Phillies vs Cardinals NL Wild Card Game 1 Picks and Predictions: Wheeler Keeps St. Louis Off-Balance

Philadelphia is back in the postseason for the first time since 2011, and we like Zach Wheeler to help them strike first in Game 1 of this NL Wild Card series on Friday night. Read more in our Phillies vs. Cardinals betting picks.

Last Updated: Oct 7, 2022 9:50 AM ET Read Time: 4 min

The MLB Playoffs have arrived, and one of the opening day features will be the Philadelphia Phillies traveling to face the St. Louis Cardinals. This will be Game 1 of the three-game National League Wild Card set.

It was a push for the Phillies to make the playoffs. They needed one win in their final three games against the Houston Astros, and they got one. The Cardinals had a much more comfortable finish to the season, having wrapped up the NL Central early. However, they finished the season losing three of their last four games in an extended series against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Who gets this Game 1 matchup? Find out in our MLB picks and predictions for St. Louis Cardinals vs. Pittsburgh Pirates.

Phillies vs Cardinals best odds

Phillies vs Cardinals picks and predictions

In my weekly MLB Power Rankings, there have been two consistent themes to end the season. One of those is the expected negative regression of the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals had the most significant difference between expected and actual wins throughout the regular season. They finished the year with 10 more wins than they were expected to get.

If those went the other way, they might not even be in the playoffs. So will negative regression occur here? That's a big question we aim to answer. The other theme of those rankings over the last month has been the anticipated positive regression of the Phillies. They were one of the few teams that underperformed in the actual hitting numbers they produced.

Essentially, the numbers say they are due for an offensive breakout. These two teams now meet, making me obligated to take the Phillies to win this game and the series. This matchup pits Zack Wheeler against Jose Quintana against one another in Game 1. Quintana has had a solid season for St. Louis, with stats that have probably surprised most Cardinals' fans. He's posted an ERA under 3.00 and a winning record that should be better than it is, but he may be in trouble here.

Quintana is indicative of the Cardinals, as he has been working on borrowed time. Just like his team, he is due for negative regression. His xERA is nearly 4.00, which is a significant discrepancy versus his actual ERA. His fastball has been incredible, producing a -17 run value. However, his secondary pitches have given him issues, and I expect the Phillies to seize on that. Depending on the lineup the Phillies bring out, they may have six players batting over .300 against the change-up this season. In a game that may not feature many runs, that's a massive edge.

Wheeler has been one of my favorite pitchers to back this season. He's delivered consistent performances time and time again. Knowing what you're getting is one of the most valuable things when backing a pitcher. In this matchup, Wheeler has the advantage of facing a team that struggles against pitchers like him.

Two pitches from Wheeler — the four-seam fastball and slider — have produced -10 run values. The Cardinals' collective hitting numbers go down when facing a team with a relatively equal distribution of fastball and breaking balls. The most notable metric that makes a big jump is the plain old batting average, from .248 to .222.

It seems the key to slowing down the offense of the Cards is to keep their hitters guessing, and Wheeler is terrific at doing that. I've been waiting most of the year to fade the Cardinals in the postseason and will be jumping at my first chance. This series should go three games, but the Phillies will take the first.

My projections make Philly a -130 favorite here, and we're getting some excellent value at the current price.

My best bet: Phillies moneyline (-110 at FanDuel)

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Phillies vs Cardinals Wild Card odds

Teams Odds to win series
Steelers Philadelphia Phillies +100
Browns St. Louis Cardinals -120

Phillies vs Cardinals moneyline analysis

I'm backing the Phillies in Game 1 and in the series overall. You can hit some derivative markets, such as "Zach Wheeler to record a win and Phillies to win the series" currently being offered at +240 on FanDuel. These are both two sides that I would label as value versus the currently widely available numbers.

There is a culmination of things here that make the Phillies appealing. You can look at a ton of specifics, statistics, and matchups, but the biggest thing is the aspect of regression. It's clearly in favor of one team and against the other. It would go against the fabric of my betting foundations to go against them here.

The Cardinals are 1-7 in their last eight playoff games, and there's just too much to like in this matchup not to back Philly. All signals point in one direction, and that's toward the road team. Back the Phillies to go up 1-0 in this series on Friday.

Phillies vs Cardinals Over/Under analysis

I don't have much of a feel for this total and won't bet on either side of it. The best policy when in doubt in playoff games is to take the Under if you're itching for action. They cash just over 50% of the time in the playoffs and have also hit in the 60% range in the Wild Card games in the last five seasons.

The trends certainly suggest one clear side: The Under is 4-0 in the Phillies' last four after scoring two runs or less in their previous games. The Under is also 6-0 in Zack Wheeler's last six Friday starts and is also 5-0 in the last five meetings between these two teams.

Phillies vs Cardinals trend to know

The Cardinals are just 1-7 in their last eight playoff games. Find more MLB betting trends for Phillies vs. Cardinals.

Phillies vs Cardinals game info

Location: Busch Stadium, St. Louis, MO
Date: Friday, October 7, 2022
First pitch: 2:07 p.m. ET
TV: ABC

Starting pitchers

Zack Wheeler (12-7, 2.82 ERA): The most impressive thing about Wheeler's season is how remarkably consistent he's been. He's given up four earned runs just three times in nearly 30 starts this season. In addition, his xERA is almost precisely in line with his actual ERA, and he's pitched in over five innings in all but four starts. Wheeler's best attribute is his ability to induce soft contact, with an average exit velocity ranking in the Top 5% of pitchers. The right-hander pitched five scoreless innings against the Washington Nationals in his last start.

Jose Quintana (6-7, 2.93 ERA): Quintana has been lucky. I talked about it at the onset, but his quality of pitches hasn't matched his ERA. That's not to say Quintana isn't a good pitcher, but he's closer to average than some of the numbers he's put up this season. Quintana does a tremendous job of keeping the ball in the park with a barrel rate that ranks in the Top 25% of pitchers. However, his expected batting average ranks in the Bottom 25% of pitchers, meaning that the hits should be coming. 

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