Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 12:30 PM EST odds are subject to change.
World Series - Game 1
Philadelphia +145 over Houston
8:03 PM EST. Nobody in an Astros jersey wants to hear about trash cans anymore. It was five years ago, or “half a decade” as some will put it, using a unit of time that exists exclusively to make “five years” sound longer. That, and they did nothing wrong. That, and they were unfairly punished. That, and every other team has cheated, too. That, and most of the players involved are long gone. That, and they’ve continued to win since the scandal broke. But again, they did nothing wrong, so, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, what is a scandal? Everything has always been okay, and has continued to be.
Phillies fans are old pros at trying to outrun a reputation they had no part in creating. Maybe you’ve heard about the snowballs and the batteries and the guy who threw up on a little girl on purpose. These things happened longer, and in some cases much longer, than half a decade ago, so that makes them irrelevant (at least to Astros fans). And yet, they will live on forever as the reputations of those alive today.
In any case, this World Series isn’t about what happened before. The past is full of mistakes and misjudgments and misconceptions. That has no importance here. We’re just trying to get a World Series in before Putin falls asleep on the launch button. And in game one, the future is in the hands of a pair of aces, Justin Verlander (RHP - HOU) and Aaron Nola (RHP - PHI).
Nola and Zack Wheeler have been leaned on heavily both by the Phillies and the media coverage of their playoff projections. These number one and two starters are the Phillies’ best chance at a win, even though the Phillies have lost one of their starts in every playoff series of at least five games they’ve played thus far. Nevertheless, Nola has made two incredible efforts on his way here. Then there was the last one, his third, when he looked like the version of himself who Phillies fans hoped had gotten lost in the subway tunnels; the one that was squirrellier, slower, and less in control. Nola’s deep arsenal is going to play the biggest role here, given the Astros’ ability to lay into four-seamers and changeups. Fortunately, Nola’s got a knuckle-curve and a sinker to throw at them, too, and Houston doesn’t handle them as well. Like Verlander, he has been good about going deep into games, as well, giving the Phillies at least six frames in five out of his last six regular season starts and in two out of three in the postseason.
Verlander, who has never won a World Series game despite pitching in them for the last three decades, has a previous start to overcome as well. Fueled by nothing but wholesome, all-natural American slumber, Verlander got his ass absolutely kicked off in the ALDS but came back with it firmly reinstalled for six innings of one-run ball in the ALCS featuring 11 strikeouts and one walk. It also let him show off how comfortable he can get the longer into a game he goes, a horrifying glimpse at what he’s capable of for his enemies. They’re going to make a big deal about his age (39), but that’s because the only thing guys in their mid-to-late-thirties love more than paying for concert tickets is idolizing other, more successful guys in their mid-to-late-thirties. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, Justin Verlander is good but he’s a fly-ball pitcher against a home-run hitting team. That he dominated the Yankees (who didn’t in the second half of the season) means jack.
The only real question is in which order Rob Thomson will use Seranthony Dominguez and Jose Alvarado. They’ve been two of the best relievers of the postseason, with both hitting triple digits with devastating command, perfect for getting out of late inning jams. Alvarado has succeeded after advice from the Phillies to just throw strikes and see what happens, and Dominguez gave the Phillies their last six outs of Game Four of the NLCS. Zach Eflin is around if things get hairy early, David Robertson is technically a late option as well, and Andrew Bellatti and Connor Brogdon are here for support. Thomson has shown a proclivity for running the pen his way, twitching the occasional eyeball of the Phillies viewer.
The Astros bullpen has allowed three solo home runs in the entire playoffs. They have an 0.82 ERA. They manage to shut down lefties without carrying a lefty during the season. They’re good but so is Philadelphia’s pen. You have to be good to eliminate Atlanta and San Diego.
The Phillies’ strength this postseason has been their ability to get a big hit out of just about anybody. They each come with a personal touch: Bryce Harper’s disappear off the bat, Rhys Hoskins’ come with an exclamation point, Kyle Schwarber’s break stadium records, Bryson Stott’s come after patient, strategic at-bats, J.T. Realmuto’s are long and loud or sneaky and abrupt, and Jean Segura’s come just when you need them.
No one has scored more runs than the Astros in the postseason, and they averaged 4.5 runs a game against the Yankees–more than enough to beat the Phillies if their pitching does what it’s supposed to do. In the break between the ALCS sweep and the World Series, they had five members of their lineup nominated for Silver Sluggers (even though one of them was Martín Maldonado, who hit .186). And yet, in their last loss, Nola shut them down for almost seven innings–and the Astros’ projected lineup has gone 6-for-48 against him, with no homers and 18 strikeouts. This is not a series bet. This is a one-game bet and when we get Aaron Nola at this price, we’re going to bite each and every time.
Philadelphia +149 (Risking 2 units - To Win: 2.98)