Prepare the Broomsticks! Nats Primed to Sweep Mets

Wednesday, April 18, 2018 1:07 PM UTC

Wednesday, Apr. 18, 2018 1:07 PM UTC

The Mets will try to avoid an embarrassing sweep at home against the Nats tonight at 7:10 ET. Washington is shockingly second-to-last in its division but promises to ascend in the standings.

Washington Nationals (9-9) vs New York Mets (12-4)

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Free MLB Pick: Washington Nationals -105Best Line Offered: at Bookmaker

Between April 5th and April 8th, the Nats were swept at home by the Mets. Now, they look to give their division rivals a taste of their own medicine. In order for this to happen, two things need to happen: Washington starter Tanner Roark (1-1, 3.50 ERA) needs to make up for his poor performance on April 8th and the Nats hitters need to prevent Mets starter Steven Matz (1-1 3.77 ERA) from shutting them down again.

An important trend suggests that Roark will pitch better this time. Since 2016, he has faced the Mets seven times. In each game he has alternated between achieving an FIP (like ERA, but factors out luck) of under 4 and over 4. In his last game, his FIP was over 4. It may be difficult to expect a different result since Roark faced the Mets just over a week ago. But consider that Roark's pitching style is very much characterized by variety. Variety, along with mechanical adjustments, is what helped him improve in the second half of last season to a 3.90 ERA after a 5.27 ERA in the first half. He had been relying heavily on his sinker but reduced his sinker usage and threw more fastballs. Overall, he is more confident in his arsenal of pitches and his more balanced pitch frequency and creative pitch sequences make him more unpredictable to hitters. He will learn from his last start against the Mets and rediscover what works against them.

Against the Mets, the most important thing will be pitch location. He tends to thrive when he induces a higher rate of ground balls. On April 8th, he threw about 48% of his pitches in the lower two quadrants of the strike zone and induced a ground ball rate of 18%. In his last strong performance against the Mets, approximately 60% of his pitches found those lower two quadrants and he induced ground balls 57% of the time. His ability to keep the ball on the ground will be fundamental tonight. This season, his one win accompanied a ground ball rate higher than 40%. In both his loss and no decision his ground ball rate was under 40%.

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It is easy to think that Steven Matz (1-1 3.77 ERA) will dominate Washington at home because he just did so on the road, but he presents a special case. Last year, his ERA was 10.38 at home compared to 4.00 on the road. This season, it is 5.79 at home but 0.00 on the road. His overall numbers against the Nats are therefore deceiving. The last two times he faced them at home--once in 2017 and once in 2016-- his FIP was over 5. He gave up seven runs in those fourteen innings including four home runs. Matz struggles especially against right-handed hitters. So keep an eye out if Anthony Rendon is playing--he is listed as 'questionable.' Howie Kendrick should be productive--he is batting .300 on the season. MVP candidate Bryce Harper, though a left-handed hitter, is always dangerous, and is hitting .304 and slugging .778 on the season.

Both bullpens are pitching almost equally well. The difference between them is only .23 FIP, but the Mets' has significantly greater downside. The Mets' pen has been escaping by stranding opposing hitters at an unsustainable 91% rate. The Nats have outscored NYM 9-4 after the fifth inning so far in the series and its bullpen is fresh enough that it doesn't have to rely on the two pitchers who surrendered those four runs. Washington is primed to avenge its embarrassment by sweeping the Mets in New York in our MLB Picks.

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