It’s a Wild Card showdown for the National League crown, as the Arizona Diamondbacks and Philadelphia Phillies meet in the NLCS of the 2023 MLB playoffs. Game 1 is set for Monday, Oct. 16, with first pitch from Citizens Bank Park at 8:07 p.m. ET.
Arizona wasn’t even expected to be playing October baseball at all, and now the Snakes are rolling into the NLCS with five straight wins over division champions — two against the Brewers in the Wild Card round and a shocking three in a row over the Dodgers in the NLDS in a series that didn’t even feel all that competitive. Depth is still a concern for this team, especially in a longer series, but they have two legit aces in Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly as well as an overachieving bullpen and a sneaky-good top of the order led by presumptive NL Rookie of the Year Corbin Carroll.
Philly, meanwhile, very much was expected to make it back here after their rollicking run to the World Series in 2022. Much like last year, the Phils had some rough patches along the way, but they’ve caught fire at just the right time and won a war over the Braves in the NLDS — largely thanks to the best bullpen remaining in the playoffs, plus heroic performances from Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola. That pitching makes Philly awfully scary, as you know this lineup is going to keep mashing home runs.
Let’s go over odds to win the series on DraftKings Sportsbook.
Diamondbacks vs. Phillies odds
Philly enters as -170 favorites to win this series and reach their second straight World Series, with Arizona — as they have all month long — the underdog at +145.
It’s not hard to see why. Philly was the better team during the regular season, finishing six games ahead of Arizona in the standings with a substantially better run differential (+81 vs. -15). We also have a longer track record of success with this group; they came within two games of a world title last year, after all, while the D-backs weren’t even expected to reach the playoffs at all when spring training began. And while both teams dispatched heavyweights in the Divisional Round, it’s hard not to feel a bit more impressed by the Phillies’ performance — the Braves’ record-setting offense was totally silenced by Philly’s pitching staff, whereas it’s hard not to feel like the Dodgers’ NLDS collapse was part Arizona, part a flawed team collapsing under the weight of a long season.
Which isn’t to say that the D-backs aren’t very live ‘dogs here, or that they don’t have a path to victory in this series. Arizona has two legit aces to match Philly’s, with Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly rested and ready to go for Games 1 and 2 next week. They also have an underrated top of the order — yes, Corbin Carroll is a star, but Ketel Marte and Christian Walker have also been very good all year long, while rookie catcher Gabriel Moreno is busting out in October. And, most importantly, they have a bullpen that was rocky a times during the year but has been nails come playoff time. Really, this team feels a lot like the Phillies ... just with a slightly lesser version of the same blueprint.
These teams want to win in roughly the same way — two rotation anchors, lots of homers, great relief work — but everywhere you look, Philly has the slight edge. If this is the Aaron Nola we’re getting for the rest of the year, I think he and Wheeler are slightly better than Gallen and Kelly; the D-backs bullpen has carried them this far, but they’re still relying heavily on guys like Ryan Thompson, Andrew Saalfrank and Kevin Ginkel that feel a bit harder to trust than Craig Kimbrel, Jose Alvarado and Co; and there are more weak points in Arizona’s lineup to pick at, with Alek Thomas, Evan Longoria and Geraldo Perdomo representing a nice landing spot at the bottom of the order. I also think that the best-of-five format hid the Snakes’ biggest weakness, allowing them to throw Gallen and Kelly in two of three games — in a best-of-seven, however, guys like Brandon Pfaadt and Ryne Nelson will play bigger roles, which seems suboptimal. In the chaos of October, I understand if you feel reticent to lay money on any favorite with this little juice, but I have a hard time seeing how Arizona takes this series.
Prediction: Phillies -170