Phillies vs. Cardinals MLB Betting Odds & Picks: Target the Total With Wheeler Facing Wainwright (Monday, April 26)

Phillies vs. Cardinals MLB Betting Odds & Picks: Target the Total With Wheeler Facing Wainwright (Monday, April 26) article feature image
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Jim McIsaac/Getty Images. Pictured: Zack Wheeler.

  • Zack Wheeler looks to continue his strong start to 2021 against the Cardinals.
  • Wheeler starts opposite Adam Wainwright, who is due for better results after a shaky start to the season.
  • Tanner McGrath breaks down the matchup and delivers his best pick for the game.

Phillies vs. Cardinals Odds

Phillies Odds -115
Cardinals Odds -105
Over/Under 8
Time Monday, 7:45 p.m. ET
TV MLBTV
Odds as of Sunday and via PointsBet

After playing a three-game series in Philadelphia 10 days ago, the Phillies and Cardinals will now play a four-game series in St. Louis.

The Phillies took two of three games in that set, with Aaron Nola and Zach Elfin earning the wins. It’ll be up to Zack Wheeler to take the opener on Monday night.

The Cardinals will start one of their better starting pitchers in Adam Wainwright. The ageless wonder is building momentum and making his fifth start this season.

So, which team has the edge in this series opener? Or maybe there’s value to be found elsewhere?

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Philadelphia Phillies

The Phillies dropped two of three to the Rockies in Denver over the weekend, emphasizing their biggest struggle this season: playing on the road.

Philadelphia is just 2-8 on the road this season, scoring only 3.3 runs per game in the process. On the road, the Phils rank 19th in OPS (.657), 20th in wOBA (.285) and 23rd in wRC+ (79).

In addition to their lineup struggling on the road, the Phillies’ pitching staff has been abysmal away from Citizens Bank Park, too. The staff ranks 28th in ERA (5.65), 28th in FIP (5.31) and 27th in WHIP (1.52) away from home this season.

However, the Phillies’ offense has been heating up in recent games. Over the past seven days, Philly’s bats have posted a .805 OPS, a .350 wOBA and a 121 wRC+, all three of which rank in the top five in MLB over that span.

Plus, Bryce Harper has started to really heat up in this latest stretch. Over his last six games, Harper is batting .500 with a 1.471 OPS while belting two home runs and drawing six walks.

Starting Pitcher: Zack Wheeler (RHP)

After an awesome 2021 debut against the Braves, Wheeler has been below average since. His most recent outing, against the Giants at home, was his worst, allowing four runs while walking three over 5 2/3 innings. Those struggles are surprising since Wheeler tends to be a much better pitcher at home. From 2019-20, Wheeler recorded a 1.13 WHIP at home and a 1.35 WHIP on the road.

But one bad start is bound to happen. Moving on…

Wheeler’s fastball velocity continues to rise year after year and is now up to 97 mph. Additionally, he’s thrown his slider much more than usual this season, and he’s allowed an impressive .259 wOBA on the pitch.

But Wheeler’s 2021 statistical profile has been strange. A few weird facts about Wheeler’s season so far:

  • His ground-ball rate of 38.1% would be the lowest of his career.
  • His home run/fly-ball rate of 18.2% would be his highest since 2017.
  • His walk rate of 8.1% would be his highest since 2017, but his strikeout rate of 26.3% would be the highest of his career.
  • His 4.24 FIP would be his highest since 2017.

It’s almost as if the additional velocity is leading to mixed results. Wheeler is striking out more hitters while also having control problems and not forcing as much weak contact. In fact, he currently is allowing the highest average exit velocity of his career after finishing in the top 10% of pitchers twice in the past five years.

Wheeler has faced the Cardinals three times in his career, back in 2017 and 2018 with the Mets. He struggled mightily back then, but this is a different St. Louis club.

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St. Louis Cardinals

St. Louis completed a sweep of Cincinnati over the weekend, getting them back over .500 at 11-10 and two games behind the National League Central-leading Brewers.

The Cardinals have been uninteresting in the early going. Their lineup is 19th in wRC+ while their pitching staff is 17th in FIP. St. Louis’ best player has been 38-year-old Yadier Molina, who has a 1.044 OPS with five home runs in the early going.

Meanwhile, their prize offseason acquisition, Nolan Arenado, has been mediocre so far. He’s batting just .253 with a .743 OPS and has reached base in just six of his last 25 plate appearances (.230 on-base percentage).

However, the Cardinals continue to find ways to stay competitive in games. And today’s starter gives them a great chance to steal this series opener.

Starting Pitcher: Adam Wainwright (RHP)

Wainwright continues to truck along in the show. He’s now four starts into his 16th season, all with the Cardinals. At 39 years old, Wainwright was drafted into organized baseball the same year Tom Brady was drafted into the NFL (2000).

After a disastrous season debut, Wainwright has been fairly effective. His best start was his most recent one, during which he held the Nationals to just one run in seven innings while striking out 10.

While Wainwright currently boasts a 5.03 ERA and a 1.53 WHIP, his xERA (3.51) and xFIP (3.39) suggest that he’s been unlucky so far this season. Better things may be just around the corner.

Wainwright continues to rely on his curveball, which has been his most used pitch for four straight seasons. He ranks in the 86th percentile of pitchers in curve spin rate, and opposing hitters have just a .259 wOBA on the pitch.

He last pitched against Philadelphia back in 2019, allowing four runs on eight hits over six innings. However, he also struck out 10 and walked none, so it was a mixed bag.

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Phillies-Cardinals Pick

The Phillies’ lineup has been hot recently, but I think they’ll struggle against Wainwright on the road. Not only is their lineup terrible away from home, but it hasn’t been hitting the curveball well. The Phillies rank 23rd in MLB in weighted curveball runs at -1.7, and Wainwright has been throwing that pitch well.

Additionally, the Cardinals’ bullpen has been excellent recently. Over the past seven days, Phillies relievers have posted a 3.42 FIP and a 1.04 WHIP, both of which rank top 10 among teams during that stretch.

Meanwhile, the Cardinals’ offense has not been seeing the ball well. St. Louis’ season-long .302 wOBA ranks 17th in MLB, and it has posted just a .278 wOBA over the last seven days.

While Wheeler struggles on the road, I think he’ll have success with his fastball. The Cardinals rank 21st in weighted fastball runs created with -1.7. And while the Phillies bullpen has a 4.66 FIP this season, their xFIP is just 3.96, which ranks 10th in MLB.

Overall, I’m expecting both offenses to struggle today, and that points me toward an under play. I’d feel comfortable playing that up to -115.

Pick: Under 8

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