Phillies at Marlins MLB Pick September 4
Things are starting to get dicey for the Philadelphia Phillies in the National League playoff race. Right now, the team faces a golden opportunity to make up some ground. The Phillies are in Miami this week to take on the last-place Marlins, while the NL East-leading Atlanta Braves have their hands full at home against the best team in baseball, the Boston Red Sox.
On Monday, the Phillies blew a chance to gain ground when they lost yet another game to Miami, 3-1. The defeat was the team’s fifth over the last 7 games overall. The Braves also lost to the Red Sox, which means the Phillies remain 4 games out of first place entering play on Tuesday. The Phillies are just 3.5 games adrift of the second NL Wild Card spot, but there are currently a couple of teams (the Dodgers and Diamondbacks) ahead of them in the pecking order. The best route to the postseason for the Phillies will likely be through the division.
The Phillies really can’t afford to be losing games to the Marlins, especially at this stage of the season. They’ll look to get back on track Tuesday when the steady Jake Arrieta takes the hill. The Fish will counter with rookie right-hander Trevor Richards.
Arrieta has had an interesting season. His skills declined last year after winning the Cy Young a few years back, but he was still a serviceable strikeout arm. The right-hander’s strikeout rate north of 23 percent was solid enough. This season, however, his K-rate has taken quite the plunge. Arrieta has fanned just 17.9 percent of the hitters he’s faced thus far in 2018, which is his lowest mark since 2011 when he was a struggling youngster with the Orioles.
While the strikeouts have taken a dip, Arrieta has still managed to be effective. His 4.36 SIERA is a lot more average than his 3.54 ERA, but he’s generating plenty of ground balls and limits hard contact well. Arrieta has induced ground balls at a healthy 53 percent clip, while the hard-hit rate against him is just over 27 percent. He’s also been good about limiting home runs, as opposing hitters have hit 16 homers against him in 26 outings.
Arrieta gets a big park upgrade today going from homer-friendly Citizens Bank Park into spacious Marlins Park. Marlins Park has conceded the fewest home runs of any other stadium so far this season, due in no small part to the fact that the Marlins happen to have a dreadful offense. Outside of J.T. Realmuto and (maybe) Derek Dietrich, there aren’t a whole lot of Miami bats on the roster that should unnerve Arrieta too much.
Trevor Richards is hardly a household name, but he has quietly put together a strong rookie campaign this season for the Fish. His 4.34 SIERA is slightly better than Arrieta’s. He has also shown more of a fly ball lean than a ground ball lean, which actually works quite well with the huge Miami outfield behind him. Richards has been taken deep just 11 times across 20 starts to this point.
Richards has also posted a healthy strikeout rate of 23.6 percent. The walk rate over 10 percent and the hard contact rate of 41.1 percent against him are red flags, to be sure. However, the Phillies offense on the other side can be vulnerable. The Phils do have some pop in the lineup, but Philadelphia also strikes out a ton. Philly has a collective strikeout rate of 25.2 percent this season against right-handed pitching. That is good for the third-highest mark in the major leagues.
This looks like a game that has the makings of a potential pitchers duel. Arrieta and Richards are both in strong individual spots against vulnerable lineups on the other side. Again, Marlins Park also happens to be one of the best parks in the big leagues in terms of run prevention.
The Phillies are understandably favored here, but I do like the value on the Marlins at +132 on the moneyline. Richards is a pretty underrated pitcher and the Phillies aren’t that imposing an offense. That said, my favorite bet here is the under on 7 1/2 runs. The under is the heavy favorite at -135, but it looks pretty likely to hit.
So, if you’re feeling frisky I like the Marlins as an underdog bet. If you want a safer play, hit the under on 7 1/2 runs.
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