Because rain canceled Game 3 of the World Series, everything is shifted back a day, including the off day between Games 5 and 6, if necessary. The rain also changed the Phillies’ starting rotation, as they will now use left-hander Ranger Suarez in Game 3 on Tuesday night, followed by Aaron Nola in Game 4. If Noah Syndergaard isn’t needed in relief before Game 5, the Phillies will likely go with him in what could be an elimination game.
Zack Wheeler’s name is missing from that list because he needs time to rest and recover before pitching in Game 6. Wheeler only made three starts after returning from injury prior to the playoffs, and his velocity was lower in his Game 2 start. The Astros will stick with their original plan, which is Lance McCullers Jr. tonight.
I’ve kept all of my information on McCullers, but I’ve updated the article with Suarez now on the disabled list for the Phillies.
Houston Astros vs. Philadelphia Phillies (-125, 8)
Suarez has taken the place of Syndergaard in the starting lineup, which I find intriguing. While Suarez had better numbers during the regular season and has been used more consistently in the playoffs, the Astros were clearly superior against left-handed pitchers.
Houston finished sixth in wRC + with 112, meaning the Astros were 12% better than the league average. When we look at their performance against left-handed pitchers, they have a 124 wRC +, which is 24% higher than the league average. Houston hit.242/.315/.411 against right-handed pitchers but.261/.330/.453 against left-handed pitchers.
What concerns me about Suarez, much like the handicap I had going into the original Game 3 matchup with Syndergaard, is that he pitches to a lot of contact. While his K% was about 3% higher than Syndergaard’s, he also walked more. He does induce a lot more ground balls, which helps because the Phillies aren’t exactly a Tom Emanski-approved offense in the outfield corners, but they’re also not great around the horn. During the regular season, Suarez had a.293 BABIP against and a 34.7% Hard Hit% against. He (and many other Phillies) have been extremely fortunate in the playoffs, with a.192 BABIP against and an 84.9% LOB%.
McCullers was limited to eight starts and 47.2 innings due to injury during the regular season. He had a 2.27 ERA, 3.57 xERA, and 3.49 FIP. He’s pitched well in two postseason starts, totaling 11 innings and allowing three earned runs on ten hits with a 13/3 K/BB ratio. For the Phillies, this is an intriguing matchup. They will have a much better chance of success if they can be disciplined and work walks. For the first time in his career, McCullers used his slider and curveball more than his sinker. On 37 sinkers in play, he allowed a.842 SLG, including all four home runs and four of nine doubles.
He only allowed a.222 SLG on the slider and a.163 SLG on the curveball in 34 and 25 batted ball events, respectively. The Phillies’ high SLG could come into play if they are patient enough to be selective and get into sinker counts. If they consistently put the slider and curveball in play, it will be difficult for them to generate offense unless they get very lucky with batted balls.
McCullers has almost exclusively attacked righties with the slider and lefties with the curveball in previous starts. He also prefers to use his sinker against righties and his cutter against lefties. That means Rhys Hoskins and Nick Castellanos will be in the spotlight because they should get the most sinkers to swing at.
Following two days off, both bullpens are rested. The rainout may have aided Houston more in this regard because Rafael Montero and Ryan Pressly saw action in both games, whereas Seranthony Dominguez only saw action in Game 1. He is the biggest weapon in the Phillies’ bullpen, so his being fresh is fantastic, but the Astros’ arms are also fresher now.
To be honest, the last couple playoff series have been brutal in terms of preflop, so I’m a little hesitant here. The playoffs are a high-variability beast. It’s not my favorite time of year to gamble. I believe the Astros are better prepared for this game. Suarez makes a lot of contact, and Philadelphia’s biggest flaw is on defense. The other factor here is that McCullers, like Valdez, is an extreme ground ball pitcher with a higher strikeout rate, so he should be able to smother the Phillies’ bats. Last game, I took a chance on the Phillies against a lefty, but that was a mistake given Valdez’s batted ball splits and what it takes to score against him.
It’s similar with McCullers, except he’s a righty. In some ways, I like the Astros better now because they match up well against lefties. I thought they were going to have success against Syndergaard regardless, but now they get a left-hander with the same or even higher upside.
The Astros are cheaper than -125 at DraftKings, with some shops offering as low as -115. Some of the first five lines appear to be late to post, but they are likely in the -120 range (Caesars had this overnight) and I wanted to update this the night before. I still like them for the first five minutes as well as the entire game, but I’ll stick with the first five minutes because late-game shenanigans are always possible. I just like how the Astros have scored five runs against each Phillies starter so far, and both of them have been better pitchers than Suarez.
Astros 1st-5th pick (-120)
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