Washington Exhibits More Mental Toughness in 2014
Last year, the Nationals were the betting odds favorites to win the NL East. They suffered a fair amount of injuries and had Ryan Zimmerman playing with a bad wing in the field.
The body language of this team started becoming nonchalant by the later stages of May, and did not pick up (until it was too late) trying to make a September rally. Maybe the players tuned out manager Davey Johnson, knowing he was going to retire at the end the season. Whatever the rationale, Washington underachieved even considering with ailments.
Fast forward to this campaign, and the injury-wagon has made another stop in D.C. However, this time instead of seeing careless mistakes, Washington is providing effort and more of a willingness to persevere. Players like Jayson Werth, Adam LaRoche and Anthony Rendon have taken it upon themselves to be leaders on the field.
This group is backed by a hard-throwing starting staff and bullpen, and first-year manager Matt Williams, and his intensity is being reflected on the field.
Oakland Smarter Because They Have to Be
When the Athletics first brought Money Ball into vogue, they beat the MLB odds by having the right situation player, and maximized his most useful skills. Those players had a shelf life, unlike high-priced stars. GM Billy Beane had to rethink his ways, and find new methods to succeed within the confines of a low payroll.
The A’s have done just that: they took a page from the Tampa Bay playbook of drafting, or finding young pitchers who throw strikes, everyday players that have versatile skills, and in this case, are also much more talented and athletic.
When Oakland went from 74 to 94 wins from 2011 to 2012, the vast majority of those making sports picks thought they caught lightning in a bottle as a one-year wonder. Instead, the A’s went out and won 96 times last season. An overview of their roster finds them carrying as much overall skill as any American League outfit.
This team is 100 percent legit, which has been proven by their ability to lose 60 percent of its starting rotation, and not miss a beat to begin this year.
Manager Bob Melvin has a squad averaging 4.7 runs a game and has a varied offense which can score one run at a time or score like bananas...In bunches (work with me here!).
Pitching Matchup for Friday
Doug Fister will make his debut with Washington, coming off the DL. The right-hander is confident he can reach the century mark on pitches, but it remains to be seen if manager Matt Williams will let him get that far, considering he only threw 59 in his last rehab outing. Fister is a command and control wizard, and is finally on a team with the type of infield defense which matches his talents. Having pitched in the AL West, he is 5-5 with 3.91 ERA against the A’s.
Were it not for injuries, Tom Milone would most likely be toiling in Triple-A for Oakland. The left-hander has done little to endear himself to stay a part of the rotation with a 0-3 record, 5.86 ERA and WHIP of 1.55. MLB baseball handicappers are aware the A’s have dropped all five of his starts this season (-6.1 units). In 2011, Milone actually started five times for Washington.
These are two of the best bullpens in all of baseball by ERA, with Washington third at 2.11 and Oakland fourth at 2.68. However, the A’s have blown seven of 13 save opportunities while the Nationals have converted 10 of 13 chances.
Head to Head Combat and Betting Odds
The sportsbooks opened Oakland as a -125 money line favorite with a total of 7.5. Since its release, the Athletics has slid to -115, yet are 17-3 at home vs. NL teams allowing 3.8 or less runs a game on the season.
Also keep in mind when making your MLB picks that Washington is 10-2 'over' on the road when the total is 7.5 or less this season.
The Winner Is….
Personally I think Washington is the better team in this situation. Nonetheless, the A’s have been one of the best bets since the advent of interleague play, so I’ll back Oakland based on history.
Free MLB Picks – Oakland wins