Night and day is probably the easiest way to describe the contrasting moods in the two clubhouses right now. In one you'll find the Los Angeles Dodgers who have a shot at grabbing the top spot in the NL West after a long climb from the basement. In the other are the Washington Nationals, a game below .500 and sinking out of the postseason picture fast.
Washington tries to avoid LA's brooms on Sunday afternoon when TBS provides national coverage of the series finale in DC. The Dodgers are small favorites to complete the broom job behind ace Clayton Kershaw who is -115 chalk on most MLB odds boards; Jordan Zimmermann hurls for the Nats with bettors being offered both 6.5 and 7 run totals to wager.
Andre Ethier once again drove home the third and final run of the game for Los Angeles in Saturday's 3-1 victory. Hanley Ramirez's RBI double in the 10th proved to be the game winner, but Ethier, who homered in the ninth to win it on Friday, added a sac fly for good measure.
Kershaw worked a scoreless inning of relief in Tuesday's All-Star Game, his only action since losing 3-0 to the Rockies on July 12. That setback stopped a 3-game win streak for the lefty who has eight quality starts among his last nine trips to the mound. The Dodgers are 6-3 in Kershaw's road assignments with his ERA a splendid 2.20 in those outings.
He beat the Nationals in LA on May 14, coming an out from a complete game in the two-zip triumph while striking out 11. Sunday will be his second career start at Nationals Park, and Los Angeles won the other one in 2010.
Zimmermann had to skip the All-Star Game with a sore neck and is pitching on 10 days rest since he lost a 3-1 decision at Philadelphia on July 11. The loss halted a string of seven straight wins for the Nationals in his starts, and Washington is 15-4 overall behind him. Zimmermann was the winner in the Nats' only victory over LA when the clubs met at Dodger Stadium back in May.
Jeff Kellogg is sporting no trends with a 10-10 O/U overall record, though three of his last four plate assignments have skipped above the totals. The forecast calls for the thermometer to be sitting around 86º with a lot of clouds for the start of the game, and a 50% chance for a thunderstorm to crash the party at some point this afternoon.
Both closers, Kenley Jansen and Rafael Soriano, have been summoned to the mound in each of the first two games, so it will be interesting to see how the two managers utilize their bullpens today if the need arises. Then again, neither offense has brutalized a starting pitcher so far this weekend in DC, and the UNDER will once again be my play.
By: Willie Bee
There are several must-see pitching matchups on Saturday's MLB betting card, like Verlander and Shields in KC, Hamels and Wheeler at Citi Field, Kuroda and Lackey at Fenway Park and Burnett facing Latos in Cincinnati. But my pick as the most crucial takes place in the middle match of a 3-game set in Washington between the Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers.
Both of Saturday's hurlers have to perform well the rest of the way to give their clubs any chance of postseason baseball. Zack Greinke of the Dodgers and Nats lefty Gio Gonzalez answer the bell in the evening clash, and that bell tolled for Gonzalez and Washington with an opening line of -135. Most shops charted by SBR's live MLB odds have the Nationals in the mid -120s after overnight trading, and another 7.5 run total awaits bettors.
Game 2 is especially important for Gonzalez and the Nats after LA took Friday's opener, 3-2. Andre Ethier's 9th-inning homer provided the final margin on the scoreboard, and Stephen Strasburg was once again denied a victory vs. the Dodgers despite pitching well. The young fireballer has now faced Los Angeles three times in his career and allowed just three runs in 19 innings...yet Washington is 0-3 in those contests.
Greinke was absolutely brilliant for the Dodgers leading into the all-star break, and is shooting for his and the team's sixth straight win in his 15th assignment of 2013. Consecutive starts at Arizona and home vs. the Rockies yielded 16 scoreless innings for Greinke, while combining for 16 K's, three walks and only four hits in his last two trips to the hill.
His first start back off the DL on May 15 came against the Nationals, and resulted in his second win in as many tries vs. Washington over the years. Greinke also beat them as the Expos with seven shutout innings in 2004.
