St Louis Cardinals +106 at Washington Nationals -113 (Total: 8)
Jaime Garcia (3-5, 4.15 ERA) vs. Edwin Jackson (7-9, 3.72 ERA)
This is a big series for both teams, as the calendar flips to September and playoff races begin in earnest. The Cardinals have been here before; facing an eight game defecit with thirty games to play. In fact, last year, this story ended with a World Series championship. But this year feels different. Injuries both minor and major keep befalling the Cardinals’ momentum. The latest is a concussion to catcher (and MVP candidate) Yadier Molina who was roughed up in a home plate collision two nights ago.
The Cardinals can hit all day, but just can’t seem to put everything together. The momentum they gathered winning two of three in Cincinnati over the weekend to pull within six games of the Reds was given right back when they dropped two of three in Pittsburgh. Meanwhile the Reds went out to Arizona and brought their brooms, effectively ending Arizona’s postseason dreams, and pushing the Cards back to a full eight games behind.
Washington is in unfamiliar territory. Since the franchises move to the Capitol, it has been nothing but losing and misery. This season, not only have they turned things around, they have been the best team in baseball for much of the season (they now trail the Reds by ½ game for the best record in the Bigs). However, following a five-game losing skid, and the “controversy” surrounding what they will do with Stephen Strasburg, the Nationals feel on about as shaky ground as a runaway division winner and playoff team can feel.
They will give the ball to Edwin Jackson tonight, and hope for the best. It’s been a bit of a crap shoot with Jackson this season. Despite pitching reasonably well (a 3.79 ERA on the season) the Nats are just 9-15 in games he has started. He has only allowed more than three runs once in his last seven starts, but surprisingly only has THREE quality starts in that span. It means he isn’t pitching deep enough into ballgames and is putting some pressure on their middle relief corp. The Nats have a solid pen (3.28 ERA) but like nearly all ballclubs, those numbers are stronger in the eighth and ninth innings than they are in the fifth, sixth and seventh. The Nats need Jackson to give them six or seven strong tonight, and I don’t see it happening.
The Cardinal hitters, even without Molina in the lineup tonight, have been ridiculous all season long. They have the best average in the National League at .270 and are averaging nearly five runs a game. The Nats, despite perception to the contrary, are a reasonable offensive club as well, hitting .253 (.257 against lefties, which Garcia happens to be) and averaging close to four and a half runs per contest.
Given the struggles both these pitchers have had at times, and the potency of the opposing lineups, eight runs feels a little low. I also like the Cardinals to win, and LOVE the value of them being plus-money. We have had good success with double-up picks here at the sportsgeek.com (6 of 9 have been W/W), and I am going to make another one tonight. Give me the Cards and the OVER in a fun, and important series opener tonight in Washington.
Free Pick: Cardinals to WIN +106, Run TOTAL OVER 8 (-105)