MLB Picks: Padres vs. Nationals -158

Matthew Jordan

Thursday, April 24, 2014 3:38 PM GMT

San Diego makes its only visit of the season to Washington this weekend, and things didn't go well in the Padres' trip to the nation's capital a season ago as they were outscored 24-16 in a sweep. They look for the upset in Thursday night's series opener.

Same Ol' Story For Padres
Some of the top media experts around baseball (ESPN's Buster Olney, for one) liked the San Diego Padres as a potential wild-card team this offseason. San Diego had added starter Josh Johnson and top bullpen arm Joaquin Benoit to what was a pretty solid pitching staff. More so it was thought that San Diego's lineup could only improve off last season when injuries and/or suspensions sidelined several regulars for long periods of time.

Alas, things don't look too promising thus far. Johnson hasn't thrown a regular-season pitch because of elbow problems and probably will go under the knife for season-ending Tommy John surgery any day now. Benoit has been solid, but there's only so much a set-up man can do.

The issue has been the offense again. Entering Wednesday, the Padres rank dead last in runs in the majors and near the bottom in homers, batting average, on-base percentage and slugging. Outfielder Chris Denorfia and shortstop Everth Cabrera, an All-Star in 2013, are the only regulars batting above .300. Part-time player Xavier Nady leads the team with three home runs and he's well below the Mendoza Line. Second baseman Jedd Gyorko was very good as a rookie and recently got a big extension but is batting under .150.

Chase Headley, the supposed star, is right around .200 and he could be traded by the deadline because he will be a free agent this summer. He had a tremendous 2012 season when he hit 31 home runs and led the NL with 115 RBIs but that is looking more and more like a major fluke. His value is little at this point, but he'd still be a nice upgrade at third for someone like the Yankees. On the bright side, outfielder Cameron Maybin, who missed nearly all of last season injured, is close to returning from a ruptured biceps tendon suffered March 2. It could come in this series.

One has to wonder if this will be Manager Bud Black's final season with the Padres. The team hasn't finished above .500 since 2010 and has never made the playoffs under him.


Probable Pitchers
Lefty Eric Stults (1-2, 4.35), the team's No. 4 guy, gets the call in the opener. He had his best outing of the season last time out, holding the Giants to one run and three hits over six innings in a 3-1 Padres victory. Stults pitches to contact as he has just nine strikeouts in 20.2 innings. Batters are hitting .286 off him. The Padres have lost both his road starts so far. He had one of his best outings of 2013 against Washington, going eight innings and allowing one run over four hits in eight innings at Petco Park. Few Nationals have faced him -- Bryce Harper hasn't, for example.

Washington starts right-hander Jordan Zimmermann (1-1, 3.92). Other than a 1.2-inning shelling against the Miami Marlins on April 9, he has been solid. Zimmermann allowed one earned run and seven hits over four innings last time out against St. Louis in a loss. It was the first start this season he didn't allow a home run. Zimmermann faced the Padres twice in his breakout 2013 season, going 0-1 with a 2.70 ERA in 13.1 innings. He allowed 12 hits and struck out 10 to one walk. Headley hasn't had much success off Zimmermann, going 3-for-15 with five strikeouts. Yonder Alonso is 3-for-5 with a double and home run  off him.

[gameodds]3/262712/?r-1=43-19-349/us[/gameodds]

2013 Season Series
The Nationals won five of the seven meetings and swept those three at home. Adam LaRoche terrorized the Padres in 2013, hitting .381 with four home runs and nine RBIs. Ryan Zimmerman wasn't far behind, batting .360 with three home runs and 11 RBIs, but he's on the disabled list until likely mid-May. Harper hit .333 with a home run and six RBIs. Alonso led the Padres with a .500 average and two home runs in four games against the Nats. Headley played all seven and was 10-for-26 with a home run and six runs scored. Cabrera hit .188 with six strikeouts.


MLB Free Picks:
Nationals -158 on the MLB odds and over 7.5 runs (-110). Also Washington at +135 on the runline. The Padres are 4-12 in Stults' past 16 road starts. The Nationals are 15-3 in Zimmermann's past 18 starts as a favorite of -151 to -200. The over is 5-1 in Stults' past six series openers. The over has hit in nine of Zimmermann's past 12 home starts. The over is also 6-0 in the past six meetings overall.