 172.2 innings of work. He actually had better road numbers than home numbers, as he allowed 15 of his 20 homers at Globe Life.

I really don’t know what to expect from Urquidy here. He had a solid start against the Twins last round with 5.2 innings and two runs allowed on just three hits. Two of the hits were homers, but he struck out six. The Rangers don’t strike out nearly as much as the Twins did, so Urquidy is likely to allow more balls in play in this one. He had a 5.29 ERA with a 4.70 xERA and a 5.38 FIP in 63 innings of work during the regular season.

Urquidy only had 45 K in 63 IP during the regular season, so the K per inning bump against the Twins doesn’t feel like what we can expect here. The Rangers are way more adept at making contact and are just an overall better offense. 

I am interested to see the lineup construction for Texas here. Urquidy had reverse platoon splits this season, which means that righties hit the righty better than lefties did. He allowed a .354 wOBA to righties and a .319 wOBA to lefties, as righties batted .292 with a .474 SLG. For his career, Urquidy has allowed a .334 wOBA to righties and a .468 SLG, while lefties have a .269 wOBA and a .364 SLG. A lot has been made of the placement of guys like Robbie Grossman and Evan Carter in the lineup, as the Rangers have looked to isolate any possible edge.

Grossman hit third back on October 7 against Kyle Bradish, who has higher numbers against righties than lefties for his career. Grossman hit third against left-hander Framber Valdez in Game 2 of this series. Carter had been hitting fifth, but hit third last night. Mitch Garver had been hitting third. So, I guess we’ll see, but I think that’s an interesting element to give a little thought to in this one. I don’t know if it will materially impact the game or not, but it is something worth thinking about.

Of the two games, this is the one I feel the weakest about. I think that both Heaney and Urquidy have heightened degrees of variance with their possible performances here and Dunning, even as a righty, is no lock to perform well. This probably becomes a bullpen game and I could argue that Houston’s pen is a bit more trustworthy, but not to the point where I’m excited enough to take them in the game.

I don’t have a bet on side or total here. For a player prop, I think Heaney Under 11.5 outs at +115 is a pretty decent look. I’m not sure he’ll be effective enough to get through four innings. Even in more optimal conditions against the Orioles in a good pitcher’s park with some platoon advantages in mind, he went 3.2 innings. That one won’t be officially tracked in the sheet, but that’s the one bet I do like here.