All squared up at one game apiece, the series will be decided this afternoon, with Gio Gonzalez and Aaron Harang set to toe the rubber. Here are my top MLB picks for today's finale.
The Nationals are clear-cut favorites for this afternoon's game, with the MLB betting odds showing a line of right around -165. Some sites have a line that goes as high as -170.
That means the Phillies are available for backing in the +150 to +155 range to get the win and therefore win the series 2-1. The total, meanwhile is listed at 7.5 runs.
Washington Nationals (Gonzalez)
One of the hottest teams in baseball, the Nationals saw their six-game losing streak come to an end yesterday afternoon. Stephen Strasburg had a nightmare of an outing and was tagged badly, leading to an early exit for the right-hander and an 8-1 victory for the visiting Phillies, who evened up the series in the process.
It's now Gio Gonzalez's turn in the rotation, and he'll be looking to right the ship after two shaky outings in a row. He's given up 15 hits and 11 earned runs over his last 10 innings of work, which has raised his ERA from 3.62 to 4.94. He now has a 3-2 record along with a 1.54 WHIP, so it hasn't been the most effective of seasons for the left-hander.
Gonzalez has faced off with this Philadelphia team once this season, allowing five hits and three earned runs in 6 and 1/3 innings, with four strikeouts against four walks. The southpaw has gone 1-0 with an even 4.00 ERA in three home assignments so far in 2015, and he's posted an 8.44 ERA in three days starts ahead of today's matchup.
Philadelphia Phillies (Harang)
Like the Nationals, the Phillies have been performing at a high level, as they've gone 8-3 over their last 11 games, which includes yesterday's comprehensive win. The Philadelphia bats jumped all over Strasburg, and Cole Hamels was solid as ever en route to the win, which improved the team's overall record to 19-26.
It'll be Aaron Harang taking the bump this afternoon, and what a story he's been for the Phillies. He's gone 4-3 with a 1.82 ERA and 0.98 WHIP over his first nine starts of the season. Since allowing five earned runs in a road start against St. Louis, Harang has given up two or fewer earned runs in four consecutive starts. The 37-year-old has recorded a 44:13 K:BB ratio over 59 and 1/3 innings, and he's been ultra reliable time and time again for Philadelphia. Can he do it again this afternoon?
It hasn't just been the pitching that's stepped up for the Phillies, as the offense has been producing too. As a team Philadelphia is hitting .278 over the last seven days, with Ryan Howard, Ben Revere, Chase Utley and Maikel Franco all doing their thing. Howard has been especially productive, hitting three homers with five RBI (while batting .407) in that seven-game span.
We feel confident in Washington's chances of bouncing back from yesterday's loss and taking care of business in the series finale.
It's been incredible to see Harang turn back the clock and pitch as well as he has, but you have to figure there's regression on the horizon. It doesn't see very probable that he'll be able to sustain this kind of pace throughout the season, and this afternoon's matchup could be one of those that start the fire.
The Nationals have been one of the best teams in baseball in recent weeks and have really heated up at the plate in the process. We believe they can get some things going against Harang and the Phillies, so we'll take a chance and add them on the run-line to our MLB picks for the day.
MLB Pick: Washington Nationals -1.5 (+148 at Pinnacle)