It was a very stressful three days for the Phillies in Arizona, but a decisive win in Saturday’s Game 5 has them now one win away from a second straight World Series berth — with the best home-field advantage in baseball backing them up once again. Their backs now against the wall, D-backs will send Merrill Kelly (12-8, 3.29 ERA) to the mound looking to shock the baseball world one more time in Game 6, while Philly counter with the red-hot Aaron Nola (12-9, 4.46). First pitch from Citizens Bank Park is set for 5:07 p.m. ET.
The Phillies remain undefeated at home in October, so it’s no surprise that they enter this one as -180 favorites on the moneyline at DraftKings Sportsbook. Arizona is at +150, the run total is set at 8.
Phillies vs. Diamondbacks NLCS Game 6 picks: Monday, Oct. 23
Out: 1B Rhys Hoskins (knee)
Out: RP Scott McGough (shoulder)
Merrill Kelly vs. Aaron Nola
All due respect to Zac Gallen, there probably isn’t anyone Torey Lovullo would rather have on the mound right now in a must-win game than Kelly. The righty was one of the most underrated pitchers in baseball during the regular season, with 10 of his 14 starts in the second half involving two or fewer runs allowed, and he’s been just about as solid so far in October. The righty dominated the Dodgers with 6.1 scoreless innings in Game 1 of the NLDS, then allowed four runs on three hits (all homers) and three walks in 5.2 innings in Game 2 against the Phillies — not too shabby, considering how dangerous Philly’s offense has been at home of late. Kelly 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, as will keeping them in the ballpark.
It’s remarkable the difference a few 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 in Game 3 of the NLDS, then delivered six three-hit frames against Arizona in Game 2. His fastball is back up around 93-94, his curveball is as nasty as ever and his command has been exponentially better in the playoffs; it’s not an exaggeration to say that he looks like a totally different pitcher right now, and no one’s been able to touch him.
Yes, we saw ten runs with this same pitching matchup in Game 2, but that’s a bit misleading: Philly did all the scoring, and they scored a whopping eight of those 10 in the sixth and seventh innings with Arizona using its worst relievers in mop-up duty. That certainly won’t be the case in a must-win Game 6, and it’s hard to have too high a total when one side isn’t contributing much at all. The D-backs (or anyone else, for that matter) have yet to prove that they can hit Nola right now, and I think we come in just under this number despite some more Philly fireworks.
Pick: Under 8
Pick against the Phils at Citizens Bank Park? Absolutely not. I think Kelly will do his damnedest to keep Arizona in this game, just like he did last week, but in the end Nola is too good and this lineup is too comfortable in this stadium. I’d love to take the D-backs with this much juice on the moneyline, but I think Philly makes it two NL pennants in a row.
Pick: Phillies -180