Free MLB Betting Preview & Picks For Phillies vs. Nationals Series

Willie Bee

Tuesday, April 26, 2016 12:00 PM GMT

The Nationals and Phillies conclude their series with a matinee in DC, and Washington is favored on the MLB odds to avoid Philadelphia's brooms.

28th April
Phillies vs. Nationals Game 3

By: Willie Bee

 

It didn't seem possible when the Philadelphia Phillies and Washington Nationals started their series on Tuesday. Yet here the Phillies are, heading into today's finale on the verge of sweeping what was one of the hottest teams in the game.

Jeremy Hellickson and a pair of relievers quieted the Nats with a 3-0 shutout on Wednesday, pulling the win off as nearly 2/1 underdogs on the MLB odds. To complete the sweep, Philadelphia has to overcome the baseball odds once again with Washington carrying -155 chalk at Bookmaker for the late-afternoon affair (4:05 PM ET). The mound battle pits Aaron Nola against Tanner Roark with 7½ for the total.

 

Can Roark Build Off Last Assignment?
Nola finally picked up his first win of 2016 the last time out, beating Milwaukee 5-2 behind seven stong innings. The Phillies dropped his first three outings, though one of those was definitely not his fault. One was the result of his poor pitching, and that came at home vs. the Nationals about two weeks ago, the former LSU star lit up for seven runs in five frames. Nola has been far more effective on the road this season (14 IP, 2 ER) as opposed to when he pitches at home (12 IP, 11 ER).

To say Roark had his pitches working the last time out would be a huge understatement. The Fightin Illini alum tossed seven shutout innings, allowing just two hits while striking out a career-high 15. Roark has been bothered by some control problems at time with 11 free passes in 24 innings, that rate well above his career average. He missed the Phillies when the clubs met earlier, and has struggled against them in the past with a 2-5 record and 6.91 ERA in five starts and two relief appearances.

 

Umpire Notes, Mother Nature & A Free Pick
There's only one MLB umpiring crew that has a chief with less experience than another member, and this is it, which ought to tell you just how bad Angel Hernandez is. You see, Hernandez is the senior member, but it's Ted Barrett who chiefs this crew and will have the plate today. Big Ted will be calling balls and strikes for the sixth time this season, the first five running 2-3 O/U on the baseball odds and home chalk off to a 2-1 start.

More showers are in the DC forecast, but the chances begin to diminish as game time approaches. With Nats bats so quiet, I'm playing this one 'under' for my free MLB pick.

Season: 16-11 (+6.35)

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Free MLB Pick: Under 7½
Best Line Offered:  at Pinnacle

 

27th April
Phillies vs. Nationals Game 2

By: Willie Bee

 

If there was any good news from Tuesday's series opener in Washington, it was Nationals Park only being half-full to see their squad drop a 4-3 decision to the upstart Philadelphia Phillies. Maikel Franco's RBI double broke a 3-3 deadlock in the seventh to push the Phils to their fifth win in six games and give them a chance to win the series tonight when the teams reconvene (7:05 PM ET).

The MLB odds don't like their chances with the Nationals decided -105 chalk at BetOnline behind Gio Gonzalez. Jeremy Hellickson counters for the Phils with a 7½ run total that favors the 'over.'

 

Gonzalez's Control Vastly Improved
Hellickson flew out of the gate with a gem in his season debut, tossing six 3-hit innings and surrendering just one unearned run for a no-decision in an eventual 6-2 Phillies loss at Cincinnati. Since then, not so good with Hellickson allowing 11 earned runs on 20 hits (4 HR) in 13 innings. The worst of those outings came at home against these Nationals about two weeks ago, the righthander managing to get through only three innings having seen six Washington baserunners cross the plate. Hellickson's only career start on this mound came last August while with Arizona, and it wasn't much better (4.2 IP, 4 ER).

Gonzalez has never been able to match what he did in 2012, his first season with the Nationals, but the early days of 2016 show signs of him getting back to that form. In three starts, the southpaw has struck out 20 while holding opponents to a .186 average, perhaps the best stat being just four walks. He was in line for a win in Philadelphia 10 days ago before Jonathan Papelbon blew it, and Gonzalez owns a 2.90 ERA in 17 starts vs. the Phils since coming to Washington, the Nats winning 10 of the games.

