Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 2:00 PM EST. Odds subject to change.
Updated Series Price
Arizona +240 over Texas
8:03 PM EST. This was going to be Jonathan Gray’s spot, until Max Scherzer’s back made an executive decision after the third inning. With Gray working three unexpected innings, Game 4 belongs to Johnny Entirestaff. A Dane Dunning and Andrew Heaney tandem makes sense. Each of them got into Game 2, but neither had an especially stressful outing, combining for two baserunners over an inning of work while only throwing 15 pitches. Each had an off-speed pitch working. For Dunning, it was the slider; for Heaney, the changeup. Whether they can muster sharper fastballs could dictate how taxing the game is on the rest of the staff. It wouldn’t surprise to see Cody Bradford, either.
For the Snakes, it’s not the first time they’re forced to offer an elephantine bullpen game of their own. The last time they had to do this was in Game 4 of the NLCS, yielding modest returns. Eight different arms combined to surrender five runs (four earned), while their 22 whiffs on 76 swings led them to tally 11 strikeouts. That was enough to counter the five walks allowed by Andrew Saalfrank and Ryan Thompson. When it was all said and done they were able to keep the Phillies in check just enough to bridge the gap to Kevin Ginkel and Paul Sewald to close out a win. And, really, being good enough is all that matters.
Expect each manager to be judicious in making pitching changes. How the guys who start the game perform?—it’s hard to call them true starters in this context?—will dictate the height of the tightrope Bruce Bochy and Torey Lovullo walk in navigating to the end of the matchup. This is the only game in the series where a game was played the day before and will be played the day after, which emphasizes the importance of threading the needle. It’s not like either team is saving any particular pitcher for later on at this point, but they’re doing their damndest to avoid burning them. The Rangers didn’t quite have that luxury last night, and might have lost Josh Sborz for tonight after he threw 30 pitches in just one inning of work in Game 3. On the other side, Brandon Pfaadt provided enough length after getting touched up for three runs that he flipped what was a potential weakness for Arizona into an advantage—the bullpen’s A-unit was able to bank additional rest as the D’Backs were able to use arms exclusively down the pecking order to finish out the game.
Among all relievers in the postseason, Jose Leclerc has thrown the most pitches by far. The next three are all Diamondbacks: Ginkel, Ryan Thompson, and Sewald. Some of this comes with the territory of being on the last two teams standing, but it also helps illustrate how each club has navigated the back half of playoff games. Texas has been able to spread innings out more prudently before going to Leclerc to put the final nail in the coffin, as evidenced by three other relievers (Bryan Abreu, Hector Neris, and Craig Kimbrel) having had heavier workloads than their next-favored options (Josh Sborz and Dane Dunning). Meanwhile, Arizona has had to lean on its most experienced arms (excluding Miguel Castro) out of necessity.
With lineups remaining the same, so does the reality of their combined defense. Arizona should continue to try (and generally succeed) to run on Jonah Heim, who will continue to finagle strikes as much as he can. The Rangers offense forcing a play from the outfield to home plate would stack the weakest parts of the Diamondbacks’ defense like mismatched Tetris pieces. That would require keeping the Rangers’ contact in the park, of course.
We don’t yet know what will happen with Adolis García, who tweaked something on a swing and was removed from Game 3, but before he departed he showed how valuable his arm can be in right field. His bat is valuable too. García has been an anchor in the Rangers' lineup all playoffs long. Even after going 0-for-3 on Monday, he is still batting .323 with eight home runs, 22 RBI and a 1.108 OPS in October. Bochy was mum on García's status, kicking the can down the road until Tuesday. "We're being optimistic there," Bochy said. "But we'll know more tomorrow." García won ALCS MVP and has already broken the record for RBI in a single postseason. Game 4 is scheduled to begin at 8:03 p.m. Lineups will be announced several hours earlier, and García's availability will likely become more clear by then.
As for Arizona, Ketel Marte has consistently delivered hits and been the team’s top bat overall, but ranks 23rd in postseason OPS. Pretty much everyone else in the lineup has made some critical play this month, even where the consistency has been lacking. The Diamondbacks’ timing has been impeccable. With each passing game the Snakes and Rangers careen faster toward each other, and the only way for one to survive is for the other to perish. While we bet on an outcome, one other thing is for sure: Tonight is not damning if the Diamondbacks go down 3-1 in the series. That’s not to say it’s irrelevant; it’s just that they haven’t folded when given the chance this October. Neither team has. Texas blew a two-game lead in the league championship series and required seven games to close it out. Arizona overcame a two-game deficit in the league championship series and also required seven games to win it. They both closed out their World Series berths away from home. For as many narratives as they’ve created, they have thwarted at least that many but we once again have to turn to value. This game is priced right but the market is eating up, “the Rangers haven’t lost on the road” narrative and now the books are offering them up at a seemingly cheap price.
We’re not playing Arizona at -109 or thereabouts. Instead, we’ll play them to win the series at +240 and hope they win tonight to give us a free roll (we may choose to hedge and come back on Texas). Stay tuned.
Arizona +240 (Risking 2 units - To Win: 4.80)