The Washington Nationals are headed to Tampa Bay Monday for game one of a quick two games series with the Rays. The Rays are fresh off of a three-game sweep of the New York Yankees and have won five out of their last seven games. Those seven games have been against the Yankees and the Houston Astros, so picking up the wins like they have been able to has been huge for their morale. The Nationals, on the other hand, are really struggling as they are 3-9 in their last twelve games and have fallen out of playoff position with a rough month of June.
Starting tonight for the Rays is Blake Snell (9-4 2.48 ERA), and for the Nationals, it is Gio Gonzalez (6-3 3.08 ERA). The Rays are small -122 home favorites. The game total over-under is set at seven runs. First pitch is scheduled for 4:10 PM PST from Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg.
What has gotten into this Washington Nationals team? They were cruising right along and had taken control of the National League East Division, then suddenly the bats just turned off again. The Nats had struggled at the plate for much of April as well and despite their elite starting rotation were struggling. It looked like they had turned things around in May as they took over first place in the National League East race, but then they hit another wall here in June. They just aren’t consistent enough at the plate to string together wins right now, and they are quickly falling out of contention as they are now three games back of the Atlanta Braves and are in third place in the division.
Starting tonight for the Nationals is Gio Gonzalez. Gonzalez is another guy that has been struggling recently. Through May, Gonzalez was 6-2 with an ERA of just 2.10 and looked like an All-Star lock. But the month of may has not treated Gio well as he has gone 0-2 with a 6.20 ERA. His last three starts have been particularly bad as he has pitched only thirteen and a third innings and has allowed eleven runs. That is very uncharacteristic for Gonzalez as he is generally the model of consistency.
One guy that has been very consistent this season has been Blake Snell. Snell has really exploded onto the scene in Tampa this season. The second-year kid has rolled up a 9-4 record and a 2.48 ERA. Snell’s nine-win are third in the league behind just Cory Kluber and Luis Severino, and his ERA is fifth in the league, ahead of guys like Chris Sale and Gerrit Cole. Snell doesn’t seem to be letting up at all right now either as the Rays, despite their struggles as a team, have won five out of his last seven starts. In his last six starts, Snell has given up one earned run or fewer in five of them.
I have been a big fan of the Washington Nationals this year. I keep thinking they are going to turn the corner and run away with the National League East Division. But they just haven’t. The starting pitching and bullpen have been great all season, but the bats just haven’t been able to get the job done. I wonder what they are going to do tonight against a guy like Blake Snell that has been shutting down the best teams in the American League all season long.
To make matters worse for the Nationals, Snell seems to really like pitching interleague games. In his eight interleague starts, Snell has a winning record and an ERA of just 2.32. It feels like the Nationals are going to really struggle to score runs tonight in game one.
This Rays team has been super streaky all season long. They have had winning streaks of five games, six games, and eight games this season. They have also had some long losing streaks that have kept them from really competing. This team is just very hot and cold. And right now? They couldn’t be any hotter. The sweep over New York, the league’s best team, could not have been bigger for Tampa. The Yankees hadn’t lost three games in a row all season before that series and it was a big boost to this Rays squad.
I think we are seeing the Rays heat up yet again. It has been a roller coaster ride all season long, but right now they are at the top of that roller coaster, and I am going to jump on with them. I see Snell shutting the Nationals down tonight. And while the Rays bats aren’t really any good either, I think they will find a way to touch up Gio Gonzalez in this one.
This feels a lot like a 3-2 win for Tampa so I won’t look at the run line. Anytime runs are going to be hard to come by, and the game total over-under of seven runs suggests that will be the case in this one, I stay away from the run line. So, I will be content laying a little wood and backing the home favorite Rays tonight in game one. Give me the Tampa Bay Rays in a lower scoring, tight game, at -122.