MLB Prediction Today: Expert Picks for Diamondbacks vs Phillies, Rangers vs Astros (October 23)

MLB Prediction Today: Expert Picks for Diamondbacks vs Phillies, Rangers vs Astros (October 23) article feature image

Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images. Pictured: Christian Walker and Bryce Harper.

Throughout the Major League Baseball playoffs, I will provide a daily breakdown summarizing my thoughts on futures and individual games for that day.

Below, I will address how to handle betting on these playoff series, whether on the series moneyline or a game-by-game basis, while using my daily MLB Model projections.

You can find my projections for every MLB game in the Action Network App (on both the PRO Projections tab and the game pages) and our Projections Hub (which you can bookmark).

You can also shop for the best lines on our odds page.

Using my projections, where can we find actionable value on Monday's NLCS Game 6 and ALCS Game 7?

Series Moneyline Corner

As discussed below, I project the Astros just north of 57% in Game 7, with Cristian Javier presumably starting against Max Scherzer. Any bet on an Astros-Rangers Game 7 moneyline, series price, or AL pennant price should reflect the same opinion. Check all three markets — you may find a pricing discrepancy within the same book. Bet the Astros in any of those markets, up to -123.

Philadelphia is currently between -650 (88.7% implied) and -820 (89.1% implied) to win the NLCS with a 3-2 lead. You can find as high as +570 (14.9% implied) on Arizona. As a result, I don't see value on either side of the series price before Game 6; I would need -550 to bet the Phillies or +777 to bet the Diamondbacks.

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Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Philadelphia Phillies Game 6

Monday, Oct 23
5:07 p.m. ET
Diamondbacks Odds
-106o / -114u
Phillies Odds
-106o / -114u
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute MLB odds here.

Merrill Kelly vs. Aaron Nola (full projections here)

Game 6 of the NLCS is a rematch of Game 2 at the same venue. And we have very recent betting market data surrounding these teams with this exact pitching matchup.

Philadelphia closed as -166 consensus favorites (62.4% implied), with Arizona as +140 underdogs (41.7% implied) for Game 2. The Game 6 line is more inflated than Game 2; the Phillies are closer to -180 favorites (64.3% implied) or higher, with Arizona as +166 underdogs (37.6% implied).

I set the Phillies as -150 favorites for the first five innings (F5) and -146 favorites for the full game in Game 2. I upgraded Aaron Nola slightly after his Game 2 effort, but still only made the lines -154 and -149, respectively, for Game 6.

As a result, I now view the Diamondbacks as the value side of the moneyline after passing in Game 2. And I see an actionable edge on Arizona at +163 (38.1% implied) or better, at a 2% edge compared to my projected price.

However, I have a series bet on the Phillies -1.5 games, and I'm not inclined to hedge out of or switch sides on that position.

If you don't have a series bet on the Phillies — or other Phillies' futures — and are playing Game 6 straight up, the Diamondbacks are a value bet based solely on the price adjustment from the closing lines for the identical pitching matchup in Game 2.

And while I would consider betting the Diamondbacks +1.5 runs to try to middle my position with a one-run loss, I projected Arizona's +1.5 spread at -130. That bet is juiced to -135 or higher across the market.

I project Nola (4.46 ERA, 3.77 xERA, 3.63 xFIP, 19.8% K-BB%, 101 Stuff+, 106 Pitching+) as the superior pitcher to Merrill Kelly (4.13 xERA, 3.84 xFIP, 16.3% K-BB%, 87 Stuff+, 103 Pitching+) in a vacuum. Nola has the edge across all underlying statistical indicators and pitch modeling metrics.

However, Nola's 2023 results represent a significant step back compared to his 2022 campaign (3.25 ERA, 2.74 xERA, 2.77 xFIP, 25.5% K-BB%), as he allowed a career-high 32 home runs (1.49 HR/9; career 1.00) and Kelly (0.98 HR/9 in 63 starts over the past two seasons) may have the advantage over Nola in home run suppression.

However, Nola's slide step has potentially eliminated his issue with holding baserunners (allowed 100 steals on 136 attempts in his career, including 21 of 26 in 2023). Arizona ranked second in MLB this season with 166 steals but has only run on Craig Kimbrel in this series. The Diamondbacks seemingly never thought about running on Nola.

