Dodgers at Nationals – Free Run Total Pick September 18th

Los Angeles Dodgers  +139 at Washington Nationals -147 (Total: 8)

Aaron Harang (9-9, 3.79 ERA) vs. Jordan Zimmerman (12-7, 3.01)

Two weeks to play, and the stretch drive starts tonight.  The American League division leaders have a little breathing room, but things are still to be determined.  The White Sox win over the Tigers tomorrow gave them a nice three-game cushion with the season series between the two teams completely wrapped up.  The wildcard is a similar race; Oakland and Baltimore have a little breathing room, but I still would ignore the Angels, Tigers and Rays. On the other side, all three National League divisions are all but mathematically settled, but the wildcard is completely up in the air.  Several series kicking off tonight have a big impact on who will be playing this postseason.

The Cardinals lead the pack by a slim one-game margin, and should have a relatively easy time with the hapless Astros this week (though they did just take two of three over Philly).  The Pirates and Brewers begin a three game series knotted at 74-72 and 2 ½ games back.  That leaves the Dodger’s lurking quietly a just one game back, beginning a pivotal three game series in the nation’s capital facing the Nationals.

The Dodgers send Aaron Harang to the mound, looking to continue his nice resurgent season and pick up perhaps his biggest win of the year.  Harang is 9-9 with a 3.79 ERA and has pitched well for a bottom of the rotation anchor for the Dodgers all season.  The team is 0-3 in his last three outings, but Harang hasn’t pitched poorly; allowing just a 4.60 ERA.  The problem has been more that he has only gone 15.2 innings over those three starts putting a heavy burden on the bullpen.  He will need to give them six good innings tonight to get the win in Washington.

The Nationals will counter with Jordan Zimmerman, who has been one of the most pleasant surprises in the bigs in 2012.  However, he has appeared to hit a little bit of fatigue lately (unlike Strasburg!!) and his ERA has finally crept over 3.00 (HE ENTERS today at 3.01).  He is 1-0 in his last three starts, but like Harang has lasted only 15.2 innings.  Unlike Harang, he has been getting shelled.  He has allowed an ERA of 6.89 with a WHIP of 1.60.

This sounds to me like a game in which the bullpens are likely to play a significant factor.  And both pens are very, very good.  The Dodgers and Nats have a 3.23 and 3.27 ERA respectively.  Both are coming off an off-day so everyone is available.  I like them both to fare well tonight, even if they are called on an inning or two earlier than the managers would prefer.

The recent games between these two have been low scoring affairs, all three this season being under seven runs and averaging just six runs a contest.  I like Zimmerman to bounce back and pitch a decent ballgame and for Harang to fall back on some veteran big-game savvy and then for both bullpens to hold down the fort.  I like this one staying under the 8 total tonight.

Free Pick:  Run TOTAL UNDER 8