MLB Pick: 1st Place Nationals Over Scuffling Phillies Just Makes Sense

Drew Martin

Tuesday, May 31, 2016 6:00 PM GMT

Two teams who look like they are heading in very different directions match up tonight, and we have your betting preview and MLB Pick on this bankable Nationals vs. Phillies game.

In a divisional matchup, the Philadelphia Phillies host the Washington Nationals tonight for the middle game of a three game set with the Phillies sitting 4.5 games back of the division leading Nats in the National League East standings. Both of these NL East rivals have returned a profit for their backers year to date, with the Phillies up over 6 units and the Nationals up nearly 4 units. Projecting forward however, these two teams look like they are heading in very different directions.

The Phillies, after winning six of seven by one run, have really started to regress, having lost 10 of 14 while being outscored 60-41 during in the downturn. To make matters worse, Philadelphia also has a tough schedule looming with opponents including the Cubs and Blue Jays. The Nationals on the other hand, moved to 10 games over .500 with last night’s win, and look to make it two straight against the Phillies behind the right arm of Joe Ross and the hot bat of Daniel Murphy.

Taking the mound tonight are two former first round draft picks with Aaron Nola starting for the Phillies and Joe Ross for the Nationals, and despite having been drafted three years apart, Nola and Ross are the same age. Ross was selected out of Bishop O'Dowd High School in Oakland with the 25th pick in 2011, while the Phillies spent the No. 8 pick to take Nola from LSU in 2014, and even though the two hurlers have taken very different routes to this point in their careers, they have enjoyed similar success.

In his first start against the Phillies this year, Ross pitched 7.2 scoreless innings and picked up the victory after giving up only three base hits while striking out five batters. In fact, no current Phillies’ batter has been able to hit an extra-base hit off of him in 24 combined at-bats.

On the other side, Aaron Nola, a former LSU Tiger, was able to pick up his fourth win of the year when he beat the Detroit Tigers on the road last Wednesday. In that outing, the 22-year-old allowed four runs in six innings of work while striking out six batters. Nola is 4-3 with a 2.86 ERA so far this season, and he has only given up a total of 49 base hits in 66 innings.

Even though tonight’s pitching matchup is intriguing, all eyes will be focused on the health of young superstar Bryce Harper who left last night’s game early after getting hit in the leg with an 88 mph fastball. Harper did stay in the game after the incident, but was later removed for precautionary reasons. If Harper can go tonight, it will be a boon for the Nationals, but regardless, the hottest bat in the Nats’ lineup is not Harper. Daniel Murphy went 3-for-4 in the series opener, is hitting .413 in May, and leads the Majors with a .395 average this season, all of which makes him the last person the Philadelphia pitching staff wants to see.

The betting markets have bought down the price on the Nationals, giving us perceived value on the NL East division front runners. We get the more talented lineup with a premium pitcher on the hill, and the team playing far better baseball of late. For your NBA Picks I recommend a wager on the Nationals in the “pick-em” price range offered by current NBA odds.

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Free MLB Pick:  Nationals -102
Best Line Offered:  at Intertops