The Astros have the worst record in all of baseball, and they are 16-40 in their last 56 road games while the Nationals are seven games over .500 at home and fighting to stay out of the basement.
In a battle of also-rans on Friday night, look for the home team to prevail when Bud Norris and the Houston Astros (48-95 overall, 22-50 away) pay a visit to Tom Milone and the Washington Nationals (65-76 overall, 39-32 home) as the teams begin a weekend three-game series from Nationals Park in Washington, DC at 7:05 ET.
The Astros have the worst record in all of baseball while trailing the first place Milwaukee Brewers by 36 games in the National League Central, and they have been an absolute horror show on the road, going 16-40 in their last 56 games away from home.
Now the Nationals are only slightly closer, trailing the first place Philadelphia Phillies by 27½ games in the National League East, but they have shown marked improvement over recent seasons and they would consider it an accomplishment if they stay out of last place this season, giving them something to play for. They currently lead the last place Florida Marlins by 2½ games in that quest to stay out of the basement.
Besides, the Nats has defied the odds somewhat by actually going seven games over .500 here at home, so we see no reason why they cannot win tonight vs. an atrocious road team like Houston.
The current odds at 5 Dimes have Washington installed as a lukewarm -117 favorite for this contest.
Now the reason that this line is not higher is because Norris has actually pitched well for the Astros this season, posting a 3.83 ERA over 28 starts despite having just a 6-9 record, and he has a nice ratio of 166 strikeouts against 65 walks in 169.1 innings.
However, the main reasons why Norris has not been a bigger winner this year are both still in place tonight, with those being a weak Houston offense and a bad bullpen. Both of those areas have actually gotten worse as this lost season has gone on, as the Astros are averaging just 3.40 runs per game over their last 10 games while posting an ugly 5.20 bullpen ERA.
Norris has yet to face the Nationals this year, but he is facing a Washington lineup that is batting a potent .274 vs. right-handed pitchers over the last 10 contests while averaging a good 4.37 runs per nine innings against them.
Milone made his Major League debut vs. the New York Mets last Saturday, and while he was understandably nervous while allowing four earned runs on six hits in 4.1 innings, the Nationals did rally to win 8-7. Milone made more of a name for himself at the plate, where he hit a three-run homer on the first pitch he ever saw in the majors.
He should show improvement on the mound tonight with that start under his belt, and he should again get good support at home from a Washington offense that has beaten much netter pitchers than Norris recently.
Besides, it is almost never a bad idea to fade the Astros on the road when you can get a cheap price like this, especially since the Nationals continue to play hard while Houston appears to have given up on this season.
MLB Pick: Nationals -117