Nationals vs. Cardinals MLB Pick – April 14, 2021

Chalk up another win with last night’s MLB pick between the Reds and Giants!

I had the Over 7.5 in that one at +100, giving us quality value for a couple of teams that were probably due to get the sticks going again, but also some pitching regression on the San Fran side of things.

As it turned out, the Giants were able to outlast the Reds in this one, but they did so by a 7-6 final. Both Joey Votto and Mike Moustakas were able to take Kevin Gausman deep in that one while Mike Yastrzemski and Brandon Crawford got to Reds starter Luis Castillo for early home runs as well. As it turns out, all four of those homers came in the first inning, and we had our Over 7.5 by the end of one. That’s how we like to win — without sweating one iota.

Our hot start continues as we look into this Nationals vs. Cardinals MLB pick from St. Louis!

  • Season Record: 4-1
  • Units: +2.88

Nationals vs. Cardinals Betting Odds

  • Nationals (+113)
  • Cardinals (-123)
  • Nationals +1.5  (-175)
  • Cardinals -1.5 (+155)
  • Over 8.5 (-110)
  • Under 8.5 (-110)

Nationals vs. Cardinals MLB Pick Breakdown

Nationals

Starting Pitching

The Nats will send right-hander Joe Ross to the rubber for this afternoon tilt with the Cardinals, making his second start of the season as he’ll look for similar results to his first.

The matchup in Los Angeles against a loaded Dodgers lineup wasn’t of the favorable variety, but Ross went into Dodger Stadium and hurled five shutout innings, allowing just two hits and two walks while striking out four. He limited the Dodgers to just 25% hard contact in that one and not a single barrel to boot.

It’s certainly a great start for a pitcher that had lost his footing at the big-league level of late. Ross burst onto the big-league scene at the age of 22 in the 2015 season and worked to a 3.64 ERA/3.42 FIP across 13 starts and 76.2 innings that season. His 2016 work was quite similar in the form of a 3.43 ERA/3.49 FIP across another 105 frames. However, it was downhill since.

In 2017, Ross’ numbers regressed to a 5.01 ERA/4.99 FIP and 2018 was no better in the form of a 5.06 ERA/5.85 FIP in a 16-inning sample. Finally, Ross worked to a 5.48 ERA/4.59 FIP in the 2019 season before opting out of the 2020 season all together.

He’s bounced back and forth between the majors and minors over the last five years, but the now 27-year-old Ross is looking to once again cement himself as a big-league starter behind the three-headed monster that is Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin in Washington.

Offense

After watching superstar Anthony Rendon sign with the Los Angeles Angels in the winter of 2019, the Nationals’ offense actually held up quite well with a 10th-ranked .330 wOBA in the shortened 2020 season. Through all their postponements and delayed starts to the season, the Nats are looking to find their groove at the plate here in 2021.

Washington enters this one ranked right in the middle of the pack at 16th with a .306 wOBA on the season, but have also hit for very little power in the form of a .104 isolated power (ISO) that puts them last in the big leagues by a wide margin. The Mets’ surprising .120 mark is the next-worst figure in the league.

The return of Kyle Schwarber has helped as he’s been limited to just two games but has posted a .222 ISO in that time. Catcher Yan Gomes has some pop, and he’s off to hitting .500 in only three games as he too endured a late start to the season.

Of course, the Nats are getting productive at-bats and power from Juan Soto and Trea Turner, both of whom own ISO figures north of .225 while also making some noise on the base paths.

We’ll simply have to see how this new-look offense will fare moving forward as Schwarber and fellow newcomer Josh Bell have combined for only 18 trips to the plate here in the 2021 season as they just haven’t had a full lineup for much of the season.

The are tied for the fourth-best batting average in the league at .266, but they’ll need to flex a little muscle if they want to increase their runs per game average from their current 3.13 mark moving forward.

Bullpen

The Nationals’ bullpen was horrendous despite marching to the 2019 World Series, and it didn’t get much better last season when they ranked 23rd with a 4.68 ERA, either.

In their eight-game sample so far, the Nats’ bullpen has been more of the same with a 22nd-ranked 4.78 ERA, however their 4.17 FIP and 4.13 xFIP suggest they’ve been significantly better than that surface ERA figure in the early going.

When you look at the Statcast figures of a 27th-ranked 46.7% hard-hit rate against and a tie for 25th with their 10.7% barrel rate against, perhaps their ERA figure is more accurate than we think.

While we’ll let the sample size grow and make more accurate descriptions as we move forward, we do know that general manager Mike Rizzo at least attempted to upgrade the group. He added all-world closer Brad Hand on the free-agent market and he’s pitched two clean innings in two appearances so far. Fellow late-inning reliever Daniel Hudson is also clean through two appearances, but it’s been Tanner Rainey and Luis Avilan that have been roughed up in three-inning samples so far this season.

We’ll see how this group shakes out moving forward, but this is certainly a time looking for a major improvement from this group after consecutive years of wildly unsatisfactory results.

