It’s been a couple of weeks since I have released some MLB Series Picks, but I’ve had a good season with these picks so far and I’ll look to keep it going with a couple of picks coming your way beginning on Thursday night.
Both picks will, of course, be four-game sets as they kick off tonight, so while the push is always a real strong possibility, I have a couple picks that I believe give us some solid value.
The first pick of the night will feature the Nationals and Braves from SunTrust Park in Atlanta. Needless to say, this series has the utmost of playoff importance as the Nationals, one of baseball’s hottest teams since the beginning of June, are 6.5 games back of the Braves for the top spot in the NL East and could make up some ground by winning this series this weekend.
With that, let’s take a look at the odds for this four-game set, courtesy of MyBookie.
Nationals vs Braves MLB Series Odds
Now let’s take a quick look at the probable pitching matchups for the series, courtesy of MLB.com.
- Thursday: Strasburg (WAS) vs. Teheran (ATL)
- Friday: Corbin (WAS) vs. Soroka (ATL)
- Saturday: TBD vs. TBD
- Sunday: TBD vs. TBD
Now let’s break down these pitching matchups, or lack thereof, leading up to Thursday night’s series opener before getting into some notes on the offenses, bullpens and my final pick for the winner of this four-game set!
Thursday: Stephen Strasburg (11-4, 3.46 ERA) vs. Julio Teheran (5-6, 3.71 ERA)
Right-hander Stephen Strasburg gets the nod to open the series tonight in Atlanta and Strasburg has enjoyed plenty of success on the road this season.
He’ll enter tonight’s start sporting a 2.89 road ERa on the season while his 2.30 FIP and 3.29 combine to more or less support than ERA figure. The 10.09 K/9 clip and 2.20 BB/9 rate on the road combine to form an elite 4.56 K/BB ratio while Strasburg has kept the ball in the yard at an eye-popping 0.28 HR/9 rate away from Nationals Park.
Strasburgh has made a pair of starts this season against the Braves, one at home and one on the road. In his road start in Atlanta back on May 28th, the right-hander dominated to the tune of seven innings of two-run ball with two walks and 11 punchouts. He followed that up with another quality start at home almost a month later with six innings of three-run ball, albeit on three walks and just five strikeouts.
He also enters this one red-hot as he’s pitched 13.1 scoreless innings with 20 strikeouts over his last two starts. He’s allowed more than two earned runs in just one of his last six starts on the road and tossed six scoreless innings with just one walk and six strikeouts in his most recent outing which came on the road against the Phillies.
Teheran enters this one with a solid 3.71 ERA, however, he’s also the owner of a 4.72 FIP and 5.27 xFIP. Furthermore, Teheran’s skill-interactive ERA (SIERA) sits at a ghastly 5.16 on the season and certainly doesn’t point towards future success.
The walks are high at 4.39 per nine innings and he’s maintained a roughly league-average 8.18 K/9.
That said, Teheran has made a living outpitching his peripherals. Last season, he did just that by posting a 3.94 ERA but also a 4.83 FIP and 4.72 xFIP. For his career, he owns a 3.65 ERA, but also a 4.22 FIP and 4.32 xFIP.
His possible regression is mostly due to come at home as he owns a 2.66 home ERA, but also a 4.21 FIP and 4.53 xFIP to go along with a big 4.30 BB/9 clip.
Interestingly, he’s yet to face this Nationals team this season but owns a 4.13 career ERA across 21 stars against his division rival.
Despite Teheran’s success on the surface this season, he’s not the best pitcher in this series-opening pitching matchup.
Friday: Patrick Corbin (7-5, 3.39 ERA) vs. Mike Soroka (10-1, 2.24 ERA)
The second member of the three-headed pitching monster atop the Nationals rotation gets the nod in game two as Patrick Corbin takes the hill.
Corbin owns that rock-solid 3.39 ERA and also a 3.34 FIP and 3.62 xFIP that very much support that ERA figure. Like his teammate Strasburg, Corbin owns an excellent K/BB ratio of 3.97 thanks to a 10.48 K/9 and 2.64 BB/9 clip on the season.
