Apparent Pitching Mismatch in Pushed-Back Nationals at Reds Opener

Matthew Jordan

Thursday, March 29, 2018 3:09 PM UTC

Thursday, Mar. 29, 2018 3:09 PM UTC

The Nationals and Reds were set to open Thursday in Cincinnati, but Mother Nature didn’t cooperate. So Max Scherzer begins his quest for a third straight Cy Young on Friday afternoon.

Washington Nationals at Cincinnati RedsFree MLB Pick: Nationals RLBest Line Offered: BetOnline

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One of two matinees on Friday’s MLB schedule is Washington and Cincinnati opening their season at Great American Ball Park with a first pitch of 4:10 p.m. ET.

Originally, these teams were supposed to open Thursday, marking the first time since 1968 that every team in the majors was to play on Opening Day. The only reason it happened back then was the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. pushed back the original Opening Day. However, the weather forecast for Thursday was so lousy in Cincinnati that this game was postponed Wednesday afternoon. Both had been scheduled to be off Friday. The weather forecast doesn’t look exactly beautiful Friday, but it should be played.

Why doesn’t MLB have every West Division team, the two Florida clubs, Atlanta and the two cold-weather dome teams, Toronto and Milwaukee, all open with, say, six-game homestands? That way you can almost surely avoid any weather issues the first week of the season when it’s still lousy in the Northeast and Midwest.

The Nationals were 6-1 vs. the Reds last year and 4-0 in Cincinnati. It was the first time in franchise history dating to the Expos days that Washington didn’t lose a single road game in the series.

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Pitching Mismatch

Looks to be a major mismatch on the mound between Nationals ace Max Scherzer, a three-time Cy Young Award honoree (one in AL with Tigers) and the two-time reigning winner in the National League, and past-his-prime Reds veteran Homer Bailey.

At BetOnline, Scherzer is +250 second-favorite to Clayton Kershaw (+200) to win a fourth career Cy Young. Only four guys have done that: Roger Clemens (7), Randy Johnson (6), Steve Carlton (4) and Greg Maddux (4). The latter three are Hall of Famers and Clemens would be if not for steroids. The last NL pitcher to win three straight Cy Youngs was the Big Unit taking four in a row from 1999-2002.

Scherzer was 16-6 with a career-low 2.51 ERA last year, leading the NL in strikeouts (268) and WHIP (0.90 -- a career high). His WAR of 7.3 was also a career best. It will be Scherzer's third Opening Day start for Washington, but he wasn’t the guy in 2017 after dealing with a stress fracture on his right ring finger last spring. Scherzer shut out the Reds over six innings with 10 strikeouts in his lone start against them last year. He also had a 1.82 ERA on the road and 1.90 during the day – shadows could be a major issue Friday with the start time.

The 31-year-old Bailey makes his first career Opening Day start despite ugly numbers last year: 6-9 with a 6.43 ERA, 1.69 WHIP and -0.9 WAR in 18 starts. Bailey did improve at the end, going 2-3 with a 3.58 ERA over his last seven starts. He’s only starting the opener, though, because Anthony DeSclafani is dealing with an oblique injury. Bailey lost both 2017 starts vs. Washington, allowing a whopping 16 runs and 14 hits in 5.2 innings. Matt Adams is penciled in as the Nats’ backup first baseman, but he might start Friday considering he’s 8-for-12 career off Bailey with a homer and three walks. Bryce Harper, perhaps beginning his final season as a National, is 1-for-10. Bailey at least won’t have to worry about Nats All-Star second baseman Daniel Murphy as he has opened the season on the DL. The Reds, meanwhile, are without closer Raisel Iglesias -- not that I expected them to have a ninth-inning lead here -- as he has been placed on the paternity list.

Not great value taking Washington simply on the moneyline, so go the runline for a Friday MLB pick. The Reds are 2-8 in Bailey’s past 10 at home and 1-5 in his past six against the Nationals. The Nats have won 35 of Scherzer’s past 50 road starts.

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