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Phillies vs. Cardinals Game 1 Prediction: Philadelphia should be favored on Friday

Are the Phillies right to be favored on the road in St. Louis?

Zack Wheeler of the Philadelphia Phillies throws a pitch during the first inning of a game against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on September 27, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)
Zack Wheeler of the Philadelphia Phillies throws a pitch during the first inning of a game against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on September 27, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)Read more© Nuccio DiNuzzo Photography / Getty Images

Oddsmakers are having a tough time separating the Philadelphia Phillies and St. Louis Cardinals in Game 1 of their Wild Card Series on Friday. At the time of writing, the game is lined close to a pick’em, with the Phillies as a slight -116 favorite on the road.

While the Cardinals were being coy before confirming Jose Quintana will be their Game 1 starter, the Phillies didn’t mess around and confirmed they’ll roll with Zack Wheeler in the curtain-raiser pretty quickly. Here’s how we’re betting Friday’s Game 1 matchup.

Phillies vs. Cardinals Game 1 Prediction: Pick

Phillies -116

Phillies vs. Cardinal Game 1 Prediction: Analysis

Wheeler was superb all season, but he took things up a notch since returning from the IL on Sept. 21. In his three starts since his return, Wheeler has posted a 0.60 ERA, 1.61 xFIP and 0.67 WHIP in 15 innings of work across three starts.

Wheeler will need to carry that form into Game 1 as he’s taking on an offense that finished fifth in wOBA (.326), fifth in OPS (.745), seventh in ISO (.168) and fifth in wRC+ (114). The Cardinals have one of the scariest 1-2 punches in Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado in the middle of the lineup, and they’ve got some productive players along the fringes with Albert Pujols, Lars Nootbaar and Tommy Edman.

The Phillies can counter that 1-2 punch with Bryce Harper and Kyle Schwarber, plus they’ve got more depth to their lineup with J.T. Realmuto and Rhys Hoskins. If Nick Castellanos can regain his form, this unit becomes even deeper.

So while the Cardinals may have the slight advantage according to their offensive metrics, it does beg reminding that the Cards played a pretty soft schedule compared to Philadelphia.

You can’t knock a team for something that’s out of its control, but the Cardinals were a bit of a flat-track bully this season, going 48-28 against the NL Central but just 45-41 versus the rest of the MLB.

» READ MORE: How should you bet the series? Phillies have the value in a 'coin flip'

It took the Cardinals a while to confirm their Game 1 starter, but in the end they decided to hand the ball to deadline acquisition Quintana, who is in the middle of a resurgent season.

The 33-year-old left-hander has posted a 2.93 ERA and 1.21 WHIP in 165.2 innings of work for the Pirates and Cards, but there are some numbers that suggest that Quintana has benefited from some good fortune this season. The southpaw’s 3.72 xFIP is hovering 0.79 runs higher than his ERA.

That run of good luck has continued with the Cards as Quintana owns a 2.01 ERA in 62.2 innings since being traded, but his xFIP is sitting at 3.62.

Compared to their overall numbers, the Phillies tend to perform better against left-handed pitching, posting a .769 OPS, .335 wOBA and 115 wRC+ this season. Overall, those numbers sit at .739, .322 and 106, respectively.

As for the bullpens, the numbers point to this edge going to St. Louis, but it’s hard to use those season-long numbers because we’re likely to see both managers get creative with their relievers in Game 1 and beyond.

Even though stealing a playoff opener on the road is never easy, the Phillies should be favorites in this game and hold value up to -125.

» READ MORE: Mets vs. Padres series prediction and preview: San Diego is a live underdog

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