The Philadelphia Phillies and St. Louis Cardinals played a tight one on Monday that resulted in a 2-1 decision for the Phillies. Let’s see what Tuesday’s game has in store as Zach Eflin and Carlos Martinez take the mound for their respective teams.
Betting action has been rather balanced for this game, as it is lined in the “money line pick ‘em” range, where both sides are priced evenly at most sportsbooks. BetMGM Sportsbook is showing -110 on both sides of this one with a total of 8.5 at Busch Stadium, one of the ballparks that added a humidor for this season.
Both teams come into this one with identical 11-11 records, so the victor will get the spoils of being over .500 for at least a day.
Zach Eflin makes his fifth start of the season for the Phillies in this one. The right-hander has had a pretty good three-year run with Philadelphia and is hoping to build upon that with a strong full-season performance this year. He worked 59 innings last season with a 3.97 ERA and a 3.39 FIP that culminated in a big K% increase.
This season, we haven’t seen the K% increase carry over, but we have seen excellent control and good command from Eflin in his four starts covering 26 innings. He’s allowed eight runs on 24 hits with a 19/2 K/BB ratio. In this day and age, with advanced scouting reports for fielding and additional drag on the baseball to knock down potentially hurtful fly balls, pitchers that limit walks should have large amounts of success.
It would benefit Eflin to stop allowing hard contact, though. His Hard Hit% sits at 47.4%, which means that over 47% of batted balls have left the bat at 95+ mph. The higher the exit velocity, the better a hitter’s chances of a favorable outcome. Eflin is fortunate to have a .247 batting average against in light of that stat.
The Phillies offense could be doing better with fewer strikeouts. In a depressed offensive environment, Philadelphia ranks 11th in wOBA on the season, but also has the sixth-highest K%. If the Phillies were pairing their high strikeout rate with a high walk rate, that would be more tolerable, but they are not, so this is a team that absolutely has to start making more contact.
Zack Wheeler’s heroic efforts on Monday spared the bullpen for the most part. Hector Neris was called to action for the third time in four days, so he’s likely unavailable today, but picked up the save on 11 pitches. Everybody else had the day off, so the Phillies pen beyond Eflin should have all hands on deck but the two that belong to Neris.
St. Louis Cardinals
Carlos Martinez is off to a rough start this season. The starter-turned-reliever-turned-starter is back in the rotation full-time and has picked up the loss in each of his four starts. He’s allowed 14 runs on 21 hits in 21 innings of work. The biggest red flag for Martinez to this point has been a low strikeout rate with only 13 punchouts in his 21 innings. He is coming off of his best start of the season against Washington with one run allowed on four hits over six innings, but that was a Nationals lineup missing Juan Soto.
Martinez has already surpassed his 2020 innings total. He was one of the Cardinals afflicted with COVID-19 and never really got into the flow of the season. He allowed 26 runs in 20 innings last year across five starts. For his career, Martinez has a 3.61 ERA with a .245/.321/.372 slash against as a starter and a 3.37 ERA with a .237/.317/.310 slash against as a starter. The question is whether or not he can return to the form that allowed him to post those numbers.
The St. Louis offense ranks in the bottom third of the league in wOBA at .297. Poor contact quality has been a major factor. Paul Goldschmidt is off to a rough start with a .230/.272/.333 slash in his 92 plate appearances. Nolan Arenado has been about a league average bat. Youngster Dylan Carlson and the resurgent Yadier Molina have done a lot of heavy lifting for the Cardinals to this point. There are track records on offense for a lot of these guys, but it seems to be taking some time to get going.
One saving grace on an annual basis for the Cardinals is their defense. The Phillies are a poor defensive team and have been for a while, so batted ball luck and plays converted into outs could be on the St. Louis side in this game and future matchups. St. Louis ranks seventh in Defensive Runs Saved right now and a large part of the position player fWAR comes from that side of the spectrum.
These two bullpens have some stats that point in opposite directions. The Cardinals have a 3.99 ERA with a 4.10 FIP and a 5.00 xFIP. The Phillies pen has a 5.24 ERA with a 4.83 FIP and a 3.97 xFIP. The main difference here is that the Phillies pen has allowed a lot of home runs, while the Cardinals pen has not.
Phillies vs. Cardinals Pick
Zach Eflin sure seems to have a higher ceiling than Carlos Martinez given the current and recent form of both hurlers, even though Martinez made some adjustments in his last start. The Phillies boast the better lineup, though the Cardinals have the better bullpen. That sounds like a recipe for a game lined -110 both ways.
Between Eflin’s more promising outlook and Philadelphia’s better lineup, we can take some of the late-game shenanigans out of the mix and just take Philadelphia for the 1st 5 innings. If that isn’t an option for you, the full game is fine, but the 1st 5 seems like a safer bet.
Pick: Philadelphia Phillies 1st 5