Cardinals at Nationals – Free Pick NLDS Game Five

St Louis Cardinals +122 at Washington Nationals -130 (Total: 6.5)

Adam Wainwright vs. Gio Gonzalez

The Washington offense certainly hasn’t gotten much done the past few days, but they were granted a reprieve last night thanks to Jayson Werth’s ninth inning walkoff homer and will now throw Cy Young co-favorite Gio Gonzalez at home with a chance to win the series.  Momentum, it is often said, is as fickle as the next day’s starting pitcher.  Couple that wisdom with the fact the Nats have actual momentum as well, and it should make for a thrilling conclusion to the Divisional Playoffs tonight in the Nation’s Capital.

The Cards will counter with Adam Wainwright, who has a wealth of playoff experience, even if he doesn’t have great 2012 numbers to match.  He is just 14-13 on the season with a 3.88 ERA, however he has thrown quality starts in three of his last five outings including a solid 5.2 inning, one run – ten strikeout performance in the series opener (and a win).

The Nationals Gio Gonzalez has been fantastic all season long, and enters having not allowed more than three runs in his last dozen starts.  He wasn’t sharp in the series opener, walking seven batters in just five innings; some could be attributed to nerves, others to the odd start time or just an off day, but if history is any indication, I expect him to pitch very well in tonight’s must-win game.

The Nationals are 4-0 in Gonzalez’s last four starts as a favorite and 7-1 in his last eight.  Even more interesting the Cardinals are just 2-9 in their last 11 games at Washington.  I know not many a gambler has made a good living betting against the Cardinals in October, but it is important to look at every game individually and avoid sentimentality as much as possible.  For example, Oakland A’s – GREAT story, momentum, the home crowd… Moneyball!  But at the end of the day?  They were facing Justin Verlander in a winner-take-all Game 5.  Game, set, match Tigers.

I look at tonight’s game in a similar fashion.  Gio is not Verlander, but he is having a substantially better season than Adam Wainwright.  Gio seems poised and able to handle big moments and slow the game down and make big pitches.  He had his struggles in Game One, but I expect a different Gio in Game Five.

It doesn’t get much better than a fourth Game Five in a two-day span, so enjoy today’s slate of baseball.  I know I will – and I’m banking that the Beltway will as well.

Free Pick:  Washington Nationals to WIN -130

Chris Scheeren / Author