For the Philadelphia Phillies, it’s always one step forward and two steps back. A big win followed by a crushing injury to a key player. A winning streak followed by a sweep at the hands of a below-.500 team. An offensive explosion followed by an excruciating bullpen meltdown.
Even with all those swings, the Phillies are still just 2½ games behind the first-place Atlanta Braves in the National League East and three games behind the San Diego Padres for the second NL Wild Card spot. Philadelphia lost some ground this past week with series losses to the lowly Miami Marlins and formidable Milwaukee Brewers and needs to make it up during a cushy homestand with the Colorado Rockies and Chicago Cubs to town.
Converted starter Ranger Suárez will get the ball for the Phillies in the series opener while Antonio Senzatela starts for the Rockies on Thursday night. First pitch from Philadelphia is at 7:05 p.m. ET. The BetUS Sportsbook has the Phillies as -175 moneyline favorites and +110 favorites on the runline. MLB odds have the over/under at eight runs.
Suárez Deals When Name Called
The Phillies’ rotation, due both to injuries and underperformance, is kind of a mess right now. Outside of Cy Young candidate Zack Wheeler and Suárez, who was moved from the bullpen to the rotation out of sheer necessity, manager Joe Girardi just doesn’t have many reliable options.
Suárez doesn’t go all that deep into games since he only transitioned into a starter at the beginning of August but he makes it tough for opponents to score. He has a 1.38 ERA overall and a 1.71 ERA in just under 32 innings as a starter. He’s coming off five shutout innings against the Marlins in his most recent outing and has allowed just two runs combined in his last three starts.
The only gripe with Suárez is that he has walked a batter every two innings since he was moved from the bullpen, which hasn’t allowed him to pitch late in games. In terms of run prevention, though, the walks haven’t hurt him since he strikes out nearly a batter per inning and hasn’t yielded a home run since the middle of July. If you’re betting online, he’s a good pitcher to back.
Senzatela, Like Rockies, Has Road Issues
The story of the Rockies’ season, as it usually seems to be, is how much Colorado struggles on the road compared to at home. Even with a recent sweep by the San Francisco Giants at Coors Field, Colorado is 45-27 at home (better than the Milwaukee Brewers) and 18-50 on the road, which is the second-worst road record in baseball.
Senzatela, who has spent his whole career with the Rockies, deals with similar home/away splits. Senzatela’s career ERA is better at altitude at Coors Field than he is in every other park andhis road ERA is 4.56 compared to 3.89 at home this season. In about 25 more home innings, Senzatela actually has one fewer walk and the same amount of home runs allowed. Clearly, he feels more comfortable pitching in Denver and the stats bear that out.
So, expect the Phillies to benefit from being at home against Senzatela and the Rockies on Thursday and for the rest of the series, as reflected by the MLB lines.
Phillies: Backs Against Wall
Even though they have an extremely easy end-of-season schedule — featuring the Rockies, Cubs, last-place Baltimore Orioles, last-place Pittsburgh Pirates and Marlins — the Phillies are far enough back in both the divisional and Wild Card races that basically every game is a must-win at this point. With the Braves playing well and the Padres as balanced as they are, Philadelphia just can’t afford to miss any opportunities to not only gain ground but also not lose it.
So, Philadelphia will be on top of its game this series. Bad teams like the Rockies play spoiler all the time in playoff races and that’s certainly possible here, but the Phillies should have enough offensive firepower – and one of their best arms on the mound – to stem any Colorado threat. The Phillies are also a good home team that, for the most part, has confined its struggles to the road. Look for them to be locked in back at home. As far as MLB picks go, Philadelphia on the runline is the move.