Pittsburgh got squat the last time it ran into Max Scherzer, and is lined as an underdog against him for Friday night. But this handicapper believes the Buccos might just be worth a bet tonight.
Nats-Bucs Friday Betting Odds
As of this writing the best line we could find on Washington and Max Scherzer was the -115 offered at Sports Betting, while Pittsburgh and Jeff Locke could be found getting +110 at WagerWeb. And every book on Friday's MLB odds board was listing a total of 7.5 runs on tonight's game, with most of the grease leaning toward the OVER.
Pittsburgh took the opener of this series Thursday night 7-3. So the Pirates are now 2-5 since the All-Star break, while Washington is 3-4.
The Bucs are also now 33-16 at home this season, while the Nats are 23-24 on the road.
At 55-40 Pittsburgh trails division-leading St. Louis by six games in the NL Central, but still leads the NL wild-card race by 3.5 games over the second-place Cubs.
Meanwhile, at 51-43 Washington still leads the NL East by three games over the second-place Mets.
Friday's Pitching Match-Up
Locke (5-6, 4.01), by our tough standards, is only six-for-18 on quality starts this season, but he's actually been tough as of late. Last Sunday he held Milwaukee to three runs through 7 1/3 innings, and over his last seven starts he's posted an ERA of 1.96 (nine earned runs through 41 1/3 innings). For the season Locke has allowed 108 hits through 103 innings, walked 38 and struck out 78.
Pittsburgh is 9-9 in Locke's starts, with the totals going 8-9.
In two career starts against Washington, the most recent coming last August, Locke has allowed three ER through 10 2/3 innings; the Pirates lost both those games by one run.
Scherzer (10-8, 2.09) is 15-for-19 on quality starts, and six for his last seven. Last Sunday he held the Dodgers to one run through six innings, and just before that he held Baltimore to two runs through 8 2/3 innings. Scherzer issued one walk in that start against the Dodgers, his first in more than a month.
On the season the 2013 American League Cy Young Award winner has held foes to 96 hits through 138 innings, walked 15 and whiffed 158!
The Nationals are 11-8 in Scherzer's starts, with the totals skewing UNDER by a 13-5 margin.
Scherzer has started twice against Pittsburgh over the last season-plus; with the Tigers last August he threw eight innings of three-hit, shutout ball in a 5-2 Detroit victory, while five weeks ago he thew a no-hitter, walking none while whiffing 10. The only batter he allowed to reach base that day was Jose Tabata, who eased his elbow into a Scherzer slider with two outs in the ninth inning.
Friday's Batting Splits
Washington ranks 17th in the Majors this season against left-handed pitching with a .247 team batting average, and 15th with a .314 team on-base percentage.
Pittsburgh, meanwhile, ranks 13th against right-handed pitching with a .257 BA and 13th with a .318 team OBP.
Ballpark Totals Factor
Games played at PNC Park this season are 24-22 on the UNDERS, averaging 7.1 runs per.
Washington is missing five guys who would normally be in the starting lineup, if healthy. That means they've got at least one guy playing out of position, and Dan Uggla playing second base.
Pittsburgh is playing without the starting combo on the left side of its infield. The Pirates just picked up 3B Aramis Ramirez in a trade, but reports indicate he won't play until Saturday.
Nats-Bucs Friday Free Picks
Going against Scherzer after the near-perfecto he threw against Pittsburgh a month ago is tough, but Washington's depleted lineup and Locke's improved recent performance indicates to us the betting value resides with the Pirates. Also, this match-up looks like a 2-1 affair, so we're thinking UNDER.