MLB Picks: Bet Nationals & 'Under' In Game 1 vs. Visiting Cardinals

Matthew Jordan

Thursday, May 26, 2016 11:30 AM GMT

Arguably the best series in baseball this weekend opens in Washington, D.C., on Thursday night when St. Louis makes its only visit of the season or will it be? Check our MLB picks here.

What You Need To Know
I could absolutely see these teams playing again in October. The road to the playoffs is going to probably have to be via the wild-card route for St. Louis because it plays in the same NL Central Division as the best team in baseball, the Chicago Cubs. They are going to win the Central. Washington leads the NL East and I believe the Nats will take that division, especially with the huge struggles of supposed ace pitcher Matt Harvey for the defending East champion New York Mets.

And whenever St. Louis makes its annual visit to Washington, I flash back to the 2012 postseason. I believe that was Washington's best chance in franchise history -- since moving from Montreal -- to win a World Series as it led the majors with 98 wins that regular season. If you remember, however, the Nats shut down young ace Stephen Strasburg in September for good to save wear-and-tear on his arm the year after Tommy John surgery. It was a controversial decision to not save him for the playoffs, and I believe the 2012 NLDS might have turned out differently had Strasburg been available. That series between the Cardinals and Nationals was tied at 2 with Game 5 in D.C. Strasburg perhaps could have started that game. Regardless, Washington led it 6-0 after two innings and 7-5 in the ninth inning, only to give up four runs in the top of the ninth and be stunned 9-7. It was the largest comeback ever (the six-run deficit) in a winner-take-all postseason game in MLB history. The Nats have one playoff win since. St. Louis, which would lose the 2012 NLCS in seven games to the Giants, has made the playoffs every year since.

The Cardinals were swept three games  at home by Washington from April 29-May 1. Strasburg pitched well in the Game 1 win for the Nationals and they then took the next two by identical 6-1 scores. Bryce Harper did nothing in the series, going 0-for-11 with five strikeouts. Jason Werth was 4-for-10 with a homer and five RBIs. Danny Espinosa had two homers. Matt Adams was the best Cardinals hitter in the series, going 4-for-8 with a homer and three RBIs.

Probable Pitchers
St. Louis starts right-hander Mike Leake, the team's big free-agent acquisition this offseason. Leake (3-3, 4.07) looked like a bit of a bust at first, allowing at least four runs in each of his first six starts. That includes losing to Washington on April 29, allowing five runs and five hits over seven innings. Washington scored one in the first and four in the fourth off him. But Leake has been very good since and the Cardinals have won all his starts. He comes off his best outing of the year, shutting out Arizona on four hits over seven innings. He didn't walk anyone for the first time in 2016 and threw 64 strikes out of 91 pitches. The 'over' is 5-1 on MLB odds in Leake's past six starts.

Leake has plenty of history against Washington batters. Harper is 2-for-10 against him career with a homer and two RBIs. Espinosa is 4-for-19 with two homers, a double and four RBIs. Daniel Murphy is 5-for-21 with a double, homer and four RBIs. Wilson Ramos is 4-for-15 with two homers and three RBIs. Jason Werth is hitting .333 off him in 21 at-bats with a homer and four walks.  

Washington's Joe Ross (3-4, 2.70) is largely trending the opposite of Leake. He beat the Cardinals on April 30, allowing a run and six hits over six innings. But the Nationals have lost his past four outings. Last time out, Ross gave up three runs and eight hits over 5.2 innings in Miami. Ross has given up a homer in three straight starts after none in his first five. The 'under' is 3-1 on MLB picks in Ross' past four starts.

The Cardinals' Adams is 1-for-2 off Ross career with a walk. Yadier Molina is 1-for-3 with two walks. Kolten Wong is 1-for-3 with an RBI. Matt Carpenter is 0-for-3.

 

Final Analysis
Nationals and 'Under.' The Cardinals are 3-8 in their past 11 in Game 1 of a series. Washington is 11-5 in its past 16 at home vs. teams with a winning road record. The 'under' is 4-1-1 in the past six meetings in D.C. 

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MLB Picks: Nationals -125 & Under 8
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