 

Umpire Notes, Mother Nature & A Free Pick
Calling the balls and strikes should be Will Little, a relatively young field arbiter with less than 300 games of MLB experience under his belt, only 73 of those behind the plate. He didn't show much tendency on the totals the past few seasons, but is fast becoming a friend to those who like to play the 'under' on the baseball odds. Little has called the plate four times this season, one pushing a 9 run total and the other three never making it to the mark. He's worked two games in DC, both Washington wins and both 'over' winners.

A 40%-50% shot of rain could interfere with Game 2, most of the contest played in the upper-50s on the thermometer. I don't see Hellickson stopping the Nats tonight when my free MLB pick will be a run line play on the home team.

Season: 15-10 (+6.35)

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Free MLB Pick: Nationals -1½ (+100)
Best Line Offered:  at Pinnacle

26th April
Phillies vs. Nationals Game 1

By: Willie Bee

 

Maybe a day off will help cool the Washington Nationals to allow the rest of the NL East a chance to stay close. Of course, maybe the rest will just make them stronger to wrap up a homestand before heading out on a huge road trip.

The Philadelphia Phillies are next up on the schedule for Dusty Baker and Washington, Game 1 goes off at 7:05 PM (ET) with a mound duel between a young and rising star against an established veteran ace. Max Scherzer plays the vet and a big reason the Nationals went out around 1/2 on the earliest of MLB odds. Vince Velasquez is in the young-&-rising role, BetOnline beginning its total at 6½ (O -120). Bookmaker posted 7, and I expect the total could move to that at most sports books by game time.

Washington heads into the second meeting with the Phils owning the best record in baseball (14-4), good enough for about an $8.50 return at baseball betting windows so far. They should be on a high after completing a sweep of the Minnesota Twins in a thriller on Sunday.


 

Harper A Man-Child Among Boys
In case you missed it, that game went 16 innings before the Nats pulled off a 6-5 win on a Chris Heisey walk-off jack. The game started as a 1-1 pitchers duel through the first seven innings and Bryce Harper forcing extra frames with a 9th-inning pinch-hit bomb. The 5th-year super star is head-&-shoulders above the rest of the hitters in the league right now, and threatening to top even the year he had in 2015 as the NL MVP.

Harper's heroics have highlighted an otherwise blah lineup that is eighth in the National League averaging 4.39 runs per game, so it's a good thing the pitching staff has put together an MLB-best 2.24 ERA. Oddly enough, it's Scherzer who is keeping that number from being even better with the righthander checking into this one sporting a 4.32 ERA in four starts. Scherzer got beaten about pretty good in Miami last week, but did enjoy his best start of the season in Philly five days earlier. Since joining Washington a couple of years back, the Nats have won each of his five assignments vs. the Phillies thanks to Scherzer's 1.45 ERA.

All things considered, Philadelphia's 9-10 record is better than most people expected with the franchise in full rebuild mode. The offense has been primary culprit so far, the Phils last in the NL averaging more than a run less per game than the Nationals. The pitching staff has provided its own share of blame at times, but is at least better than the lineup. Velasquez is definitely one of the bright spots in the rotation as he prepares to face Washington for the first time in his career. The Mets got to him for a couple of long balls a little more than a week ago, but his defense let him down as well in that game.

 

Rain Could Cause Delays During Series
The Nationals are already off to a good start at taking a second consecutive season series from the Phils, missing a sweep in Philadelphia a little less than two weeks ago when Jonathan Papelbon blew a save in the Sunday finale. That would've been the Nats' first road sweep in the rivalry since 2011. They won two of the three series in Washington last season, the 'over' cashing six out of  10 in DC.

I'll be following this series from start to finish, and it looks like Mother Nature could try to screw with things at times the next three days in the nation's capital. Monday's forecast calls for the most rain ops in the afternoon, though a stray shower could interrupt things in the evening.

If that happened early in the game, it would seem to favor the Nats with a deeper bullpen and a guy like Yusmeiro Petit to come in for Scherzer. Still, it's no fun to play -205, so I'm jumping on the 'over' 6½ for my free MLB pick and paying the juice before it goes up to 7.

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Free MLB Pick: Nationals Over 6½ -118
Best Line Offered:  at Pinnacle

Season Record: 13-8 (+5.40) one play pending