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Mets vs. Nationals Pick MLB – May 24th

It was a pretty interesting day in the National League.  The Cardinals dealt the Cubs their eighth loss in twelve games, this one in dramatic fashion as a Matt Adams homerun got them back level in the seventh and a Randal Grichuk blast won it in walkoff fashion in the ninth.  But before we bemoan the Cubbies too much, they are STILL on pace for a 109-win season and have Jason Hamel pitching tonight followed by Arrieta and Lester…

Out West, a pair of aces dominated in 1-0 victories; Clayton Kershaw hurling a two-hit shutout to give the Reds their tenth straight loss and Johnny Cueto keeping the Giants margin intact with a 1-0 win over the Padres.  Somewhat surprisingly, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, they are the first two pitchers to toss 1-0 shutouts on the same night since Greg Maddux and Kerry Wood in 2001…

And of course, the other marquee series of the week, the Mets continued their dominance over the Nationals (and gave me a loss) as Gio Gonzalez suffered his worst outing of the year (and shortest) while the ageless Bartolo Colon continues to get the job done.  The Mets 7-1 win pulled them even in the NL East loss column.

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Today’s Free Pick:

New York Mets +154 at Washington Nationals -161 (Total: 7.5)

Matt Harvey (3-6, 5.77 ERA) vs. Stephen Strasburg (7-0, 2.80 ERA)

This pitching matchup sounds like a “stop what you are doing to watch” matchup – and I suppose it IS, but not for the reason it could/should be.  The biggest intrigue tonight is whether Matt Harvey, who was widely rumored to be skipped in the rotation, can prevent that discussion from cropping up for a second straight start.  The ‘Dark Knight’ is struggling mightily, and some speculate it is the 224 innings he threw last season, the most even by a pitcher one year removed from Tommy John surgery.   His ERA is approaching six, and he has allowed eleven runs in his last two starts while totaling just 7.2 innings.  If you really dig into his numbers, last two starts aside, he hasn’t been awful.  He has held opponents to three or less runs in six of his nine starts.  It is just how many people he is letting on base (WHIP of 1.67) and the fact that in NO starts has he gone more than six innings and allowed less than two runs.

Meanwhile, the Nats are a perfect 10-0 in games Strasburg has started this season, including a 9-1 win over the Mets last week in a game Strasburg struck out ten while allowing just a single run in six innings.  I expect a similar performance tonight and for the Nats to even up the series.

I also expect Harvey to be decent.  I like him to last to the sixth, surrendering his customary few runs, but not getting chased to the showers in the third or fourth innings again.  But it likely won’t be enough to win.  The Nats at -161 is a reasonable value, given Strasburg’s perfection this season, but with their “Mets problem” I am not sure there is enough value for me.  I think if they win this game, it is on the back of a strong Strasburg effort and by rattling Harvey.  That makes the runline at +135 a nice value opportunity.

Free Pick: Washington Nationals RUNLINE -1.5 (+135)