That said, Corbin hasn’t been as sharp on the road this season where he’s pitched to a 5.17 ERA to go along with a 4.58 FIP and 4.14 xFIP. The strikeouts actually increase on the road to 10.99 K/9, however, the walks jumps to 3.56 per nine innings and more importantly, the home runs skyrocket from 0.42 HR/9 at home all the way to 1.78 HR/9 on the road.
That said, Corbin has been pitching like a man possessed of late. Over his last five starts, Corbin has logged a 1.93 ERA to go along with an 11.91 K/9 in that stretch as well. He’s allowed one run or fewer in five of those six starts and pitched six innings of three-run ball with 10 strikeouts in a no decision against the Phillies his last time out.
Corbin has yet to face the Braves as a member of the Nationals this season but owns a sparkling 1.66 ERA across seven starts and nine appearances in his career against the Braves.
After taking a loss in his first start of the season, young Braves right-hander Mike Soroka has won 10 straight decisions while sporting the second-lowest ERA in baseball among pitchers with at least 90 innings pitched this season at 2.24, behind only the 1.78-mark posted by Hyun-Jin Ryu to this point.
Soroka is likely due for some regression in the home run department as he owns a tiny 0.37 HR/9 clip on the season on the back of a 6.9% HR/9 rate, which is why we see his 3.60 xFIP towering over his ERA figure. Still, the 21-year-old owns a 2.95 FIP on the season and keeps the free passes to a minimum with a 2.06 BB/9 clip on the season.
His results at home haven’t been nearly as good as on the road as he owns a 3.79 ERA at home compared to a minuscule 1.13 ERA on the road. However, there’s a negligible difference between his strikeouts, walk and home run rates at home versus on the road.
Soroka was roughed up for four earned runs in just 4.2 innings of work in his most recent home start against the Phillies but rebounded with seven scoreless innings with nine strikeouts at Dan Diego in his first start out of the All-Star break.
Soroka left his only career start against the Nationals just a few weeks ago after two innings after being hit on the right forearm while batting.
This should be one heck of a pitching duel on Friday night and it’s pretty tough to give an advantage to either pitcher in this one. That said, given Corbin’s struggles at times on the road this season and Soroka’s all-round excellence, the slight advantage should go to the home side here.
Advantage: Slight to the Braves
Saturday: TBD vs. TBD
Quite the matchup, right?
While the Nationals may not have announced a starter for game three of this series, my calculations tell me that it will be right-hander Anibal Sanchez’s turn in the rotation for this one. Sanchez last pitched back on July 14th, and he’s ahead of Erick Fedde and Austin Voth in the rotation.
Max Scherzer is ramping up his throwing program in hopes of returning for Sunday’s series finale after dealing with a back issue, so this is getting clear-cut that Sanchez will take the ball for game three here.
After a rough start to the season, few pitchers in baseball have been as good as Anibal Sanchez.
Since May 29th against these very Braves in Atlanta when he hurled six innings of shutout baseball with seven strikeouts, Sanchez is the owner of a 2.48 ERA and has allowed one or fewer runs in five of those eight starts and more than three in just one of those eight starts.
Sanchez has pitched a quality start in six of his last eight starts as well.
Sanchez did allow four earned runs to the Braves in his most recent start against the Braves – his team from 2018 – but he’s otherwise been lights-out of late.
The Braves’ rotation is a little short-handed at the moment as right-hander Kevin Gausman resides on the IL while Mike Foltynewicz is working out the kinks in the minors. Consider Teheran and Soroka get the first two games and Bryse Wilson and Dallas Keuchel would be pitching on short rest in this game, I believe it could be an opener or a bullday day for the Braves in this one.
I will comment on the Braves’ bullpen later on, but it’s going to be tough to give the advantage in this one to anyone other than Sanchez who has quietly gone about his business as one of the stingiest pitchers in baseball since late May.