Cardinals

Starting Pitching

It’s been a tale of two results for 39-year-old veteran Adam Wainwright so far here in 2021, but he’ll look for more home cookin’ in this one with Washington this afternoon.

Wainwright began his season by being tagged for six runs in just 2.2 innings of work in Cincinnati, however bounced right back by hurling five innings of one-run ball with six punchouts against the Brewers his last time out. Getting touched up on the road and bouncing back at home is nothing new for Wainwright, however, and the sample size is huge.

He pitched well both at home and on the road last season, but the shortened 2020 campaign is the exception to the rule. In 2019, he worked to a ghastly 6.22 ERA on the road, but a stout 2.56 mark at home. In 2017, he posted a 7.32 ERA on the road, but a 3.08 mark at home. Add it up and the right-hander owns a career 4.01 ERA on the road, but a sparkling 2.86 ERA at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. The peripherals are a little narrower, but his 3.19 FIP and 2.24 BB/9 at home for his career are fabulous numbers as he’s just more comfortable in St. Louis.

We’ll see if that trend continues here. After all, he allowed 57.1% hard contact in his home start with the Brewers last week and just three ground balls were put in play of the 14 total balls in play. Hard-hit fly-balls and line-drives are, obviously, going to get anyone into trouble, so we’ll see if Waino can limit the hard contact in this one today.

Offense

After averaging just 3.33 runs per game over their previous three, the Cardinals’ bats found major life in last night’s 14-3 blowout win over the Nats, roughing up Strasburg for seven runs and a trio of homers in just four innings before tagging Avilan for another six (three earned). They actually scored all 14 of their runs within the first five innings of that game.

It was a much-needed offensive outburst for the Cards, a club that came out swinging before slumping some of late. That said, they still rank 11th with a .313 wOBA on the season while their .153 ISO puts them smack-dab in the middle of the pack in share of 15th alongside the Tampa Bay Rays.

Nolan Arenado is mashing in his first season with the club as he’s hitting .326 with three homers and a 159 wRC+ at the moment, but the bigger surprise is from 38-year-old Yadier Molina who paces the team with a 169 wRC+ while hitting .353 with a pair of bombs on the campaign.

It’s not all gravy for this offense, however, as the decline of Paul Goldschmidt — once a perennial MVP candidate — continues with a .256 average and just one homer in 46 trips to the plate while Paul DeJong has a lowly .128 average and 67 wRC+ despite homering twice so far.

It’s a quality lineup, but one that’s been inconsistent throughout.

Bullpen

By all accounts, this Cardinals bullpen should be very good simply from the personnel standpoint.

I mean, they enter this one with a 16th-ranked 4.25 ERA on the young season and their 4.17 FIP is solid as well. However, this is a group that got fireballer Jordan Hicks back after he opted out of the 2020 season and missed much of 2019 due to Tommy John surgery while names like Alex Reyes, Genesis Cabrera, Giovanny Gallegos and Andrew Miller are a mix of velocity and nasty offspeed stuff.

Still, the Cardinals rank 15th with a 94.4 mph average fastball velocity from this group and rank 23rd with a 9.8% barrel rate against so far this season. Miller has been roughed up while Hicks and Reyes aren’t missing many bats despite 8.2 innings of combined shutout work.

I would suggest this group should be fine moving forward, but it’s been an inauspicious start for a ‘pen with plenty of firepower and high-leverage experience.

Nationals vs. Cardinals MLB Pick

This one is a fairly even matchup from my standpoint. Both starters are coming off quality outings from their last time out, both bullpens are ‘meh’ so far while there hasn’t been much separating the offenses as of yet.

However, when we look at this matchup from a value perspective, I like the Nationals on the moneyline here.

I do believe they have the starting pitching advantage. While Wainwright is usually good at home, his peripherals were iffy from that start against the Brewers. More importantly, you wonder if the 2015-2016 Joe Ross is back after having plenty of time off. Despite his rough work since that time, he still owns a career 4.23 ERA/4.11 FIP and 2.88 BB/9 rate. He went through an elite Dodgers lineup a couple of times with relative ease his last time out, and this matchup is far superior.

I also want to see what this Nationals lineup can do once fully healthy. With Trea Turner, Juan Soto, Kyle Schwarber and Josh Bell now forming the meat of this lineup, they’re in far better hands than they were earlier in the season. They’re hitting well, but not for a ton of power. That will change with Schwarber and Bell in the lineup.

All due respect to the veteran Wainwright, but I believe this Nationals offense backs Ross at nice value this afternoon.

The Bet
NATIONALS
+113
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Brenton Kemp / Author

Brenton is a lifelong sports fan who resides in Ontario, Canada. Brenton is a fan of most all sports but specializes in hockey, baseball, football, basketball, and golf. He’s a fierce researcher with a strong appetite to deliver accurate and relevant facts that in turn have led to past success with picks and DFS advice across the board. Brenton’s biggest goal is to deliver readers with the picks and advice that can build their bankroll. He takes great pride in his success and loves nothing more than to share that success for the benefit of everyone involved.

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