As we hit the homestretch of the 2020 Major League Baseball season, the race for the postseason is heating up! The wild card races are tight in both leagues, with five teams competing for the final two playoffs spots in the American League and six teams tightly bunched up in the National League.
When we look at the schedule today, several games have major playoff implications. The Chicago White Sox and the Minnesota Twins match up in the Windy City, battling for the AL Central Division title, and potentially the top seed in the AL playoffs. The San Francisco Giants play the Seattle Mariners at home, as the away team, with both teams fighting to make the playoffs in their respective leagues.
Other games of note are the Blue Jays and the red-hot New York Yankees playing in the Bronx, and the Dodgers versus the Colorado Rockies from Coors Field in Colorado. Four our daily free betting pick, we will head to Philadelphia, where the Phillies host the New York Mets, with both teams badly needing a win to keep their postseason dreams alive.
New York Mets (22-27) at Philadelphia Phillies (24-24)
The New York Mets are in Philly Thursday for game three of a three-game set with the Phillies, with the series all tied up at one game apiece. The Phillies took game one on Tuesday night, 4-1 behind a strong start from Jake Arietta, with Didi Gregorius providing the pop with a homer and two RBI. New York took game two last night, in dramatic come from behind fashion, as they were down 4-0 early and rallied for a 5-4 victory. The Phillies are coming off of a seven games series against the Miami Marlins that saw them lose five of seven games.
For New York, the Mets are two and a half games back in the NL wild-card race, and last night’s win snapped a three-game losing streak. The Mets had won six of their first ten games this month to keep themselves in the playoff conversation before the recent skid, but would need a big finish to backdoor into the postseason.
Starting tonight for the Mets is Seth Lugo (2-3 2.63 ERA), and for the Phillies, it is their ace, Aaron Nola (5-3 2.40 ERA). The game total over/under is set at seven and a half runs. The Phillies are -120 home field favorites. First pitch is scheduled for 4:05 PM PST from Citizen’s Bank Ballpark.
New York Mets
The New York Mets are finally starting to score some runs, but is it going to be too little, too late, for the Mets to sneak into the postseason? New York exploded for eighteen runs against the Toronto Blue Jays last week, and fourteen runs against the Phillies the week before. In the month of September, New York has scored seven or more runs six times in fourteen games.
The Mets record in those games is 5-1, but in games where they haven’t been able to score, they just haven’t been able to win as they are 2-6 in games where they score six runs or fewer. The Mets now lead all of Major League Baseball in both batting average and on-base percentage and are fifth in slugging. They need to score lots of runs to win, though, as they are 19th in ERA and 25th in batting average against.
Seth Lugo (2-3 2.63 ERA)
Seth Lugo has bounced around between the bullpen and the starting rotation in his five-year stint with the New York Mets, and no matter what they ask him to do, he has had a lot of success. This year he started his season pitching in relief and posted some strong results. The Mets decided to move him into the starting rotation last month, and he has been even better as a starter.
While he hasn’t gone deep in any of his four starts, he has been solid when he has been in the game. In seventeen combined innings as a starter, Lugo has allowed just five earned runs and has struck out 25 hitters. Against the Phillies two weeks ago, Luge pitched five quality inning, allowing just one earned run on only four hits, while striking out eight.
The Philadelphia Phillies had a shot to lock up a postseason spot in their last series against the Miami Marlins. But instead of setting themselves up for a sure-fire spot in the postseason, they lost five of the seven games and are now in a dog fight to extend their season. To make matters worse, they led at some point in four of those five losses, just like they led last night, when they blew a big lead against the Mets.
The Phillies bullpen has struggled all season long, and despite the fact that they went out and grabbed several veteran relievers at the trade deadline, the bullpen is still haunting Philly. Newly acquired guys like Heath Hembree and David Phelps are really struggling. Brandon Workman does already have five saves for Philly, but he also has a couple of blown saves, including one last week against the Marlins.
Aaron Nola (5-3 2.40 ERA)
If the Phillies are going to find their way into the postseason, they need Aaron Nola to step up huge in his last couple of starts of the season. And when you look at how he has pitched this season, he is certainly more than capable of going out and winning a game on his own. The Phillies have won five out of his last seven starts, and he has been light’s out in several of those outings.
He pitched seven shutout innings against the Mets last month at home. In his last start, he worked seven innings against the Marlins, while not allowing a single run, and he pitched eight shutout innings against the Nationals two starts before that. When Nola is on his game, he can get you seven or more quality innings and shut a team down.
Who Do I Like?
I think that Aaron Nola does something special tonight. The Phillies bullpen is consistently letting them down, and I would expect Philly manager Joe Girardi to ride Nola until his wheels fall off in this one. Nola has pitched into the seventh inning or later in five out of his last seven starts, and as long as he is pitching well, I don’t see him coming out of this game.
The same cannot be said for Seth Lugo, as he just isn’t a guy that New York can get a lot of innings out of. Lugo has been mostly a reliever in his career and has yet to come close to approaching a hundred pitches in a game this season, in thirteen appearances. That means this game is likely to boil down to Aaron Nola against the Mets bullpen. In that scenario, it is hard not to love Aaron Nola.
At home this season, Aaron Nola has been outstanding. He is 3-1 with a 1.57 ERA in five starts. He has 46 Ks in just 34.1 innings and is allowing opposing batters to hit just .133 against him at Citizens Bank Ballpark. After getting roughed up at home on Opening Day, Nola has made four home starts and has been essentially unhittable.
In his last four home starts, Nola has pitched 29 innings and has allowed only two earned runs and has averaged double-digit punchouts. That is good for a 0.62 ERA. I think Nola gives us a similar performance as he did when he hosted the Mets in Philly last month, when he allowed just three hits over seven innings and didn’t give up a run.
No disrespect to Seth Lugo, but this is a mismatch on the mound. Even if Lugo is at his best, he has only pitched five innings or more, twice all year long. He just won’t be in this game long enough to be able to go toe to toe with Aaron Nola. Both of these teams are struggling right now, and I see Philly finding a way to take care of business tonight at home in a game they know they must have.
The Phillies are great at home when favored this season, with a 12-6 record, and I expect that trend to continue tonight. The Mets record when they are road dogs this year? One of the worst in the game at 3-9. I’ll take the home team that rarely losses when favored against the road team that can’t seem to win as dogs tonight in Philly! Give me the Philadelphia Phillies laying -120 at home!