The Washington Nationals are in San Francisco Monday night for game one of a three-game series with the Giants. The Nationals have underwhelmed so far this season as they are two games under .500 entering play tonight and just lost two out of three to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Giants are in a similar position as they have struggled out of the gates as well. The Giants did, however, manage to take their last series, two games to one, against the Los Angeles Angels. Washington will send Gio Gonzalez (2-1 2.49 ERA) to the mound to face off against the Giants Chris Stratton (1-1 2.22 ERA). The Nationals are small -115 road favorites. The game total over-under is set at seven and a half runs. First pitch is scheduled for 7:15 PM PST from AT&T Park in San Francisco.
The Washington Nationals are certainly better than their record says this season. Right now, they are in the bottom half of the big leagues in ERA and runs scored. This team is just way too talented for that to continue for too much longer. Guys like Ryan Zimmerman and Trae Turner are going to start hitting at some point, and a rotation with Max Scherzer and Steven Strasburg leading the way won’t be bad for long. The Nationals will send one of their best arms to the mound tonight to try and start this series off on the right foot, in Gio Gonzalez.
If you are an avid reader of my daily picks, you know that I really like Gio Gonzalez. It’s not that he is an ace that is going to completely shut down teams, it is that he is valued like a number three or four starter when he would be the number one on many teams. Gio wins double-digit games almost every season. He has won ten games or more the last eight seasons and has a career ERA of 3.47 in the National League.
Yet in most games, we see Gonzalez as either an underdog or a small favorite. That is the case tonight as the Nationals are basically even money in this game against the Giants. Gio has started four games on the season and has yet to give up more than two earned runs in any game. He has been a bit erratic as he has walked nine hitters in four starts but historically he hasn’t had command issues, so I expect those issues to be reigned in. Getting Gonzalez at such a low number always feels like a bargain.
The Giants will counter with one of their best arms, Chris Stratton. Stratton got off to a little bit of a slow start but has been great in his last two outings. Stratton has pitched fourteen innings and given up just one earned run in his last two starts. The young right-hander is 1-1 on the year with an ERA of just 2.22. He is really good and only going to get better. If the Giants figure out a way to get this ship turned back around, Stratton will be key to a playoff run in the Bay Area.
This is a tight game and a tight number. You don’t have to lay much on the Nationals, and you won’t get much juice on the Giants. In a game like this, it isn’t as much about the long-term value as many games are, it is pretty much who do you think will win tonight. The starting pitching matchup is close to even. Both guys are pitching very well at the moment, but I will give the slight edge to Gio Gonzalez. He has been doing this for years and has proven he can win games, whereas Stratton is just in his second year in the big leagues. There are going to be times very soon where Stratton might be a big favorite is games, but he isn’t quite there yet.
As far as the teams go, both teams are playing worse than they should right now. But this Nationals team is the more talented squad. The Nationals should compete for a division title, where the Giants will be lucky to hang in there for a shot at the wild card in the National League. Both of the major offseason acquisitions for the Giants, Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen, are looking old and like busts right now and I just don’t think this team can compete with Arizona and the Dodgers in the NL West Division. So, in a close game, I will lean on the overall strength of the Nationals. I love getting to back Gonzalez at such a fair price and think he will get the job done tonight in game one.
Give me the Washington Nationals in a low scoring thriller of a game in game one tonight from San Fran!