Washington has also won Gonzalez's last five starts, Gio picking up the dubya in the last four, and the southpaw has reeled off eight consecutive quality efforts with the Nats 12-7 behind him overall. Gonzalez missed the Dodgers when the clubs met at Chavez Ravine in May, and has seen the Dodgers just once before in April 2012 at LA where he worked six and lost 2-0.
Four of Chad Fairchild's last six plate assignments stayed UNDER the total, and he brings an 8-10 O/U record into Saturday's clash. The umpire crew and players may have to work around some rain this evening with a 40% chance of scattered t-storms in the DC area. The upper-80s, muggy and a light breeze from the WSW (out to right-center) is forecast for the first pitch.
The clubs combined to bat .083 (1-for-12) with runners in scoring position on Friday, and I suspect the pitchers will once again have the upper hand tonight. The low side of the total will be my play.
By: Willie Bee
Maybe I've been watching too many of these shows about haunted houses, but I swear to God, Allah, Buddha and George Carlin that the Ghost of Christmas Future visited me over the all-star break. And that spirit told me not to be surprised if this weekend's set in Washington between the Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers isn't the last time they square off in 2013.
The second, and final regular season, meeting between the two clubs will help kick start baseball's second half. Game 1 of the set is Friday and features a pair of righthanders who are facing off for the second time this season, though their first clash didn't come in a Dodgers-Nationals matchup.
Ricky Nolasco leads things off for the LA rotation, his third start for the Dodgers since arriving from the Marlins in a swap. Washington turns to Stephen Strasburg who is coming off the worst outing of his career against Nolasco's former club in Miami. Strasburg and the Nats started in the low -150's on the MLB odds board, and that moneyline has crept upward to what we'll call a -160 morning consensus. All baseball betting outlets agree on 7.5 for the total, most of them juicing the OVER.
Dodgers Took Two Of Three From Nats In May
This matchup was what many expected we would see in this year's NLCS when the 2013 campaign got underway in April. Then, the Dodgers were 3/1 favorites to win the National League pennant with the Nationals right behind at 7/2. Both clubs have a lot of work to do just to reach the playoffs, and current MLB futures odds have LA at 5/1 to win the NL while Washington comes in at 8/1.
Not much has changed for the Nats since they traveled to Los Angeles to take on the Dodgers in mid-May. Davey Johnson's club was three games above .500 then and begins the second half just a game over level and still chasing the Atlanta Braves in the NL East. The Dodgers were six games below .500 at that time and sitting dead last in the NL West. Los Angeles has heated up in recent weeks, closing the first half with 17 wins in the last 22 games, and starts this series 47-47 on the season which is good enough for second in the division.
The Dodgers took two of those three games in LA, and have not lost a season series to Washington since 2005 when the Nationals first moved from Montreal to DC. Two of the three games in May stayed UNDER the total, and two of the three fell short of the number when the teams played at Nationals Park a year ago.
Nolasco Hopes Third Time's a Charm
The number three is big in Nolasco's outing on Friday, as it's not only his third start in a Dodgers uniform but also his third start against the Nationals this season. Washington beat him and the Marlins each of the other two assignments when the California native combined for 12 innings of work and allowed six runs. He owns an 11-7 lifetime record vs. Washington with a 3.66 ERA, and tossed complete game shutouts vs. the Nationals in his final two starts against them last season.
Nolasco and Strasburg hooked up in Washington on Opening Day, and the Nats scored the game's only two runs courtesy of a pair of Bryce Harper homers. Strasburg went seven starts after that outing before he got another win, and the Nationals are just 7-11 when he takes the mound despite a 2.99 ERA.
Control issues led to an early exit in his last start when he made it through just two innings in Miami and was charged with seven runs. Strasburg has faced the Dodgers twice in his career and allowed just one run in 12 frames, yet Washington lost both times.
Warm and muggy with scattered politicians robbing you blind is pretty much the weekend forecast for the DC area. There will be an increased chance of rain the next two days, so stay tuned, but tonight's game will be played in the 85º-90º range with clear skies and a 10 mph blow from the southwest (out to center).
Hitters are the ones who usually need a day or two after a layoff to get reacquainted with live pitching, and for that reason alone I'm going to play the UNDER tonight in DC.