A 10th-inning homer lifted the Nats to the win in their MLB odds series opener vs. the Cardinals, and Game 2 is getting prime-time attention from ESPN and our handicapper.
Cardinals vs. Nationals Game 3
By: Willie Bee
About the only thing missing for St. Louis Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong on Wednesday in Washington was the Nationals honoring him with a bobblehead night. Wong had three hits, including a homer, drove home three runs and flashed enough leather around the St. Louis infield to get nominated for two ESPN web gems.
Wong's all-around effort was a big reason behind St. Louis' 7-5 victory to even the series in Washington. The clubs will wrap things up with a late-afternoon (4:05 PM ET) tilt at Nationals Park where Max Scherzer takes the mound for the home team opposite Cardinal right Michael Wacha. The Nats have slipped from -140 chalk to the low-to-mid 120s, the MLB odds board also listing 6½ for the total.
Cards Off To 2-0 Start Behind Wacha
Wacha will be looking for his third win in as many starts to begin the 2015 MLB betting schedule. Each of his two previous assignments came against the Reds, beating them in Cincinnati 4-1 before a 6-1 decision at home last Friday. The former Texas Aggie surrendered a lone run each time, and in each case it was a solo homer.
The slender righty has seen the Nationals twice over his short career, splitting the decisions despite allowing just one earned run in the 15.2 combined innings. The loss came a little more than a year ago in Washington, his own wild pitch and an error leading to a pair of unearned runs in a 3-1 defeat.
Scherzer has been outstanding in his first three starts for the Nationals, Washington winning two while three unearned runs sealed his fate in the other on Opening Day vs. the Mets. Washington followed that up with a pair of wins against the Phillies with Scherzer on the mound. He's seeing the Cardinals for just the third time, and first since early in the 2009 season, his career numbers vs. St. Louis coming out to 10 IP and 5 ER allowed. It will be the first time many of the hitters in the Redbird lineup face Scherzer.
Umpire Notes, Mother Nature & A Free Pick
Adam Hamari is working with this crew while chief Bill Miller is absent and should be behind the plate Thursday. Now in just his second full season at the MLB level, it's his fourth plate assignment in a replacement role with this group, two of the previous three going 'over' the totals. His only other assignment behind the plate in Washington came just about a year ago when the Cardinals nipped the Nationals, 4-3, to push a 7 run total.
Rain shouldn't bother the game, but it won't necessarily be a pretty afternoon in DC under cloudy skies and temps never making it out of the mid-50s. More strong WNW winds around 20 mph are expected (left to right), and I'm also expecting more fine pitching from Wacha and Scherzer with a free MLB pick on the 'under' in Game 3.
MLB Pick: Cardinals-Nationals Under 6.5
Season: 11-13-1 (-2.75)
Cardinals vs. Nationals Game 2
By: Willie Bee
Thanks to a walk-off homer by Yunel Escobar in the 10th inning last night, the Washington Nationals are back to the .500 mark for the first time since the second game of the season. Now they'll attempt to climb above the plateau and begin to live up to expectations in Game 2 of their series with the NL Central leading St. Louis Cardinals.
ESPN turns its cameras on the series starting at 7 PM (ET), the first pitch from Washington's Doug Fister expected five minutes later. The Nationals opened as -125 favorites, but just as they did in Tuesday's tilt, the MLB odds dropped a little overnight to a current -115 moneyline.
John Lackey counters for the Cardinals, who saw a 5-game win streak come to a halt in the series opener, and a 7 run total is carrying extra juice on the low side.
Lackey To Pitch In DC For Very 1st Time
Joey Votto popped a couple of taters off Lackey in his season debut, a 5-4 Cardinals loss in Cincinnati. But the big righthander came right back with seven shutout innings last Thursday at home vs. Milwaukee, notching his first win of the campaign. Since coming to St. Louis last July, Lackey has been a far better pitcher at home (1.81 ERA, 6 starts) than on the road (6.61 ERA, 6 starts).
Wednesday will be just the second time Lackey has faced the Nationals -- he faced the old Expos once as well -- and his first trip to the mound in DC. His only other experience vs. Washington was in Anaheim back in 2008 (8 IP, 1 ER).
Fister's first two assignments this season both came against the Phillies, the Nationals splitting the games while the lanky righty combined to toss 13 frames with only one earned run scoring. Like Lackey, Fister has only seen tonight's opposition once, that appearance a losing effort in St. Louis last June (6 IP, 4 ER).
