The Phillies travel to Pittsburgh aiming to gain some ground in the NL wild card race, where they’re fighting off the Cardinals for their first postseason berth in more than a decade. Philadelphia faces another NL Central team, the lowly Pirates, who sit 40-58 and two games out of last in the NL Central. The Phillies will put ace Zack Wheeler on the mound Thursday, hoping they finally can give him some run support, while the Pirates will start Zach Thompson in a battle of the Zack’s.
Let’s take a look at starting lineups, betting odds, and predictions for Thursday’s matchup.
Philadelphia Phillies vs. Pittsburgh Pirates Betting Odds
The Phillies are road favorites at -200 on the moneyline, with the over/under set at only 7.5 runs. If you’re wondering why the Phillies aren’t even greater favorites against one of the NL’s worst teams, it probably has something to do with the team being 9-9 in Wheeler’s starts this season. The Phillies just haven’t given their ace much run support, losing to the Cubs last week when Wheeler allowed 1 run on 4 baserunners over 7 innings. Still, you could make a case that the lack of run support for Wheeler in particular is an anomaly and call the Phillies the easy pick in this one.
Philadelphia Phillies Starting Lineup
LF K. Schwarber L
1B R. Hoskins R
C J. Realmuto R
DH D. Hall L
RF N. Castellanos R
2B B. Stott L
3B A. Bohm R
SS D. Gregorius L
CF M. Vierling R
Philadelphia Phillies vs. Zach Thompson
The Pirates acquired Zach Thompson from Miami in November’s Jacob Stallings deal, and the 28-year-old has mostly struggled over 75.2 innings this season. Thompson has a 4.64 ERA, 5.31 FIP, and 1.44 WHIP on the year, after posting a 3.24 ERA and 3.69 FIP across 75 innings with the Marlins in 2021. Walks have been a problem for Thompson in both of his MLB seasons – he has a career average of 3.6 BB/9 and hasn’t generated strikeouts this season after a more promising 7.9 K/9 rate last year. Thompson pitched better in June and early July before crashing down again last week, when he was tagged for 7 runs against his former team.
The Phillies’ offense showed more signs of life against the Braves this week, scoring 16 total runs in the series victory. Without Bryce Harper, different bats have stepped up. For much of June, it was Kyle Schwarber. In early July, it was J.T. Realmuto, who has continued to hit well into the second half. Lately, Alec Bohm has been a dominant force at the plate. Bohm is 12-for-23 since the all-star break, pushing his AVG from .276 to .293. Cold streaks, like what Nick Castellanos and Didi Gregorius are experiencing now, too often outweigh the Phillies’ hot hitters. Still, this lineup has so much home run potential even without Harper that it should be able to do some damage against Thompson and finally put at least a handful of runs on the board for Zack Wheeler.
Pittsburgh Pirates Starting Lineup
2B K. Newman R
CF B. Reynolds S
3B K. Hayes R
DH J. VanMeter L
1B Y. Tsutsugo L
LF B. Gamel L
SS O. Cruz L
RF C. Mitchell L
C J. Delay R
Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Zack Wheeler
A rough outing to finish the first half derailed what was looking like a sleeper Cy Young campaign for Zack Wheeler, but he got back on track against the Cubs last week and now has another favorable matchup in Pittsburgh. Wheeler has a 2.78 ERA over 18 starts (106.2 IP), with a nearly identical 2.77 FIP plus a 1.04 WHIP. He’s allowed only 8 home runs this season, an average of 0.7 per nine innings, while keeping walks low. Wheeler has dominated lefties, who have a .587 OPS against him this season. That could dim the outlook for Pirates mainstays Oneil Cruz and Ben Gamel.
The Pirates are hitting just .214 with a .621 OPS in July, both season-lows. Part of those struggles may be Bryan Reynolds’ two-week IL stint, which came to an end earlier this week. Pittsburgh has scored more than 2 runs only once in the last five games (in a game started by Sandy Alcantara, somehow). With Reynolds back and Oneil Cruz starting to flash the power we know he’s capable of, there’s some hope for improvement in the near future, but the odds of that improvement coming against Wheeler are slim. Here’s the stat that jumps off the page for me: since the start of May, only three teams have posted more than 2 earned runs against Zack Wheeler: the Dodgers, Braves, and Blue Jays. The Pirates are in a much different class than those offenses.
Philadelphia Phillies vs. Pittsburgh Pirates Picks & Prediction
My pick: Phillies Moneyline / Under 7.5 Runs Parlay (+220 on FanDuel)
I don’t know why the Phillies refuse to score for Zack Wheeler. Last week, I said it was probably an anomaly. And it probably is. After all, they did put up 7 runs for Kyle Gibson on Wednesday. But, I also wonder if it could be in the heads of some Phillies hitters given how much has been made of their inability to score for both Wheeler and Aaron Nola. I like the Phillies to win this one on the road, and even if they do score 5 or 6 runs, Wheeler’s track record against bad teams is so pristine that he should deliver a big performance at beautiful PNC Park and keep the under very much in play.