Underdog Cardinals Make For A Great MLB Pick As They Face Invading Nationals

Doug Upstone

Friday, April 29, 2016 7:02 PM UTC

Friday, Apr. 29, 2016 7:02 PM UTC

May does not arrive until Saturday, but for those on MLB betting and fans of the sport, this is a titillating series. Both Washington and St. Louis expect to be in the playoffs come October.

Washington Nationals vs. St. Louis Cardinals
This is an early measuring stick to see where they stand against the more elite clubs in the National League, especially the Nationals, who have only play two games against a team over .500 and they were versus Philadelphia, only because they had lost to the Phillies the prior two days. Besides the MLB odds, what other factors should be looked at for the series opener?


Pitching Matchup - Strasburg vs. Leake
It has not been 2012 since we have seen the kind of pitcher we expected from Stephen Strasburg (3-0, 2.17 ERA). Though he does not regularly throw in the upper 90's like when first arrived in 2010, the right-hander has a better idea of how to pitch now at 27 and seems to have figured out how to balance his abilities and going from thrower to pitcher. He's gone back to using more fastballs, which has made his curve and changeup even more effective. Opponents are hitting just .202 against him with no power (.253 slugging percentage). He's never beaten St. Louis in four starts (0-2, but Nats 2-2), yet still have good 2.80 ERA.

St. Louis is Mike Leake's (0-2, 5.64) third stop in less than year, however, he chose to been with the Cardinals through free agency. He's mid-rotation hurler who tends to be rather black and white with little room for gray. When Leake is on, his 90-ish fastball runs and sinks and can be hard to hit with curveball he change planes on. When his mechanics are off, he walks more hitters, allows more than a hit an inning (loads of line drives) and seldom lasts past the fifth inning.


Offensive Overlook
The Cards offense has been like a typical summer day in St. Louis, red hot and nasty. The Redbirds return home averaging a baseball best 6.2 runs per game. To the more casual fan some the leaders for this push are less known like shortstop Aledmys Diaz, who should be getting more ink with awesome .446 batting average on has only three strikeouts. Outfielder Jeremy Hazelbaker has appeared almost out of thin air at 28, but his .310 average and five home runs have added real punch to the lineup to go along with Yadir Molina, Stephen Piscotty, Matt Carpenter and others.

The Washington offense has inaccordant after Bryce Harper (.314, 9 HR's and 24 RBI's) again this season. Outbursts of seven or eight runs have been common and so has scoring two or fewer times. Besides Harper, Daniel Murphy (.370 ) and catcher Wilson Ramos (.316), is a large contingent batting .240 or less with dreadful on-base percentages under .300. They have been really awful coming off being swept at home by Philadelphia where they tallied only three runs.


Betting Odds, History and Bullpen Numbers
The beginning odds at Intertops had Washington as a -130 road favorite with total 7.5. The past couple years, the Cardinals have been in the Nationals heads and won five of six, winning by two runs a contest. The Nats bullpen comes into this series stronger with a league-leading 2.44 ERA, though St. Louis is hardly a pauper, ranked fifth at 3.19.


Game Outcome
Not sure either team will be at their best, with the Nationals having been shutout in consecutive games and St. Louis hanging up all zeros last night in Arizona and having to fly home. Though I really like how Strasburg is pitching, Washington does not look good and have been meager in opening up series on the road with 3-10 record on Friday's. Maybe that is just a coincidence, but what is not is the Cardinals are 29-13 versus a NL starting pitcher whose ERA is 3.50 or better and having 35-16 record after scoring and allowing three runs or less in previous game.

For this MLB pick I'll side with the Redbirds.

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Free MLB Pick: St. Louis Cardinals +100
Best Line Offered: at Heritage

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