The Cleveland Indians picked up a big win for us last night, that will go a long way into seeing the Indians make the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season. Not only did the Indians win the game in blowout fashion, 10-1 over the Philadelphia Phillies, they also saw the two teams they are chasing, the Oakland Athletics and Tampa Bay Rays, lose to teams that are well out of contention. As Ice Cube once said, today was a good day for Cleveland.
After picking up the win last night, and cashing our ticket along the way, the Indians are now tied with the Rays for the second wild card in the American League, with the Athletics just two games ahead. It is a three-team race for two spots in the American League and the next week of games are certain to be exciting.
For the Phillies, the loss last night all but seals their fate, they won’t be making the playoffs this season. Philadelphia finds themselves six games backs with just eight games left on the schedule, and even if they run the table, it likely won’t be enough to make up enough ground to sneak into the playoffs. To call it a disappointing season in Philly would be a gross understatement as the Phillies went all-in on a World Series push this season, and they didn’t even make the playoffs.
Don’t be shocked if manager Gabe Kapler is sent packing as soon as the season ends as he is on the hottest of hot seats right now. For today’s pick, we will stay right here with Philadelphia, as the Phillies head to Washington for a five-game series with the Nationals.
The Washington Nationals host the Philadelphia Phillies tonight in game one of a jumbo five-game series with the Phillies. After the opening game of the series tonight, the two teams will play a doubleheader on Tuesday and finish the series up on Thursday. The Nationals are currently tied with the Milwaukee Brewers for the first wild card in the National League and need a strong finish to make sure they secure a spot in the playoffs, while also ensuring that the wild card game will be played in Washington.
The Chicago Cubs and the New York Mets are lurking four and four and a half games back respectively and are hoping the Nats or Brewers slip up down the stretch and allow them to get back into the postseason conversation.
For the Phillies, their season appears to be done as they are six games back of Washington and Milwaukee for the wild card and would need to sweep this series and get some help if they are going to find a way to sneak into the playoffs. But in baseball, it ain’t over until it’s over, and this team is still technically alive so you can expect them to be playing hard tonight.
Starting tonight for the Nationals is Patrick Corbin (13-7 3.10 ERA), and for the Phillies it is Zach Eflin (9-12 4.00 ERA). The game total over-under is set nine runs. The Nationals are -197 home favorites. First pitch is scheduled for 4:05 PM PST from Nationals Park in Washington DC.
In most years, the Phillies would be done at this point. Down six games with just eight to go is usually a gap that just can’t be closed. But with a stroke of luck and good scheduling, the Phillies will have at least some chance of making it to the playoffs still. They have five straight games against one of the teams they are chasing, and each win would be basically worth two wins, as the Nationals would also be losing. If the Phillies were to sweep the Nationals this week, they would leave the series down just one game with three games left to play. Still hard to manage, but there is a path to the playoffs for Philly.
But in order to keep that dream alive, they must win tonight in the series opener. If they lose even a single game in this series, the season is over for Philadelphia. With the season hanging in the balance, they turn to Zach Eflin tonight in game one.
Eflin has been solid most of the year. He had a brutal month of July that saw him go 0-4 with an 11.88 ERA in five starts, but besides that one bad month, he has pretty good. In September, when his team has needed him the most, he has posted an ERA of just 1.19 in four starts. He has given up a few unearned runs, so he hasn’t been quite as good as that ERA might imply, but he has done a great job of elevating his performance late in the season.
In his last two starts, he faced the hard-hitting Atlanta Braves twice, and tossed a combined ten and two-thirds of an inning and did not allow an earned run. He did struggle with his command though, as he walked five guys in the two games, and gave up four unearned runs. But to post these types of results against a team as good as the Braves is impressive, nonetheless.
Eflin has been great against the Nationals this season as he is 2-1 with a 1.50 ERA in three starts. He has twenty-one strikeouts, more than he has against any other team this year, and the Nationals are hitting just .182 against him in eighteen innings of work. The Phillies need a huge outing out of him tonight to keep their season alive.
Patrick Corbin is very quietly putting together a career year for the Nationals. His thirteen wins are just one shy of his all-time mark, and his 3.10 ERA is the lowest he has ever posted. He has 224 punchouts and a WAR of nearly six. Corbin tends to get ignored a little bit with Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg snatching most of the headlines, but this guy has been really good, especially here late in the season.
Since the All-Star break, Corbin is 6-2 with a 2.74 ERA in thirteen starts and has a whopping ninety-five strikeouts in just seventy-eight and a third innings worked. The Nats have taken advantage of these string results as they are 12-5 when Corbin starts since mid-June. In his last start, he tossed six innings against the St. Louis Cardinals and did not allow an earned run while striking out eleven. Against Philadelphia this year, he is 1-0 with a 3.32 ERA in three starts, the Nationals won all three games.
This is playoff baseball. While not technically a playoff game, this series will serve as the first round for both of these teams. If the Phillies don’t sweep, and they won’t, their season is done. And if the Nationals take care of business, like they should, they will be able to set their rotation for the playoffs and give themselves a great shot of advancing past the wild card game. This series simply could not mean more to both teams.
Most playoff games are lower scoring. Teams are quicker to go to their bullpens, play for one run in innings, and they will make the other team fight for every run on the board. That generally leads to lower scoring games. And with two starters on the mound that fully understand how important this game is, and that have the talent to shut the opposing team down, I think that is just what we will see tonight.
I won’t touch the side as I think that the Nationals are going to win, but I am not about to lay nearly -200 to back them. But when I see the game total at just nine runs, I feel like it is going to come in well under. Both of these starters should be good, and with a playoff-like atmosphere in the air, the game should be very competitive. This game has 3-2 written all over it. So, I will jump on the under nine runs and expect it to come in with room to spare.