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We’re down to just two teams in the National League. Everyone expected an NL West team and an NL East team to be squaring off in the NL Championship Series, but I’m not sure anyone expected them to be the Padres and Phillies.
The Padres have gotten off to a phenomenal start this postseason. They’ve already knocked off two 100-win teams in the Mets and Dodgers, and the team’s decision to go all-in at the Trade Deadline is paying dividends. Josh Bell and Juan Soto have both provided big hits during the postseason, while Josh Hader has been nearly unhittable.
The Phillies have also beaten two very good teams in the Braves and Cardinals. They were able to sweep St. Louis thanks to a massive ninth-inning rally in Game 1 of their Wild Card Series, and they took care of business in just four games vs. the Braves. Their offense has been firing on all cylinders, scoring at least seven runs in three of four games vs. Atlanta, and they’ve gotten stellar pitching performances from Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola.
Who has the edge in this series? Let’s dive into some of my favorite wagers on DraftKings Sportsbook.
Phillies to win the series (+105)
The Padres have home-field advantage in this series, but if the NL playoffs have shown us anything, it’s that home-field advantage is overrated. The Phillies and Padres have been the road team in each of their first four series, so the higher seed has gone down in every round. You still ideally want home-field advantage in a Game 7, but it’s probably not as big of a deal as it’s made out to be.
Additionally, the Phillies are simply the better team in my eyes. They had the superior run differential during the regular season, and while they finished with a slightly worse record, they played in the same division as two 100-win teams. They were a combined 13-25 against the Braves and Mets, which obviously had a massive impact on their record. The Padres had to share a division with the Dodgers, but the Giants, Rockies and D-backs were all mediocre-to-bad teams.
We’re not sure who will get the ball for these teams in Game 1, but the Phillies are on track to have Wheeler on the mound. That’s undoubtedly a good thing. He’s been phenomenal ever since joining the Phillies, posting an ERA of 2.92 or lower in three straight years. He’s carried that success into the postseason, racking up a 2.19 ERA through his first two starts.
With Wheeler and Nola lined up for the first two games, the Phillies will have one of those two starters on the mound in at least four games. The Padres are going to struggle to score runs in those matchups. Their offense has underwhelmed for most of the year, particularly against high-velocity fastballs. They also struggle from a power perspective, and it’s tough to win in the postseason without the long ball.
That’s not an issue for the Phillies. They have plenty of guys who can take you deep throughout their lineup, and they ranked sixth in homers per game during the regular season. The Padres’ pitching is no joke -- they just shut down a potent Dodgers lineup -- but I’ll take my chances with the superior offense.
Kyle Schwarber to win NLCS MVP (+1300)
Since I’m picking the Phillies to win the series, it makes sense to look at someone on the Phillies to win the NLCS MVP. This award is fairly random, since it’s based on a sample of size of seven games or fewer. Eddie Rosario won this award for the Braves last season, while Howie Kendrick won it for the Nationals in 2019. However, there are some bigger names who have won it as well, including Corey Seager for the Dodgers in 2020.
One thing that is true for most MVP winners is they need to provide a few long balls. That obviously gives Schwarber a chance to get in the running. He swats homers at a prolific pace, racking up a career-best 46 long balls during the regular season. His Statcast data is also elite, ranking in the 99th percentile in average exit velocity, hard-hit rate and barrel rate.
Schwarber has yet to go yard during the postseason, but he can get hot at any moment. The Padres’ starting pitchers are also predominantly right-handed, with the lone exception being Blake Snell. That bodes well for his chances in this series. Schwarber is also available at +425 to finish this series with the most homers, but I’d rather bet him to win the MVP at a far greater payout.
J.T. Realmuto to record most hits (+900)
Realmuto got off to a slow start this season, but he was scorching hot over the second half of the year. He posted a 162 wRC+ after the All-Star break, including a .307 batting average. He has six hits through his first six postseason contests -- five singles and one homer -- and he figures to be in the lineup every day. He also bats in a premium spot in the lineup, meaning he should have more at-bats that most of the players in this series. That’s good enough for me to take on flyer on him at +900 to lead the series in hits.
Manny Machado under 6.5 total hits (-150)
I’m actively looking to fade Machado against the Phillies’ pitching staff. Machado had a phenomenal season, and he’s undoubtedly a great player. He posted a career-best 152 wRC+ during the regular season, and he’s going to get some NL MVP consideration. He’s also carried his success into the first two rounds of the postseason, posting a 177 wRC+ against the Mets and Dodgers.
However, Machado has undoubtedly been fortunate. His strikeout rate has jumped all the way to 35.5% during the postseason, so he hasn’t made nearly as much contact as he did during the regular season. He’s survived thanks to an inflated .429 batting average on balls in play, which stands out as a major outlier. He had a .337 BABIP during the regular season, and he owns just a .301 BABIP for his career.
Eventually, some of the balls Machado is putting in play are going to find gloves instead of grass. The Phillies are far from an elite defensive team, but their pitching staff should continue to generate whiffs. With some batted-ball regression, Machado could struggle to get to seven hits.
All odds provided by DraftKings Sportsbook and all odds subject to change.
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