The Philadelphia Phillies struck first in the NLCS on Monday night, jumping Zac Gallen early and often and riding another brilliant start from Zack Wheeler to a 5-3 win and 1-0 series lead over the Arizona Diamondbacks. Merrill Kelly (12-8, 3.29 ERA) will look to help Arizona bounce back, while the Phils counter with Aaron Nola (12-9, 4.46). First pitch from Citizens Bank Park is set for 8:07 p.m. ET.
Philly enters as -155 favorites on the moneyline at DraftKings Sportsbook, with the D-backs at +130. The run total is set at 8.
Diamondbacks vs. Phillies NLCS Game 2 picks: Tuesday, October 17
Out: RP Scott McGough (shoulder)
Out: 1B Rhys Hoskins (knee)
Merrill Kelly vs. Aaron Nola
After Gallen got knocked around in Game 1, Torey Lovullo will have to hope that the other have of his ace duo fares a bit better on Tuesday night. Kelly has been one of the most underrated pitchers in baseball this season, with 10 of his 14 starts in the second half involving two or fewer runs allowed, and he was great in his one start so far this postseason, shutting out the Dodgers over six innings in Game 1 of the NLDS. The righty doesn’t throw particularly hard, but he uses six different pitches to keep hitters off-balance and avoid the heart of the plate (88th percentile in chase rate). His changeup (.180 BA against, 32% whiff rate) will be the key to keeping the ultra-aggressive Phillies at bay tonight, and he did have some success in his one previous start against them this season, allowing three runs on three hits and four walks over six innings of work back in June.
It’s remarkable the difference a couple of weeks can make. There was a lot of angst around Nola entering October: The righty was a disaster in his final three postseason starts last year and struggled through a tremendously disappointing regular season in 2023, allowing four or more runs in nearly half of the 32 starts he made this season. Once the calendar flipped, however, he started looking like the Nola of old. He dominated the Marlins to the tune of seven scoreless innings in the Wild Card round, then held the fearsome Braves to two runs over 5.2 innings with nine strikeouts. It’s not much of an exaggeration to say that Nola looks like a totally different pitcher: His fastball averaged just 92.7 mph during the regular season but was up to 93.5 in the Atlanta start, allowing his signature curveball to sing. He allowed four runs on six hits with nine strikeouts over 6.1 innings of work in his one start against Arizona this year.
Yes, these are two very good starting pitchers, but we also had a great pitching matchup last night and still saw eight runs scored. This is just an awfully low number given how dangerous this Phillies lineup looks right now, especially at home. It basically requires Nola to shut down the D-backs entirely, and I’m skeptical that happens given Arizona’s prior success against him and the heavy workload Philly’s bullpen took on in Game 1.
Pick: Over 8
Bet against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park? Absolutely not. Nola has looked revitalized so far this month, and if that’s the guy we get again on Tuesday night, it’s tough to see how Philly doesn’t take a 2-0 lead in this series. There’s just too much firepower, while the D-backs are finally feeling the effects of a lineup that doesn’t have a ton of depth to it.
Pick: Phillies -155