MLB Playoffs: Phillies vs. Cardinals NL Wild-Card Prediction

BetQL previews the NL wild-card matchup between the Phillies and Cardinals and gives a prediction

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Phillies vs. Cardinals Preview

After winning the NL Central for the fifth time in 10 years, the St. Louis Cardinals will host the Philadelphia Phillies in the wild-card round. The last time the Phillies were in the playoffs was 2011 when they lost to St. Louis in the NLDS, whereas the Cardinals have been eliminated in the (old) wild-card round in each of the last two seasons. St. Louis is a slight favorite to win the series at -134 (best price at FanDuel) while Philadelphia’s moneyline is +120 (best price at Caesars), although the Phillies won four of the seven head-to-head games between these teams this year.

St. Louis Pitching

The Cardinals have a somewhat unsettled rotation heading into the postseason, although there is no shortage of options. Miles Mikolas is a safe bet to earn a start during the wild-card round after going 13-13 with a 3.29 ERA this year and posting a 2.32 ERA in September. Lefty Jose Quintana is also a strong candidate to earn a start in this series, going 3-2 with a 2.01 ERA in 12 starts after being traded to St. Louis at the deadline. 

If there is a third game, the Cardinals will have plenty of options. Veteran Adam Wainwright will surely be one of them, as he has pitched 114.1 innings in the postseason with a 2.83 ERA. However, Wainwright had a 6.38 ERA in September and lost twice to the Phillies earlier this year. That could open the door for LHP Jordan Montgomery, who was excellent after joining the Cardinals midseason, going 6-3 with a 3.11 ERA over 11 starts. But he also started to fall apart down the stretch, losing three of his last four starts. Jack Flaherty is also an option, as he’ll be on regular rest for Game 3 and has been steady if unspectacular since returning from the IL in September.

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Philadelphia’s Pitching

The Phillies are set to send Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola and Ranger Suarez to the mound against St. Louis. To some extent, it’s surprising that the Phillies are going to Wheeler in Game 1 after only returning from the IL on Sept. 21. He’s only made three starts since then, although he’s allowed just one run on nine hits over 15 innings since his return. Of course, this will be his first career postseason start.

Meanwhile, Nola is an obvious choice to start in the postseason despite going 11-13 in his 32 starts this year. However, his 3.25 ERA was the second-best of his career. Nola is also coming off a 2.93 ERA in September and 6.2 scoreless innings against the Astros in his final start of the regular season, although he lost to the Cardinals in July and will also be making his postseason debut. Finally, Suarez is Philly’s choice for Game 3 after he went 10-7 with a 3.65 ERA in 29 starts this year. The young lefty became a consistent part of the Philly rotation this year and is being preferred over Kyle Gibson and Noah Syndergaard.

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Betting Trends

The Cardinals have a chance to get an advantage as the home team in this series. St. Louis is always well-supported and went 53-28 (.654) at home this season. The Cards were also the third-best home favorite in baseball this year at 40-17 (.702). However, the Phillies held their own away from home this year, going 18-22 (.450) as a road underdog, which was the eighth-best record as a road underdog in the majors.

With both teams expected to start at least one lefty in this series, each team’s ability to hit lefties could be a factor. That could give St. Louis a slight edge, as the Cardinals had the second-best record in baseball against southpaws, going 24-11 (.686). But the Phillies were also one of the better teams in baseball against lefties, posting a 28-17 (.622) record, which is far better than their winning percentage against righties, which could dissuade the Cardinals from starting multiple lefties in this series.

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Phillies vs. Cardinals Prediction

Despite an unsettled rotation heading into the series, the Cardinals have more pitching depth than the Phillies. The Philadelphia bullpen also ranked 11th in the National League in ERA this year, whereas the St. Louis bullpen had the fourth-best ERA in the NL. Bullpen woes and subpar defensive players at several positions have held the Phillies back all season and could be difficult obstacles to overcome in the playoffs. With home-field advantage, strong defensive players, and two bona-fide stars having excellent seasons in Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado, the Cardinals will make quick work of the Phillies in this series.

Pick: Cardinals win series, 2-0.

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