Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 2:30 PM EST. Odds subject to change.
Arizona -101 over Texas
8:03 PM EST. Max has looked distinctly un-Scherzerlike in his two previous playoff outings for the Texas Rangers, both against Houston in the ALCS. He allowed seven runs on nine hits including two home runs in 6.2 innings, walking three, and hitting a man with only six strikeouts in 31 batters faced. There was no velocity drop—his pitches all matched his season-long averages—but his average release point was a smidge lower than usual in his last appearance. The bigger problem was that his breaking stuff didn’t have its usual bite. Inarguably, his slider is one of the best individual pitches in baseball history, but against the Astros, they just hung in the middle of the zone. Scherzer threw 39 sliders and curves in the ALCS, but those pitches generated only seven swinging strikes, four of which were against Martín Maldonado and Jeremy Peña. His breaking stuff wasn’t fooling the better hitters in the Houston lineup whatsoever. Is he running on fumes after 15 years and close to 3000 innings? Maybe.
For the Diamondbacks, rookie Brandon Pfaadt has been their best pitcher of the postseason. In two NLCS starts against the Phillies, he struck out 16 and allowed only two runs in 9.2 innings. He achieved 13 swinging strikes in 70 pitches in Game 3 and 15 in 64 pitches in Game 7. Of those whiffs, 15 came from his devastating sweeper. In the regular season, he allowed 22 home runs in 96 innings, but in four playoff starts, he gave up just two dingers in 16.2 innings so far. Essentially, he has cut his home run rate in half (small sample something something). We’re watching a young pitcher grow up right before our eyes but now his confidence is soaring.
The benefit of Game 2’s 9-1 blowout for both teams is that all of the high-leverage relievers were rested, even more so after an off day. The only pitcher who worked in both of the first two games of the World Series was Texas’ Dane Dunning. Aroldis Chapman and Josh Sborz haven’t even appeared yet despite being the club’s two best relievers by far , according to DRA-, in the regular season. It’s highly likely we’ll see both of them this evening. Closer José Leclerc is also ready to go after throwing two shutout innings on 26 pitches in Game 1.
Arizona needed just two innings of relief in Game 2 following Merrill Kelly’s excellent seven-inning performance. Andrew Saalfrank got four outs in the eighth and ninth, throwing 17 pitches, and Luis Frías recorded the final two outs, using 14 bullets. Expect big guns Kevin Ginkel and Paul Sewald to make appearances. It’s worth noting that both teams are planning on heavy bullpen usage in Game 4. That shouldn’t have too much of an impact on Game 3 because it’s the World Series. You use whatever pitchers you need to win today and worry about tomorrow later on. However, Bruce Bochy and Torey Luvullo might be reluctant to use some of their long relief options in the event of a blowout.
Don’t expect any lineup changes for either squad. The starting nines we’ve all become acquainted with this October will take the field again in Game 3. Catcher Jonah Heim is an excellent framer, but a middling thrower. On the whole, the Rangers are better at holding baserunners than they get credit for. They allowed a 75% stolen-base success rate, which was better than the MLB average of 80%. Arizona is a great baserunning team though, and they’re winning the battle of the basepaths so far, going 5-5 in steal attempts through the first two games.
The Diamondbacks lineup broke out for nine runs in Game 2. Their most productive hitter through the first two games has been designated hitter Tommy Pham, who is 5-9 with one of their two home runs. A long, long time ago, that would’ve been a dilemma for Luvullo heading into the NL ballpark—should he play Pham in the field or bench his hottest hitter with no DH? Baseball is strategically less complicated these days, but we’re better off seeing Pham and Mitch Garver step into the box than Pfaadt and Scherzer.
Against breaking pitches, the Diamondbacks managed a .384 slugging percentage this season, 12th-best in MLB. They’ll see plenty more tonight, but the x-factor will be the quality of those breaking pitches. If they’re anything like the ones Scherzer threw when he last pitched in the World Series in 2019, they won’t have much of a chance. If they’re like the ones he floated into the zone against the Astros, it’ll be Arizona’s advantage. Regardless, If Texas was priced in the -140 to -160 range in Game’s 1 and 2, why shouldn’t Arizona get the same respect in their own ballpark? Hell, Texas should be stuck 0-2 and in a big hole but they got extremely lucky in Game 1. Since we’re mining for value, it’s obvious to us that the market just isn’t buying into Arizona despite the outstanding results they’ve had for weeks. Arizona cannot be significantly less at home i8n Game 2 than Texas was at home in the first two games. Regardless of outcome, Arizona offers up all the value again.
Arizona -101 (Risking 2.02 units - To Win: 2.00)