Gio Gonzalez takes on the tall task of pitching just after a Max Scherzer masterpiece when the Nationals open a four-game, two-city interleague series Monday night in St. Pete. Do we back Gonzo and the Nats? Or is upstart Tampa the pick for tonight?
Nats-Rays Monday Betting Odds
As of early Monday morning the best price we could find on Tampa and Erasmo Ramirez was the -107 offered at Bovada, while Heritage was giving Washington and Gio Gonzalez +103. And the OVER/UNDER on tonight's game sat at seven runs.
Washington just split four games with the Brewers in Milwaukee, winning Sunday 4-0 behind a near-no-hitter from Max Scherzer. Just before that the Nats split two games with the Yankees; just before that they lost three of four against the Cubs; just before that they lost two of three to Toronto; and just before that they got swept three games at Cincinnati. So Washington is 0-3-2 over its last five series, 5-11 over its last 16 games.
Still, at 33-30 the Nats only trail the first-place Mets by a half-game in the NL East.
Tampa, meanwhile, just swept three games from the White Sox over the weekend, beating Chicago ace Chris Sale Sunday 2-1. Just before that the Rays lost two of three to the Angels, but going back a bit Tampa is 4-1 over its last five series and 11-4 over its last 15 games.
At 35-29 the Rays are tied for first place in the AL East with the other New York outfit.
These two team last met back in 2012.
Monday's Starting Pitchers
Ramirez (5-2, 4.96) is just one-for-eight on quality starts this season, but that's in part because of a short leash. Last Wednesday he allowed two runs in five innings against the Angels, and over his last three starts he's allowed just three runs through 17 1/3 innings. On the season Ramirez owns some mediocre numbers, but if you throw out his first two performances, in which he got rocked for 16 runs, his numbers are much better. In fact, Tampa is 6-2 in Ramirez' starts, with the totals leaning UNDER by a 5-3 margin.
This will be Ramirez' first-ever start against Washington, and we always believe that can be an advantage for the pitcher, at least for the first couple of times through the lineup.
Gonzalez (4-3, 4.42) is six-for-12 on quality starts, and three for his last four. Last Wednesday he held the Yankees to two runs through 6 1/3 innings, and just before that he held the Cubs to two runs through six innings. For the season Gonzo has allowed 77 hits through 71 1/3 innings, with 28 walks, which is a bit much, and 67 strikeouts. Washington is 8-4 in Gonzo's starts, with the totals leaning OVER 7-5.
This will be Gonzalez' first start against Tampa since 2012.
Monday's Batting Splits
Washington ranks 14th in the Majors this season against right-handed pitching with a .317 team OBP.
Tampa ranks 20th against lefties this year with a .309 OBP.
Washington OF Bryce Harper got beaned on the leg the other day, sat out Sunday's game and is iffy for tonight. The Nats are already playing without 3B Ryan Zimmerman and OF Jayson Werth, who are both doing time on the DL.
Nats-Rays Free Picks
These teams are only a couple of games apart in the W/L columns, but Tampa is the better outfit at the moment. We like the Rays to open this series with a victory. Also, neither lineup is very familiar with either starting pitcher, so we're thinking runs might be few tonight.
Not convinced? Read why another capper is also picking the 'Under' here.