Sometimes you really just nail a pick. That was the case yesterday when we backed the Atlanta Braves as underdogs against the Pittsburgh Pirates. The fact that Pirates starter Trevor Williams had been unhittable recently scared me a little bit, but this Pirates offense had really been struggling badly to score runs, and I liked Braves starter Julio Teheran’s chances of shutting them down.
The game went according to plan as Teheran was dominant. Teheran pitched seven innings of one-run ball and gave up just two hits. The Pirates have now scored just seven runs in their last seven games. Williams was great once again as he pitched six innings and allowed just one run on two hits, but his team couldn’t score for him yet again.
This Pirates team is in freefall right now. The bats have completely turned off and if I find them in another spot where they are favorites against a first-place team like the Atlanta Braves I am jumping all over it, and you should too. For today’s pick, I will look at another underdog spot when the Philadelphia Phillies play the Washington Nationals.
The Philadelphia Phillies are in Washington D.C. this morning for game three of a three-game set with the Nationals. The Nats have taken the first two games of this series and are looking for the sweep today in game three. With the back to back losses, the Phillies have dropped to three games back of the Atlanta Braves for the National League East Division crown. The Nationals are still lurking seven and a half games back in the division, however, they are just six games back of the second wild-card spot in the NL. If they want to stay in the playoff hunt they need to win and win now.
We have an absolute blockbuster starting pitching matchup as two of the favorites to take home the National League Cy Young Award matchup in this one. For the Nationals, it is Max Scherzer (16-5 2.11 ERA), and for the Phillies, it is Aaron Nola (14-3 2.24 ERA). The Nationals are big -160 home favorites. The game total over-under is set at seven runs. First pitch is scheduled for 10:05 AM PST from Nationals Park in Washington D.C.
Aaron Nola is way too good of a starter to be this big of an underdog, period. This guy has been the elite of the elite all season long as his ERA in the second half of the season has been sub-two runs. Throw in the fact that this Phillies team is a very good one, and Philly just doesn’t seem to ever lose with Nola on the mound.
The Phillies have won seventeen out of Nola’s last twenty-one starts. He has had only one losing decision since May! The most runs that Nola has allowed in any start this season is four runs, and he has allowed two runs or fewer in nineteen starts! Against Washington this year he has been fantastic. Nola is 2-0 in two starts and has pitched a combined thirteen and two-thirds of an innings and has allowed just three earned runs. It is very hard to understate just how good Aaron Nola has been this season.
What else can be said about Max Scherzer that hasn’t already been said? The guy is just the best. He has dominated in both leagues and could very well win his third straight NL Cy Young Award this season. He has won his last six decisions, and in August the guy is 2-0 with a 1.04 ERA. You can’t pitch any better than Max Scherzer has this year.
But this Washington Nationals team just hasn’t been holding up their side of the bargain nearly enough. Despite the fact that Scherzer is pitching at an elite level, they are just 7-6 in his last thirteen starts. That is truly shocking when you look at how well he has pitched. In three of those recent losses, the Nationals have been shutout. Tough to win when your team doesn’t score any runs.
This could have been a very short article. No disrespect to Max Scherzer, he is the man, but this is a bad number. I see the Phillies as the better overall team, and I just can’t imagine Aaron Nola being this big of an underdog against anybody. He is just too good, too often, to not want to jump all over him getting a jumbo payout of +150. I have backed Aaron Nola a lot this year, and he just rarely seems to ever disappoint.
The Phillies aren’t a great road team, and Scherzer is tough as nails at home, but I just can’t pass up on getting Nola as a huge dog. He could easily go out and throw seven or eight shutout innings. Regardless of how well Scherzer pitches, the Nats are going to have to score runs to win this game and I just don’t know if they are going to be able to get to Nola. So, I will take a shot on another major underdog and back the Philadelphia Phillies as big underdogs this morning in the series finale in D.C. Give me the Philadelphia Phillies at +150!