A rematch from last year's NL playoffs is on tap when the Nationals host the Cardinals this week, and SBR is following the series with previews and free MLB picks.
It was a great playoff series last October, and it should be a solid matchup this week when the Washington Nationals host the St. Louis Cardinals for three games in the nation's capital.
Wednesday's Game Three
By: Willie Bee
What's wrong with the Washington Nationals? Picked by many to win the NL pennant, the Nats are off to a pedestrian 10-10 start to the 2013 season and enter Wednesday's series finale against the St. Louis Cardinals in the throes of a 3-game skid after dropping their fifth straight home game.
Meanwhile, the Cards have moved to the top of the NL Central race and need a sweeping win in DC to ensure they stay ahead of the streaking Milwaukee Brewers who have brought home the cheese their last nine games.
Washington ace Stephen Strasburg will deliver the game's first pitch a little past one o'clock, while Jaime Garcia makes the matinee start for the Cards. Strasburg and the Nats went out as -160 favorites at Bookmaker, and the 7 run total was leaning UNDER. That moneyline has been pushed up to -165 this morning while the total no longer favors either side of the mark.
Adam Wainwright continued his strong campaign by pitching into the ninth of Tuesday's 2-0 St. Louis victory. He finally walked his first batter of the season, but struck out nine and allowed just five hits while improving to 4-1.
Garcia suffered his worst of four 2013 starts the last time out, an 8-2 loss to Roy Halladay in Philadelphia last Friday. Philly hitters and St. Louis fielders contributed to Garcia falling behind 5-zip in the first inning, and he made it through just three frames while being tagged for eight runs (4 earned).
St. Louis has lost three of his four starts this season, and his last two trips to this mound where the Nationals lineup has batted .347 against Garcia.
Strasburg is also coming off a losing effort on the road with Washington winning just once in the young fireballer's four outings. He's yet to allow an earned run at home in 13 innings, however, and definitely baffled the Cardinals here last September just before he was shut down for the season. Strasburg blanked St. Louis on two hits over six innings while striking out nine, his only career appearance vs. the Cards.
It should be sunny and clear when the contest starts, but a 15 mph wind from the south (out to left) could be a factor. Jim Joyce will be calling the plate for the sixth time this year, four of the previous five failing to reach the total.
I'm going against the series trend and Joyce's record in the totals column with a play on the OVER this afternoon. If you're looking for more fade material, click over to the preview of the Yankees-Rays series finale.
My MLB pick: Cardinals-Nationals Over 7 (+105) at 5Dimes
Tuesday's Game Two
By: Willie Bee
Just as their playoff series went last October, the St. Louis Cardinals and Washington Nationals engaged in a tight contest Monday night to get this week's set underway. That may very well continue Tuesday when a pair of hurlers who have opened 2013 in excellent form square off at Nationals Park.
MLB odds for Game 2 are hovering around a pick 'em with some outlets slightly favoring the visiting Redbirds and others leaning towards the Nats. Adam Wainwright will be on the hill for St. Louis against Washington southpaw Ross Detwiler, and 7 runs is the total found at sports books listed on SBR's live MLB odds board.
Yadier Molina's 6th-inning RBI single provided the winner in Game 1 as St. Louis slipped past Washington, 3-2. The setback was the fourth straight loss at home for the Nationals while the Cardinals improved to 7-6 on the road.
Wainwright has been outstanding to begin the season, winning three of the four assignments and tossing a quality start each time out. The big righthander has won his last three, two of them on the road, and has yet to allow a homer or walk while whiffing 28 in 29 innings.
St. Louis is 4-4 in Wainwright's eight career starts vs. the Nats, also splitting his two in this park (8.2 IP, 7 ER).
Despite all the big names on the Washington staff, it's Detwiler who leads the team with a sub-1.00 ERA through three starts. The lefty out of Missouri State has allowed all of two earned runs, no more than one in any start, and brings a flat 1.00 WHIP into Tuesday's affair which will be his second career start vs. the Cards. It surely can't be any worse than the other one in St. Louis near the end of the 2012 campaign (2.1 IP, 7 R, 5 BB).
Cory Blaser has been a friend for those betting the OVER and the visiting teams this year, each with a 3-1 record in his previous plate assignments. He worked one game between these two squads last year, a 6-4 Nats win in St. Louis that went above the total.
Weather isn't supposed to interfere this matchup, and I'm going to get behind Wainwright and the Cards to continue Washington's home woes with my free pick. Don't forget to read up on the Yankees and Rays contest, another series we're following this week.
My pick: Cardinals -107 at 5Dimes
Monday's Series Opener
By: Willie Bee
A quick check of the MLB odds board shows that sports books expect the series to get underway with a tightly contested affair. Monday's opener is priced as a pick 'em at some outlets monitored by SBR's live odds, with other online sportsbooks slightly favoring the Nats and some making the Cards small chalk. Bookmaker is running close to -110 on both sides, so we'll work with that for preview purposes.
Game 1 is also carrying an 8 run total that is priced at -120 on the UNDER at 5Dimes.
Revenge will no doubt be on the minds of Washington players after falling to the Cardinals in a 5-game NLDS last October, the franchise's first playoff appearance since 1981 when the team was located in Montreal. But with each club sporting 10-8 records and locked in tight battles within their respective divisions entering the series, we can also expect both managers to keep their squads focused on the present and not the past.
Davey Johnson's Nationals come home to DC following a 3-3 road trip to Miami and Queens which ended on a losing note vs. the Mets on Sunday. Washington owns a 6-3 record at home, but all three losses came to the Atlanta Braves who own a 3-game lead over the Nats in the National League East.
Mike Matheny's Redbirds are finishing up a 10-game road trip with this series, one of the matches in Pittsburgh rained out last week and another shortened by rain in Philadelphia where they split four vs. the Phillies. St. Louis is tied with the Pirates for second in the NL Central, each a half-game behind Cincinnati and just a half-game in front of the Brewers who are soaring up the ranks with the longest win streak (7) in the bigs entering the week.
Haren Hopes To End Struggles Against Club That Drafted Him
Signed during the offseason to provide a veteran presence in Washington's young rotation, Dan Haren will crank things up for the Nats in this series. Haren has been the victim of his own pitching as well as the defense behind him in his first three starts for the Nats, losing two of them and compiling an 8.10 ERA.
Both losses were on the road, and four of the five homers Haren has served up came at hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. He's had success against the Cardinals, the team that drafted him in 2001; in five career starts vs. St. Louis, all while with the Diamondbacks, Haren owns a 3.65 ERA while Arizona went 4-1.
Shelby Miller will oppose Haren, and the young righty has pitched more like a veteran than a rookie in his first three assignments of 2013. Hitters are batting just .169 against Miller who has struck out 18 in 18.1 IP. This will be the first time he has faced the Nationals.
Over Has Been Winning Trend When Nats & Cards Collide
Washington has held its own against St. Louis since the club moved to DC before the 2005 season. The Cardinals own a modest 31-25 advantage, including last year's playoffs, and the Nats are 12-9 at their new park which opened in 2008.
Nine of the 12 meetings a year ago skipped above the total, including three of the five NLDS tilts, and five of the last seven regular season games on this diamond cashed OVER tickets.
Forecasters are calling for a cool, cloudy evening in DC on Monday, and there's a 10-15 mph wind from the NE in the mix (in from CF). I don't really trust Haren, but I also do not trust the St. Louis bullpen right now. I'm simply going to follow recent trends in the series and add the OVER to my MLB picks.
My MLB Pick: Cardinals-Nationals Over 8 (+110) at 5Dimes