MLB Picks: Pitchers Duel Spells Few Runs In St. Louis This Sunday

Mark Lathrop

Sunday, May 1, 2016 11:12 AM GMT

Our MLB handicapper comes off of a hot Friday night to cap off your weekend with another winner for our Sunday MLB Pick. For this one we follow the Nationals as they travel to St. Louis.

The Washington Nationals try to keep their place at the top of the NL East as they travel to the St. Louis Cardinals, who are just trying to get a game above .500 on the season. Interestingly enough, it is the St. Louis Cardinals that have the better run differential on the season at +39, versus the Nationals that are just +33. When looking at these teams though it is the difference in total offense that stands out, as the Nationals have scored just 93 runs over 23 games and St. Louis has scored 142 runs over 24.

The opening MLB odds in this game favor veteran starting pitcher Max Scherzer and the Washington Nationals on the road. The moneyline can be found as high as -116 at Bookmaker. The initial O/U total can be found at 7 across the board, with the juice favoring the under at -117 at Pinnacle.


 

Starting for the St. Louis Cardinals is Carlos Martinez, who just won his fourth start in a row at Arizona. Martinez has had quite a run of late, pitching through seven innings or later in the last three games, while running his ERA down to 1.93. There are some indicators that Martinez is pitching over his head though, as his batting average in balls in play (BABIP) is currently well under his career average of .314. Martinez’s BABIP over his first four starts has been a subterranean .182, and he has stranded an astonishing 85.6% of his runners on base. Martinez is just 24 years old though, so he may be making the jump to a ‘pitcher’ instead of a pure hurler. His fastball had average nearly 97 mph as a reliever in 2013 and 2014, but with a drop in velocity in 2016 to a fastball at ‘just’ 94.3 mph, has come an increase in command and a drop in walk rate.

Pitching for the Nationals is Max Scherzer, who has posted a 4.35 ERA on the season. Scherzer has given up an average of one home run per game in his five starts so far this season, which if it continued, would of course be his highest FB/HR% rate in his career. Scherzer’s first season back in the senior circuit was a doozy, and he allowed only a .205 batting average against on the season. This is his second season with the Nationals, and maybe he is getting figured out, but his strikeout rate so far is the lowest it has been since 2011, and more importantly, he is walking batters at the highest rate in his career. It is just five games though and 31.0 innings pitched.

Just running through the offensive numbers for the Nationals, and it is apparent that Bryce Harper is totally carrying this team. Daniel Murphy is batting .364 on the season, but his BABIP of .400 won’t last long and he will start finding players with his ground balls soon. No other batter on the Nationals is batting more than .230 at the moment that has more than 76 at bats.

The Cardinals also have an outlier in Aledmys Diaz. This is my first introduction to the rookie in advanced stats, but he appears to be the hardest out in baseball at the moment with just 4 strikeouts in 69 at bats. Now, he also has only 4 walks, so if his BABIP starts dropping from .410 his .420 average will go down right with it.

With this strong pitching matchup, I really like the under in this game, and think that Martinez can navigate around a few solo dingers or two to keep scoring down. I also trust Scherzer to stay true to form, making under 7 runs -120 at BookMaker my Sunday MLB Pick.

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Free MLB Pick:  Under 7 -120
Best Line Offered:  at Bookmaker
MLB Record: 12-6-1, +5.60 Units