Sleepy Bats will Characterize Nationals-Giants Night Game

Rainman M.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018 1:35 PM UTC

Tuesday, Apr. 24, 2018 1:35 PM UTC

Last year, Washington and San Francisco engaged in a very heated brawl with each other. In tonight's game, bettors can expect the starting pitchers to be the star combatants. 

MLB Tuesday: Nationals vs. GiantsFree MLB Pick: 1st 5 'Under' 4 runsBest Line Offered: Bookmaker

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Washington starter Tanner Roark (1-1, 3.24 ERA) has in recent years consistently pitched very well against the Giants. Since 2016, he has allowed one run in his last 21 innings against them. His poor numbers against San Fran newcomers Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria lack relevance. The home run which he allowed to McCutchen came in 2015 in a game where he appeared as a reliever. He also hasn't faced Longoria since 2015 whereas he has improved since then.

Roark's (pronounced Row-ark) improvement derives from his ability to effectively mix up pitches in order to keep hitters off-balance. He enhances the perceived velocity of his pitches by suspending hitters' ability to react to his stuff by being unpredictable. He also achieves the same perceptive effect through his command. SF batters won't know what to expect from Roark except the unexpected. When they faced him in 2016, for instance, Roark relied for the majority of the time on his fastball to start the batter off and on his sinker when he was ahead in the count. In the 2017 rematch, he mixed in his cutter and slider to start the opponent off and relied on his sinker less when ahead of the count. He mixed his pitches well so that he could stay successful against the Giants both times.

As he has matured, he also has been more comfortable with the complete arsenal of his breaking stuff. A consistent element of Roark's game has additionally been to pitch inside -- both to right-handed and left-handed batters. Pitching inside makes the opposing hitter uncomfortable by not allowing him to get his hands extended.

Roark's last two games in San Francisco were solid because he could use the spacious ballpark to his advantage by inducing a high fly ball rate. Roark is in his traditionally strongest part of the season, April, when his career ERA is 2.96.

Ty Blach (1-3, 4.10 ERA) counters for San Francisco. Blach is a favorable April bet, when his career ERA is 3.48. He also matches up well against the Nats as a southpaw. They are hitting .196 against left-handed pitchers and .197 against left-handed starters. Washington's poor hitting tendencies have made them suffer in their games against left-handed starters, against whom they are 2-6 so far.

In one of those two starts, Washington hit very well. In that one game, Atlanta southpaw Sean Newcomb was atrocious. For instance, against left-handed batters, he aimed for the lowest left quadrant of the strike zone half the time and threw in the middle quadrants of the strike zone with nearly every other pitch. His predictability in terms of location made him, even as a southpaw, an easy target and left-handed batters achieved an insane 4.000 slugging percentage against his fastball, which he threw about three-fourths of the time.

Blach stands in total contrast to Newcomb. He mixes the location of his pitches more effectively and doesn't favor any one spot with Newcomb's excess. Against Newcomb, Washington's perpetual MVP candidate Bryce Harper hit a three-run home run. This year, Harper is hitting only .200 against left-handed pitchers. He is Washington's best hitter but cannot be relied on against southpaws, especially against Blach with his strong grasp of pitch location.

I still have PTSD from the last time I had to rely on the Nats' bullpen. Anyhow, both bullpens rank outside the top 10 in terms of ERA. So looking at the MLB odds board, I am sticking to a "first five" play in our MLB picks.

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