Last night we picked up an easy win when we took the under eight and a half runs in the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays game. Both teams had a lot to play for, as the Yankees were hoping to catch the Houston Astros for the number one overall seed in the American League, and the Rays are caught in a three-team for two spots wild card chase that is sure to come down to the season’s final game.
Anytime a baseball game matters a lot to both teams, runs are going to be hard to come by. And when you looked at the pitching matchup, you had Charlie Morton, who has been one of the best starters in the game all season long, and JA Happ, who has really picked his production up here in September. So, it was an easy decision to jump on the under.
And the game went much as I figured that it would. Morton nearly threw a no-hitter as he tossed six innings of one-hit, shutout ball. And Happ did a more than serviceable job himself, coming out of the bullpen for the first time all season long. He pitched five innings and allowed just one run. The game didn’t even make us sweat as it finished with a 4-0 final score, coming in way under the total. The Yankees managed just one hit on the evening.
The win was a huge one for the Rays as they picked up a game on the Cleveland Indians who lost to the Chicago White Sox. The Rays now hold a game and a half lead over Cleveland with just one series left on the year. The day was almost even better for the Rays as the Oakland Athletics, who entered the day with just a half of a game lead over the Rays for the first wild card in the AL, were trailing in the ninth inning to the Los Angeles Angels, before mounting a triumphant comeback in the games final frame.
The AL wild card has been an exciting race all season long, and the game’s final weekend of the regular season is sure to be intense. For the Yankees, they will have to settle for the number two seed in the AL, meaning that when they match up with the Astros in the ALCS, which seems all but inevitable at this point, the Astros will have home-field advantage. For today’s pick, we will head to the National League, for another game with big playoff implications as the Washington Nationals host the Philadelphia Phillies.
The Philadelphia Phillies are wrapping up a disappointing season this week in Washington in game five of a five-game series with the Nationals. Coming into this series, the Phillies had a shot to backdoor into the playoffs, if they could find a way to sweep the Nationals. Instead, they have gotten pounded in this series, losing all four games so far, with three of those games coming with a run differential of at least three runs.
The Nationals needed every one of those wins as they are trying to hold off the steaming hot Milwaukee Brewers for the first wild card spot in the National League. Unlike the American League, the National League wild-card teams are set, now they are just playing for where the game will be played. The Nats hold a one-game lead over Milwaukee entering play today. The Nats can ill afford to lose even one game the rest of the way out as the Brewers have won seventeen of their last nineteen games and finish the season with a soft series against the out of contention Colorado Rockies.
Starting for the Nationals today is Stephen Strasburg (17-6 3.37 ERA), and for the Phillies it is Jason Vargas (7-8 4.40 ERA). The game total over-under is set at nine runs. The Nationals are big -268 home favorites. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 PM PST from Nationals Park in Washington DC.
We have all wondered what would happen if Stephen Strasburg managed to stay healthy for an entire season. The oft-injured starter has made thirty starts just twice in his eight-year career before staying healthy this entire season. And the results have been spectacular. Strasburg set a new career-high in wins and assuming he gets at least one strikeout tonight, he will also set a new career-high in punchouts.
And the guy has really turned it on here late in the season and is a big reason why the Nationals finds themselves in the playoffs. Since the All-Star break, Strasburg is 7-2 with a 3.01 ERA in fourteen starts. He has 103 strikeouts in just eighty-six and two-thirds of an inning pitched. Since June 1st, the Nats are 14-6 in games where he starts. In his last start against the Phillies, he threw six innings of shutout baseball.
At the trade deadline, the Phillies needed to make a splash and pick up an impact starter. Instead, they ended up with Jason Vargas, and he has underwhelmed. His ERA with the Phillies has been above five runs, and it took him ten starts before he finally booked a win. The guy hasn’t been awful, but he just hasn’t been consistent enough to get the Phillies over the hump and into the playoffs.
This is a mismatch of a game, to say the least. The Nats have absolutely dominated this series, and the Phillies have clearly given up at this point. They shut down All-Star catcher JT Realmuto, and in the first four games of this series they have managed just two and a half runs a game. I don’t think they will even get that many tonight against Strasburg as the Nats are going to want to nail this one down.
The Nationals are going to win the game, and it probably won’t be close. But with an absurd price like -268, I can’t touch it. But what I can do is fire on the under. The Phillies aren’t going to score tonight. Maybe, they end up with one or two runs at the most. And when you see a game total of nine runs, both teams are going to have to score to push it over, and I just don’t see that happening.
I think the Nats score a couple of early runs off of Vargas, build a lead, and sit on it as Strasburg mows through this Phillies team, that has clearly given up. Philadelphia has no reason to play hard, and we have seen in the first four games of this series that they aren’t going to be going all out tonight either. And with the playoffs looming, the Nationals rested several of their best hitters yesterday including MVP candidate Anthony Rendon, and they are expected to rest a couple more guys today as well.
Add all that up, and you get a boring and sloppy, low scoring baseball game. If I had to call a score, I would say 4-1 Nationals. So, I will jump on the under nine runs and expect not a lot of action tonight from the Nation’s Capital.