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Nationals at Cardinals – Free Pick September 29th

Washington Nationals -106  at St. Louis Cardinals -114 (Total: 7.5)

Jordan Zimmerman vs. Kyle Lohse

It may not have the zip of last season’s frenzied final few days, but MLB is certainly not devoid of some excitement in the final regular season weekend.  Last night Homer Bailey of the Cincinnati Reds threw the first no-hitter for the franchise since 1988.  I dug up a few interesting stats from that game before we get to tonight’s free pick.   Since the Reds last no-hitter, four teams joined the league, and each of them has thrown at least one no-hitter; the Marlins have thrown four.  The last Red’s right hander to thrown a no-hitter?  Tom Seaver.  The last pitcher to no-hit the Pirates?  Bob Gibson.

It was a cool night at PNC Park.

The no-hitter by Homer was big in and of itself, but it was made even bigger by the fact it came in a 1-0 win on the same night the Washington Nationals were blown out by the Cardinals made it even bigger.  The National League Playoff participants are all but set, but the top seed is a dead heat with five games to play.  That makes tonight’s game in St. Louis a very important one for the Nationals.

It’s a fantastic pitching matchup, a rarity featuring two pitchers with sub-3.00 ERA’s in the final week of the season.  Neither one is in the Cy Young mix, but both deserve some serious love for far better than expected seasons.  Kyle Lohse has been stellar all season for the Cardinals.  He has thrown quality starts in his last four outings and enters tonight with a 2.77 ERA and a 1.08 ERA.  I expect him to be sharp as the Cards try to lock down the final playoff spot tonight.

The Nationals counter with Jordan Zimmerman.  With Strasburg on the shelf, Zimmerman becomes the presumptuous #2 starter for the postseason.  His 2.91 ERA and 1.17 WHIP have been dynamite, and his last three starts have put to rest some of the nagging concerns that he too was growing fatigued.  He has thrown quality starts in three of his last four outings, and the one non-quality start was a one run outing that lasted only five innings.  And therein lies the edge for the Cards tonight; the Nats seem hell-bent on protecting every single pitcher on their roster to the point that it is tough to bleed more than six innings out of a pitcher.

I expect the Cardinals to get a few runs early, but also to tack a few on late.  It should be a well-pitched ballgame, but I like St. Louis, especially at the nice line of -114.   I also like a bonus-wager tonight; the OVER 7.5 run total.  I know both teams are throwing good starters, but runs have been scored at an incredible pace between these two teams.  Six of the last eight games have hit double-digits, and one more tallied nine runs.  That makes the 7.5 total seem invitingly low.  Take the Cards and take the OVER.

Free Pick:  St. Louis Cardinals to WIN -114 & Run TOTAL OVER 7.5 (-105)