It's a short slate here on Thursday, and the Nationals are easily the biggest MLB odds-on favorites for the win. Will they dispatch Atlanta with ease as expected?
With Jordan Zimmermann pitching well and the Nationals obviously the much better overall team, we can't say we're all that taken aback to see Washington favored by such a hefty number tonight. As of time of writing, the Nationals were quoted at a whopping -250 to pick up the victory at home. That means the Braves are massive underdogs at +220 or so.
As for the game's total, we see a number of eight runs on the board for now, with the Nationals expected to account for most of that offensive production.
Washington Nationals (Zimmermann)
The Nationals won a nailbiter in their series finale against the Cardinals last night, with Ryan Zimmerman's two home runs playing a big part. Washington is sitting at 67-65 overall for the season and has fallen 6.5 games back of the first place Mets in the division, so they've got some ground to make up, that's for sure.
It's a good thing then that Jordan Zimmermann will be taking the mound this evening at home versus the Braves. The right-hander has been excellent this season, going 11-8 with a 3.45 ERA and 1.22 WHIP, and he's coming off one of his better starts of his campaign; he held Miami to seven hits and one run (with four strikeouts and one walk) over seven innings in a winning decision. Now he'll turn his attention to another weak lineup in the Braves.
Zimmermann has thoroughly enjoyed pitching at home in 2015, mustering up a 6-3 record and 2.58 ERA over 15 starts, much better numbers than what's been good for on the road (5-5, 4.67 ERA). He's dominated the Braves this season too, posting a tidy 1.88 ERA across four meetings (spanning 28 and 2/3 innings), so he should be feeling confident heading into tonight.
Atlanta Braves (Wisler)
It's been a nightmare season for the Braves, especially as of late, as they've dropped eight consecutive games ahead of this series opener against Washington. Overall we find Atlanta at a miserable 54-79 for the season.
Now it's Matt Wisler's turn in the rotation, and he hasn't been too good in his debut MLB season. Wisler is 5-5 with a 5.22 ERA and 1.57 WHIP on the season, and his advanced metrics don't suggest that we're going to see much improvement down the stretch. He's struggled with his control in the majors, and that's not a good sign with Bryce Harper and company ready and waiting for their chance to take advantage this evening.
Wisler has been a mess on the road too, going 2-4 with a 6.53 ERA in 40 innings of work. In short, it's tough to get excited about his chances of turning things around versus a motivated Washington ballclub.
It's clear to see why the Nationals are such heavy favorites, and we're itching to get a piece of them at a much more reasonable price.
Washington seems to have the edge in every way here this evening: Zimmermann has been pitching extremely well, Wisler has been exploitable and is arguably the worst starting pitcher going tonight, and the Nationals will be at home and still have a ton to play for. Meanwhile, the Braves have even more awful than normal over the past couple weeks. The MLB odds are this steep for a reason.
In order to navigate around taking on so much chalk, we'll go with a run-line play instead and back Washington to win by at least two runs tonight. This should be an easy win for a Nationals team that's desperate to make up ground and reach the playoffs, and we're taking them with our MLB pick to start this home series off on the right foot.