Friday, March 24, 2023

NLDS day two: Best bets, including Bryce Harper total bases and Clayton Kershaw strikeouts

The 2022 MLB playoffs roll on. It’s already been quite a ride between the epic Phillies and Mariners comebacks in Game 1 of the Wild Card Series and then the Yordan Alvarez walk-off homer for the Astros in Game 1 of the ALDS. 

Wednesday brings us, hopefully (weather permitting), two games on the NL side while the AL teams have a day off in order to stagger the series on the schedule. The Phillies are looking to shock the baseball world while building a 2-0 lead over the defending champion Braves while the Padres are hoping for a split in L.A. against the 111-win Dodgers

For the gamblers out there, each day presents a new opportunity to roll in the dough. Let’s get to it. 

Phillies at Braves, UNDER 7.0 runs (+105)

This one might not be played for a while, as the forecast has thunderstorms through much of the afternoon. Whenever it does get going, I like the starting pitching. 

Kyle Wright (21-5, 3.19) takes the ball for the Braves. He was noticeably better at home than on the road this season. In fact, he was incredibly reliable in Truist Park. He didn’t allow more than two runs in a game in his last six home starts. He didn’t allow more than three in his last eight and he didn’t allow more than four after May 10. On the year, he had a 2.86 ERA at home while the Braves went 14-3 in his starts. 

Wright also had a 2.84 ERA in three starts against the Phillies. 

I don’t expect Wright to go overly deep in the game, but that’s even better for us. In trailing all of Game 1, the Braves didn’t empty their bullpen of top late-inning arms. Kenley Jansen, Raisel Iglesias and A.J. Minter are incredibly fresh and can empty the proverbial tank with a day off on Thursday. 

On the other side, Phillies ace Zack Wheeler starts. He had a 2.70 ERA in three starts against the Braves this season, most recently holding them to one run in seven innings on Aug. 3 in Truist Park. He was excellent last time out in the Wild Card Series in St. Louis. 

Bryce Harper OVER 1.5 total bases (+120)

Without looking at any numbers, it’s a gut feeling that Harper is finally starting to feel good after returning very quickly from a fractured thumb that required surgery and an extended absence. He homered in Game 2 of the Wild Card Series and went 3-for-3 with a double in Game 1 of his series. He just looks better. 

He’s also had great small-sample success against Braves pitchers I expect to see in Game 2. He’s 3-for-9 with a double and homer against Wright. He’s 5-for-11 with a double and two homers against Jansen. He’s 4-for-6 with three homers(!) against Iglesias. 

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Padres at Dodgers, UNDER 7.0 runs (+100)

Padres starter Yu Darvish (16-8, 3.10) is on a nice run. He finished the regular season with a 2.32 ERA in his last eight starts and was excellent in Citi Field against the Mets in Game 1 last round. He had a 2.52 ERA in four starts against the Dodgers this season, too. 

His counterpart is Clayton Kershaw (12-3, 2.28) and, I know, the “Kershaw chokes in the playoffs” narrative is strong. He’s had plenty of good outings, though. He was great in the 2020 World Series and picked up a win over the Padres in the NLDS round that year. He’s also carved up the Padres this year (0.75 ERA, 0.75 WHIP in two starts). 

Scoring will be hard to come by for a bit and neither bullpen looks primed for a meltdown. 

Clayton Kershaw OVER 4.5 strikeouts (-178)

Yeah, the odds are tough, but I’m pretty confident this is a winner. In his last 13 starts, Kershaw struck out at least five 10 times and averaged 6.61 strikeouts per start. He’s been over a strikeout per inning all season and the last time he faced the Padres, he struck out eight in seven innings. 

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