Based on his pitch mix, Corbin Carroll, Ketel Marte and Geraldo Perdomo were possible targets against Nola for player prop purposes.

Pitcher props are difficult to project in any elimination game. Either manager could take things batter-by-batter, even with their No. 2 starters on the bump. As a result, I'd lean to the under on most of the starting pitcher props, but I'd prefer to bet something that could also correlate to positive performance.

Nola has shown spectacular command this postseason, walking just two of 69 hitters (2.8% walk rate). And adding in his Game 2 start, Nola only has one walk against current Diamondbacks hitters (Geraldo Perdomo) across 100 plate appearances (1% walk rate). Bet Nola to record fewer than 1.5 walks (to -145).

Bryce Harper offers the best matchup against Kelly and his heavy changeup usage (31%) against lefties. I have bet on Harper to walk throughout this series — including in Game 2.

Bet Harper to walk in Game 6 (to -140). In Game 2, Kelly walked him on four pitches in the first inning and threw just three of 11 pitches to Harper in the strike zone across three plate appearances.

Harper got to a trio of three-ball counts against Zac Gallen in Game 5, singling and homering on a pair of 3-2 counts and grounding out on a 3-0 count (with the bases empty).

Just seven of the 18 pitches Harper saw in Game 5 were inside the strike zone. Arizona is still pitching around him when it can and is happy to let Harper swing on 3-0 counts with no runners on base.

With the Diamondbacks on the verge of elimination in Game 6, I don't see how Torey Lovullo lets Kelly face the Phillies order a third time. Trailing 2-0 in the sixth inning in Game 2, Kelly allowed a solo shot to Kyle Schwarber and walked Trea Turner before the bullpen even stirred.

Lovullo pulled him for Joe Mantiply with two outs in the sixth after facing Harper and then righty Alec Bohm a third time. Schwarber — and subsequently Harper — tagged Gallen in the sixth inning of Game 5.

If Lovullo doesn't have a lefty ready to face the top of this order a third time through in Game 6, it will be managerial malpractice. He can't keep giving the top of this explosive order a third look at this starting pitcher. Kelly Under 15.5 Outs (-155) looks like the correct side but is heavily juiced.

I set the Game 2 total at 7.9 runs and ultimately bet the Over 7.5. The number has increased to 8 for Game 6, despite better pitching conditions and more aggressive bullpen usage than anticipated for Game 2. My projected Game 6 total is closer to 7.35; bet Under 8 to -114.

And to reiterate, you can bet Arizona at +163 at an actionable edge compared to my projection. I'm just not in a position to bet it for Game 6, holding a directly conflicting Phillies -1.5 games series ticket on top of their NL pennant and World Series futures.

Texas Rangers vs. Houston Astros Game 7

Monday, Oct 23
8:03 p.m. ET
Rangers Odds
-104o / -118u
Astros Odds
-104o / -118u
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute MLB odds here.

Max Scherzer vs. Cristian Javier (full projections here)

Game 7 of the ALCS is a rematch of Game 3 of this series, albeit at a different venue.

And while we have very recent betting market data surrounding these teams with this exact pitching matchup, two factors are different: (1) Max Scherzer's health and effectiveness were an unknown coming into Game 3, and (2) both teams will be highly aggressive with their bullpen usage, with all hands on deck in Game 7.

Texas closed as -125 favorites (55.6% implied), with Houston as +108 underdogs (48.1% implied) in Game 3. If you disregarded the two points I made above and assumed everything else was the same, you'd expect to find the Astros around -128 at home in the same matchup, with the Rangers closer to +110. And Houston did open at -125, with the Rangers as high as +108, the exact inverse of the Game 3 closing line.

I ultimately projected the Astros as +115 (46.5% implied) underdogs in Game 3, which would typically make them closer to -120 (54.5% implied) at home in the same matchup. However, after factoring in more reliever usage for both teams, I make the Game 7 line 57.1% (-133 implied) for the defending champions and would bet Houston at -123 (55.1% implied) or better.

I also set the Game 3 total at 8.73 runs and the Game 7 total at 8.77. Texas had its roof closed for Game 3, and Houston has had its roof closed for the entire series.

