Lots of betting developments over the last week or so. The second year of NJ betting is right around the corner. But for those of you in PA, lots of developments are happening as the first season of legal football betting gets underway. Online casinos are now available in PA. And we learned this week that DraftKings Sportsbook will be heading to PA.

That's the market update. Now onto the Phillies, who have a BIG weekend in front of them.

At 57-51, the Phillies enter this weekend's series at Citizens Bank Park against the Chicago White Sox right in the thick of the National League wild card race.

With only 54 games remaining and seven teams within four games of a spot in the one-game playoff, what I'm about to write is both totally cliché and completely obvious, but it remains true nonetheless: the Phillies need to handle business this weekend against an inferior opponent. I mean, a really inferior opponent.

Think I'm overhyping the urgency here? Think again. FanGraphs currently gives the Phillies a 25% chance to secure a wild card spot. That's only slightly better than the odds of the red-hot Mets, which suddenly have a 20.7% chance to earn a spot. That's what seven straight wins will do for a team.

Meanwhile, the Nationals (62%) are the clear favorite to lock down one wild card spot, while the Brewers, Cubs, and Cardinals each currently have better postseason odds than the Phillies, according to the FanGraphs model.

So yeah, these games are big, and the Phillies have no time for excuses.

It doesn't matter that Adam Morgan went on the injured list earlier this afternoon, or that Hector Neris won't be available until Sunday as he serves the final two games of his three-game suspension, or that the Phillies are trotting out two starting pitchers this weekend that weren't even on their 25-man roster two weeks ago. They've got to find a way against a White Sox squad that comes in at 46-60 and completely out of the American League postseason picture. Some things to consider about this Chicago team:

  • They're 14th in the American League with a .703 OPS
  • They're 14th in the American League with a .397 slugging-percentage
  • They are tied with the Rangers for the American League's second-worst K% at 25.9
  • White Sox pitchers are 11th in the American League with a 5.00 staff ERA
  • They are also 13th in the American League with an 11.3% strikeout to walk percentage.

If you're not a numbers person, let me sum that up for you: Chicago doesn't hit particularly well, and they don't pitch particularly well.

As such, the Phillies are big favorites in the opener with the newly-acquired Jason Vargas on the mound as they go up against White Sox starting pitcher Ivan Nova.  The Phillies are -180 on the money line at FanDuel Sportsbook, which became the fourth PA online sportsbook to go live late last month. There's no doubt which team is supposed to win the first game of this three-game set. Some points to consider ahead of Game 1:

  • Jason Vargas makes his first start for the Phillies. He’s not the big trade deadline acquisition Phillies fans were hoping for, but he’s putting together a solid season. Vargas comes from the Mets with a respectable 4.01 ERA and 1.27 WHIP. In a Phillies rotation that is 23rd in all of baseball with a 4.83 ERA since June 1, he should provide a boost.
  • At 32-18 (+$478), the Phillies are the NL’s third-most profitable home favorite this season.
  • The Phillies are only 5-3 when favored -170 to -200 on the moneyline this season, which hasn’t been a profitable play (-$17). They are, however, also 5-3 on the run line when this large of a favorite, which has netted the average $100 bettor +$262.
  • The Phillies' run line performance in this spread range is an outlier. All MLB home teams favored between -170 and -200 on the money line this season are only 71-98 (-$2,069) on the run line. Only the Rays and Brewers have been more profitable, while quality teams like the Braves, Red Sox, Yankees, Athletics, and Cardinals have been killing bettors.
  • The White Sox are only 16-29 (-$109) as a road underdog this season. Despite winning only a little over 35% percent of their games in this role, they’re only a shade below the break-even mark because they often offer such a quality payout on their rare wins.

You may want to store this information for later in the series, too, because the Phillies should be substantial favorites throughout the weekend.

Aaron Nola gets the ball against Ross Detwiler on Saturday. The Phillies will be a huge betting favorite at FanDuel – probably over -200 on the money line. Nola was outstanding in July, posting a 2.52 ERA, while opponents hit only .196 against him in six starts. Detwiler, meanwhile, was bumped from the White Sox rotation earlier this season and holds a hefty 6.08 ERA in only three starts.

On Sunday, it will be the revitalized Drew Smyly vs. Reynaldo Lopez. Smyly has been excellent in two starts with the Phillies. Marvel at this line:

13 IP, 8 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 13 K

Lopez is 5-9 with a 5.43 ERA in 22 starts this season. Opponents are hitting .284 with an inviting .850 OPS against him in 10 road starts.

Bottom line: it's time for the Phillies to go on a run. They haven't been seven games over .500 since June 16, and they haven't been nine games over .500 since June 11. This weekend presents a golden opportunity to get back there. Now, they just need to take advantage of it.