Minors? I don’t think so. Bryce Harper responded to the media speculation that he might benefit from a trip down to the minors to shake out of his hitting slump in typically brash fashion. He belted a walk-off homerun to carry the Nats to a 4 ½ game leads in the National League Central. Thanks largely in part to an eight-game Atlanta slide (still active), the division that Atlanta has led and has been tight all season long now seems to be in danger of being a runaway for the more talented Nationals.
One place we haven’t seen any evidence of separation is the American League Wildcard race. The Yankees just took three of four off of the seemingly “invincible” Tigers, beating two of their three Cy Young winners, and falling to the Tigers third in 12 innings. With their patchwork pitching staff, aging lineup and injury concerns all over the roster, it still appears the Yankees has designs of conjuring a little magic to send off The Captain in style…
Let’s start our weekend off in style as well, and try to notch a nice winner.
Today’s Free Pick:
Washington Nationals -110 at Atlanta Braves +100 (Total: 7)
Stephen Strasburg (8-9, 3.39 ERA) vs. Ervin Santana (10-6, 3.59 ERA)
To say this is a big series for both teams is an understatement. If the Nats were able to continue the Braves misery and sweep this series on the road they can start printing playoff tickets in the nation’s capital. If Atlanta can suddenly wake up and steal this series, then we may very well have a race to the finish.
If the Braves are going to wake up, it will be against a uber-talented pitcher entering off his best start of the season. Strasburg has been a tricky wager this season, as he has Cy Young talent and a good ERA, but also a losing record at 8-9 and a tea record of just 12-12 in games he has started. For example, his ERA is a tidy 2.23 in his last three starts, but he is just 1-2.
Opposing Strasburg will be Ervin Santana. And if Strasburg enters hot, Santana enters scorching. He is a perfect 2-0 with a 1.23 ERA in his last three outings, and knowing how badly his team needs him tonight, I expect him to come up big. The big question is, will his offense support him?
The Nats have scored 40 runs in their last nine games, but have been feast of famine. They’ve put up big games with 11 and 7 runs; they’ve put up a single run several times. I think tonight will be a tough night at the dish for them. As good as both pitchers are, it’s hard to reliably bet either, as their offenses rarely give them the requisite support for a win. For two pitchers with low-three ERA’s on playoff contenders to have a combined team record of 23-22 is pretty hard to wrap your head around. And I think one of them will once against be frustrated again tonight.
Expect runs to be at a premium. I’ll take the UNDER and enjoy a tense, important mid-August ballgame.