It’s been a tough road of late.
I’m winless over my last seven free MLB picks which goes down as my worst stretch since I can imagine, and I’m talking about in my career handicapping baseball.
The streak has nearly wiped out all profits from much of the season, however we do still remain in profit territory as we look to get things turned around in the final week of the MLB regular season!
Season Record: 20-16-1
Now let’s take a look at this free MLB pick featuring the Phillies vs. Nationals in an NL East battle from Washington!
Phillies vs. Nationals Betting Odds
- Phillies (-146)
- Nationals (+135)
- Phillies -1.5 (-107)
- Nationals +1.5 (-113)
- Over 9 (+105)
- Under 9 (-125)
Phillies vs. Nationals MLB Pick Breakdown
The Phillies will send right-hander Zack Wheeler to the mound for this one tonight, looking to keep his superb work in his first season with the Phils going on this one.
After signing a five-year, $118M deal with the Phillies this past winter, Wheeler has worked to a 2.62 ERA/3.27 FIP on the season while displaying elite command in the form of a 1.39 BB/9 on the season. His 3.79 xFIP and 4.10 SIERA – while excellent numbers – do suggest some regression moving forward.
That regression might have already began, actually, as the hard-throwing righty has allowed six runs over his last 13.1 innings spanning two starts, good for a 4.12 ERA. Again, it’s a good number, however it’s not the sub-3.00 ERA that he owns on the surface this season.
Wheeler’s strikeout rate has plummeted from an 8.98 mark last season with the Mets to a minuscule 5.86 mark this season. He’s been more focused on inducing more ground-balls by re-introducing a sinker into his arsenal, a pitch he’s thrown 20% of the time this season at an average of 97.2 mph. The end result has been a ground-ball rate of 54.5% that greatly exceeds his 47.2% career mark and the 43.2% mark he posted last season without the sinker.
Wheeler has worked to a 4.71 ERA in 19 career starts against the Nationals and a 4.60 ERA in eight career starts at Nationals Park.
Making his 10th start of the season for the Nationals tonight will be veteran right-hander Anibal Sanchez who will look to get things turned around after posting ugly results to this point in the season.
Sanchez has worked to a 7.38 ERA on the season, and while his 5.76 FIP, 5.51 xFIP and 5.06 SIERA all point to some improved results moving forward, they are still poor numbers themselves.
Sanchez has allowed a BABIP of .361 which is far above his career .297 mark and his 65.6% strand rate is well below his 72.2% figure for his career, he’s allowing 40.8% fly ball ball on the season which hasn’t helped his 2.11 HR/9 rate.
That said, Sanchez has allowed just 32.5% hard contact on the season and a 16.1% HR/FB rate that’s well above his 10.6% career mark, hence the peripherals pointing to some improved fortune moving forward.
The 36-year-old has turned in a 4.48 ERA in 26 career starts with the Phillies but also a 3.60 ERA in 29 career starts at Nationals Park.
The Phils have produced far better results on offense this season than they did while disappointing their way to a missed postseason in 2019.
The 2020 Phils enter this one ranked ninth with a .330 wOBA on the season versus right-handed pitching and averaged a healthy 5.25 runs per game in taking three of four from the Blue Jays over the weekend.
That said, the season-long numbers don’t paint a true picture given the current state of the Phillies’ offense.
The light-tower power bat of Rhys Hoskins currently sits on the IL with an elbow issue that could turn into Tommy John surgery. Additionally, J.T. Realmuto has missed the last several games with a hip ailment. It’s been reported that he could play this one as the team’s DH, but he won’t catch Wheeler in this one (more on that later).
Additionally, Bryce Harper was removed late from yesterday’s loss to the Blue Jays with back stiffness. He was removed after looking uncomfortable in the outfield before striking out in his final trip to the plate.
Hoskins is out for sure, but if Realmuto and Harper don’t play in this one, you’re taking the three best bats out of this lineup. It’s entirely possible both Realmuto and Harper play, but it won’t be at 100%.
We’ll see closer to game time on this front.
It hasn’t been a great offensive season for the Nationals and it wasn’t difficult to see this coming after all-world third baseman Anthony Rendon departed for the Angels in free agency.
Without Rendon, the team has scuffled at times and sits tied for 17th with a mediocre .316 wOBA versus right-handed pitching this season.
That said, I think this Nationals offense can give Wheeler some trouble in this one.
I noted earlier that Wheeler’s strikeout rate has plummeted this season, and it’s not likely to improve against a Nationals team that ranks second with a tiny 20.2% K-rate against righties this season. The Nats put the ball in play a ton. Additionally, while they sit 13th with 19 steals against right-handers this season, I think the stolen base potential gets additional upside here.
Wheeler hasn’t allowed a steal in 58.1 innings this season, but he allowed 22 over his previous 467 innings. It’s not a huge number, but he won’t have Realmuto and his 36% caught-stealing rate behind the plate, but rather Andrew Knapp and his 22.2% mark.
So, if Trea Turner is on base more than once tonight, he could terrorize this duo on the basepaths.
Wheeler has a 2.45 ERA in 44 innings with Realmuto behind the plate this season, and while it’s still 3.14 in 14.1 innings with Knapp, don’t underestimate the importance of Realmuto not being behind the plate in this one.
The well-documented struggles of this Phillies bullpen don’t seem to be going away.
Entering this one, they still sit last with a 7.15 ERA on the season while their 5.67 FIP checks in at 29th and their 2.10 HR/9 sits dead last as well. Over the last week, the bullpen has turned in a 28th-ranked 6.48 ERA, and while their 4.74 FIP and 4.07 xFIP during that time indicate bad luck, there just hasn’t been anything with the Phillies bullpen to hang our hat on to this point.
Closer Hector Neris has struggled big-time with command in the form of a 6.11 BB/9 and former Red Sox closer Brandon Workman has followed suit with a 6.39 BB/9 to go along with his 6.39 ERA/6.18 FIP in 12.2 innings after coming over from the Sox prior to the trade deadline.
Heath Hembree came alongside Workman, and he’s turned in a disastrous 12.54 ERA/13.04 FIP in his 9.1 innings of work as a Phillie.
The bullpen simply cannot be relied upon, as has been the case all season long.
The Nationals managed to win a World Series last year despite boasting one of the worst bullpens in baseball and while they’ve at least improved this season, it’s still a group that hasn’t been any better than league average.
Their 4.52 bullpen ERA checks in at 18th, but they also sit 17th with a 4.64 FIP and 22nd with a 4.84 xFIP. Walks have been the biggest issue with a 4.57 BB/9 on the season.
In sum, their bullpen sits in a four-way tie for 19th with a 0.6 fWAR on the season.
Tanner Rainey and Wander Suero have been good while throwing plenty of innings, but Daniel Hudson has struggled with a 7.13 ERA/6.58 FIP on the season and fellow back-end arm Sean Doolittle is on the IL with an oblique strain at the moment.
Their most reliable bullpen arms last season have simply not been there for them this time around.
Phillies vs. Nationals MLB Pick
While the starting pitching advantage appears to be with the Phillies, I’m not as positive on Wheeler’s outlook for this one as many others probably are.
The Nationals are going to work at bats and put the ball in play in this one, and I think they’ll actually do some damage off Wheeler. If they can somehow get his pitch count up early, they could be in excellent shape against a listless Phillies bullpen.
That said, Sanchez and this Nationals bullpen haven’t exactly sparkled, either. I do think the matchup has already improved without Hoskins and with Realmuto and Harper not playing at 100%, if at all.
With the way the odds shake out, I’m going to go with the Nationals in this one, but on the run line while buying 1.5 runs in this one tonight.