Sunday: TBD vs. TBD
As mentioned, while there is no announced starter for this game, Max Scherzer is working towards making this start for his club after dealing with a tweaked back.
I am going to go on the notion that Scherzer is going to do anything and everything he can to make this start. Some would say the Nats will keep him out for precautionary reasons, however, this is a massive series for the Nationals in their hunt for an NL East title against the division-leading Braves, so my money is on Mad Max making this start.
If he does, it’s trouble for Atlanta.
Scherzer has been absolutely lights out of late and is now the odds-on favorite to once again win the NL Cy Young Award.
Scherzer owns a 2.30 ERA to go along with an MLB-best 2.02 FIP and 2.82 XFIP. He’s striking out the opposition at a whopping 12.60 K/9 clip while issuing walks at just 1.60 per nine. Scherzer’s elite 7.87 K/BB rate is the second-best in baseball next to Hyun-Jin Ryu who simply doesn’t walk anybody.
Scherzer has allowed one run or less in eight of his last nine starts and hurled a shutout in three of his last nine starts. In that time, Scherzer has pitched to a 0.86 ERA to go along with an unbelievable 13.43 K/9 clip.
Needless to say, the Braves are hoping and praying that Scherzer doesn’t get the nod for this one tonight.
For the Braves, it appears it will be Bryse Wilson getting the nod as he last pitched on July 16th and would be making this start on normal rest as a result.
It’s been a tough go for Wilson as the 21-year-old has been roughed up in his big league time after posting some poor numbers at Triple-A prior to getting the call.
Wilson has pitched to a 6.75 ERA across four starts and five appearances on the season while his 5.89 FIP and 5.65 xFIP don’t point towards much more success moving forward. Prior to getting the call to the big leagues, Wilson pitched to a 4.67 ERA, 4.23 FIP, and 4.38 xFIP across 15 starts at the Triple-A level.
Wilson owns a 2.57 ERA in seven innings at home this season in one start and one relief appearance, but he’s allowed four earned runs in three of his four starts on the season and didn’t pitch more than 4.1 innings in any of those three starts. His line quality start in four big league tries came at home against the Phillies in his second-to-last start when he pitched six innings of two-run ball with two walks and five strikeouts.
Nonetheless, if this is indeed the pitching matchup on Sunday night, it’s simply no choice of who the advantage goes to.
Nationals vs. Braves MLB Series Pick
If everything goes to my plan, the Nationals will get their top four starters going in this game, all four of which have been very good of late and in most cases flat-out dominant of late.
That alone is enough evidence to take the Nationals as the road underdog here.
The one issue for Washington will be to find a way to get the ball to closer Sean Doolittle in short order. Having Strasburg, Corbin and possibly Scherzer going in this series should help, but the Nats’ bullpen continues to be disastrous.
Overall, they rank 29th with a 6.02 ERA on the season and once again blew a late lead on Wednesday night against the Dodgers. This is by far the biggest concern anytime you take the Nationals to win a game or a series.
Complicating matters further is the fact the Braves’ ‘pen ranks fifth in baseball with a 3.90 ERA, although they are due for some notable regression as their 4.62 bullpen FIP falls all the way to 17th while their xFIP of 4.69 sits in 16th. The Braves’ bullpen has been one of the luckiest in baseball to this point.
The offensive advantage here goes to the Braves as they have one of the league’s better offenses at seventh with a .333 wOBA. The Nats have improved at the plate over the last six weeks to the point where they are now tied for 14th with a .322 wOBA on the season.
In the month of July, however, the Braves have slumped down to 22nd with a .312 wOBA on the season while the Nationals check-in at 14th with a .331 wOBA for the month to this point.
I am just liking the Nationals’ starting pitching here over the Braves’ lack of depth including a possible bullpen day on Saturday and a rookie getting roughed up possibly starting against the best pitcher in the world on Sunday.
Add in an improved Nationals offense and I have plenty of evidence to grab the Nats as road underdogs at +110 to take down this four-game set.