The Washington Nationals are in the city of brotherly love, Philadelphia, to face off against the Phillies in game two of a three-game series. The Nats took game one last night 3-1, as they were able to get to young pitching sensation Aaron Nola early when Michael Taylor hit a two-run bomb in the second inning. That is all the Nats would need as they held on for the win. Tonight’s game features a resurgent Gio Gonzalez (15-7 2.68 ERA) for the Nationals squaring off against Jake Thompson (2-2 4.14 ERA) for the Phillies. First pitch is scheduled for 4:05 PM PST from Citizen’s Bank Ballpark.
Washington Nationals -160 at Philadelphia Phillies +140
Gio Gonzalez (15-7 2.68 ERA) vs Jake Thompson (2-2 4.14 ERA)
To call Gio Gonzalez resurgent this year would be an understatement. This is the best he has ever been. I would argue the season he is putting together is better even than his 21-win season in 2012. Gonzalez has been especially sharp over the course of the last two months when this National’s team needed him the most. At one point, Max Scherzer and Steven Strasburg were on the DL, and it was Gonzalez that stepped up and played the ace role for the team. Over the last two months, Gonzalez is 7-2 with an ERA below three. Against the Phillies this year Gonzalez has been great, pitching fourteen combined innings over two starts and giving up only three earned runs.
While it looks like the Nationals are not going to be able to catch the Dodgers for the best record in the National League and the home field advantage that comes with it, the Nats do still have something to play for. The Nationals need three more wins in the season’s last week to set a new all-time wins record for the franchise and have a shot to win 100 games on the season. The bigger news in this one though is the return of their MVP candidate Bryce Harper.
Bryce Harper was on his way to winning another National League MVP award this season as he was enjoying another stellar year. Harper was hitting .326 with 29 homers and 87 RBI on the season before missing the last six weeks with a bone bruise. A healthy Harper is going to be key if the Nationals are going to be legit contenders to knock off the Dodgers this year in the National League playoffs. Harper was expected to return for yesterday’s game, but they held him back as he had come down with flu-like symptoms. He does, however, look ready to go in this one, and that will be a huge boost to this Nationals lineup.
The Phillies will send youngster Jake Thompson to the mound to try and keep the National League’s best offense in check. Thompson is yet another prospect for the Phillies that is fighting for a spot in next year’s starting rotation. As this Philly team has been out of contention seemingly all season long, it has felt like one long dress rehearsal for them as they try and sort through all of their prospects and build towards the future. Thompson has been up and down over the course of this season. In his last start, he looked solid against the Dodgers, pitching just five innings but allowing only one earned run. The problem for Thompson, as is with most young starters is consistency. In his seven starts this season, Thompson has given up five runs or more in three of them, including his last start against this Nationals team on September 8th. In that outing, Thompson got rocked for seven runs in five innings of work in the Philly loss. And that was with no Bryce Harper in the lineup.
This game continues to follow my recent narrative of taking a good team that is playing for something facing a bad team that is holding tryouts for next year. Both teams are going to play hard but only one of these teams really needs to win tonight, and that is the Washington Nationals. The only question is how good will Gio Gonzalez be and how bad will Jake Thompson be? I don’t expect Gio to pitch super deep into this one as he needs to start resting for the postseason but I think six innings of one or two run ball will be plenty tonight to get him his 16th win of the season. Thompson is quite simply overmatched against a hard-hitting Nationals lineup, and it showed in his last start against the team. I like the Nationals in this one and don’t expect it to be very competitive at all. The run line is offering a lot of value tonight as we are actually getting dog money at +105. Too many factors are pointing to the Nationals winning this one big tonight to pass up that extra juice. Give me the Nationals on the run line tonight in game two!
Today’s Pick: Nationals -1.5 runs at +105