The Game 3 total closed at 9 (-120/+100) or 9.5 (+100/-124) depending on the book. The Game 7 total opened at 10 (-115/-105) and was quickly bet down to Under 9.5 (-120) or 9 (+100) within 15 minutes. While the market hammered the number back towards the Game 3 line, I'd bet Under 9.5 (to -118) or 9 (to +100) compared to my projected line.

As I mentioned, Scherzer's health was a major question mark before Game 3 after missing significant time with a shoulder strain. The underlying indicators are encouraging — in Game 3, Scherzer's average fastball velocity (94.1 mph) was higher than his season average (93.7 mph), and he posted an impressive 35% called-strike plus whiff rate (CSW%, 30.2% career).

Scherzer wore down by the fourth inning, averaging closer to 93-94 mph on his fastball by the end of his appearance — as opposed to 94-96 mph over the first three innings — but that also could have been a byproduct of fatigue, after going more than a month between starts.

Scherzer also struggled with a neck injury early in the season while allowing 14 runs through his first five starts, but eventually settled in with a 3.46 ERA, 3.75 xFIP and 22.7% K-BB% the remainder of the way, alongside a 103 Pitching+ figure in Texas.

Current Astros hitters own a .830 OPS against Scherzer across 168 plate appearances, with a 13.7% strikeout minus walk rate, well below Scherzer's career mark (22.9%). Michael Brantley (20-for-54, 4 BB, 2K) has done most of the damage, but Yordan Alvarez (4-for-7, 1 HR, 3 BB, 0 K) also sees the ball well against Scherzer.

Texas finally gave Alvarez the intentional free pass in Game 6, with Brantley on first and two outs in a 1-1 game in the third inning. Considering the Rangers' willingness to push a runner into scoring position early in a tie game to avoid him, we must bet Alvarez to walk in Game 7 (to -120).

Avoid betting on Brantley's props, however. Behind Scherzer, the Rangers fed Brantley three lefties in Game 3 (career 129 wRC+ vs. righties; 91 vs. lefties).

Scherzer's Unders (4.5 strikeouts and 12.5 outs) were my favorite props for Game 3, but I think the Game 7 market is about right (4.5, -135 under and 13.5, -115 under) now that Scherzer is a bit more stretched out. Bruce Bochy will let him go so long as he's pitching well.

And while I bet the Over 12.5 Outs for Cristian Javier in Game 3, I'd lean Under 12.5 (-145) with an elite Houston bullpen loaded for a winner-take-all Game 7. Still, I also think it's too unpredictable to bet. You're not getting a scripted game here from either manager. Javier's usage is entirely based on feel.

Javier pitched much better in September (4.04 xFIP, 23.4% K-BB%, 104 Stuff+, 105 Pitching+) than he did over the first five months of the season (5.42 xFIP, 12.1% K-BB%, 97 Stuff+, 99 Pitching+).

His stuff was electric (39% CSW%) — although a bit erratic — in the divisional round against the Twins (5 IP, 1 H, 5 BB, 9 K), and he allowed a lot of weak contact in an efficient Game 3 performance (5 2/3 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 3 K) against Texas (25% CSW%).

Javier has regained Dusty Baker's trust, but that only goes so far in an elimination game.

Sides and Totals for Monday, October 23

  • Arizona Diamondbacks / Philadelphia Phillies, Under 8 (-110, 0.5u) at Caesars (bet to -114)
  • Houston Astros (-120, 0.5u) at WynnBet (bet to -123)
  • Texas Rangers / Houston Astros, Under 10 (-105, Risk 1u) at FanDuel (bet to 9, +100)

Prop Bets for Monday, October 23

  • Aaron Nola, Under 1.5 Walks (-135, 0.1u) at DraftKings (bet to -145)
  • Bryce Harper, Over 0.5 Walks (-130, 0.1u) at DraftKings (bet to -140)
  • Merrill Kelly, Under 15.5 Outs Recorded (-155, 0.1u) at BetMGM (bet to -175)
  • Yordan Alvarez, Over 0.5 Walks (+105, 0.1u) at DraftKings (bet to -120)

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