Umpire Notes, Mother Nature & A Free Pick
Jim Wolf figures to have the plate in the umpire rotation, his fourth dish assignment of 2015 and each time with a 7 run total. Two of the first three went 'over' the mark after a 14-11-2 O/U/P record a season ago. Wolf's last three appearances behind the plate at Nationals Park never made it to the numbers.
There is rain in the afternoon forecast, but the weatherman is promising it clears out to leave clear skies for the contest. The thermometer will be in the low-60s for the first pitch with a 10 mph wind from the WNW (left to right).
The Nationals appear to have put that 2-6 start quickly behind them with victories in five of their last six, and $1.15 seems to be a fair price on Fister for my free MLB pick in Game 2.
MLB Pick: Nationals -115 at Bovada
Cardinals vs. Nationals Series Opener
By: Willie Bee
A dozen or so games into any Major League Baseball betting schedule is too premature to begin talking about playoff matchups. Still, would anyone be surprised to see the St. Louis Cardinals and Washington Nationals eventually pitted against one another once October arrives?
They are pitted against each other this week, the first of only two regular season series between the two clubs. The Nationals will return the visit to St. Louis in late-August, early-September, and by then we may have good reason to call it a probable playoff preview.
For now, however, we'll bask in the glow that is a clash between preseason favorites to win the National League pennant. The first tilt in the 3-game set at Nationals Park is scheduled to get underway at 7:05 PM (ET), St. Louis sending righty Lance Lynn to the bump against Washington southpaw Gio Gonzalez.
MLB odds officially went out with a -120 number on the home team, but the Nationals can be had now for closer to -110 as the moneyline shrinks towards a pick 'em. A 7 run total stuck overnight, and is taxed a little heavier on the low side.
Cards Control Series Last 2 Seasons
Washington entered 2015 as the consensus pick to bring the first league title to the nation's capital since the old Senators in 1933. Baseball futures odds a couple of weeks ago had the Nats 3/2, but a slow start finds them 6-7 on the young season and four games behind the Mets in the NL East, the New Yorkers entering the third week of the slate with the best record in the Senior Circuit.
St. Louis was 5/1 on those same MLB odds, and the Cardinals are on a roll with five straight wins after sweeping a weekend set from the Cincinnati Reds. The current streak has the Redbirds atop the NL Central, two ahead of the Cubs.
Since the former Montreal Expos moved to DC prior to the 2005 campaign, St. Louis has won better than 60% of the matchups in this rivalry, the Cardinals compiling a 42-27 record that includes winning a best-of-5 NLDS in 2012. The Nats have held their own at home, winning 19 of 34 overall in Washington and going 13-12 at Nationals Park, the clubs splitting a 4-game set in DC last year (1-2-1 O/U/P). But the Cards have beaten Washington like a rented mule in St. Louis and won 12 of the last 14 meetings overall.
Gonzalez Set For 1st Home Start Of 2015
A minor hip injury kept Lynn out of a few spring training games, but that hasn't bothered the former Ole Miss star through his first two starts. The beefy righthander has surrendered just two earned runs and eight hits in his first 11 innings, striking out 13 along the way, but the results for people placing MLB picks has been a split while the 'under' cashed each time.
Lynn beat the Nationals twice a year ago, each time facing Jordan Zimmermann. He worked into the sixth in the game at Nationals Park, the only run Lynn surrendered coming plateward on a Danny Espinosa homer.
Washington has also halved Gonzalez's two assignments to date, losing a 4-1 decision in Philadelphia before taking a 10-5 dubya in Boston last Wednesday. The Nationals won 10 of his 13 starts in DC last season, including an outstanding effort vs. the Cardinals in April (7 IP, 1 ER, 7 K).
All signs point to a nice evening in Washington DC tonight, the best chance of rain interrupting this series occurring on Wednesday. The weatherman is calling for 63º and mostly clear skies at first pitch, with a light breeze from the west (out to right).
The 'over' looks intriguing to me, but I've been wrong the last two times I played a game that way. So instead, I'll take the hotter team at the moment and go with St. Louis for my free baseball pick in the series opener.
MLB Pick: Cardinals -105 at YouWager
Willie Bee's MLB Season Record: 10-10-1 (-0.85)