The Washington Nationals have been fashionable MLB picks lately. Can they keep the good times rolling in Wednesday's rubber match against the Arizona Diamondbacks?
Jason's 2015 record as of May 12: 18-10, plus-8.25 units ML; 0-2, minus-2.05 units Total
Life's been pretty good for the Washington Nationals the past couple of weeks. They've won 11 of their past 14 games to climb right back into the mix in the NL East. Too bad Stephen Strasburg is having such a difficult time enjoying this run. Strasburg had a chiropractic adjustment on his shoulder after leaving his last start just three innings in, and go figure, he got shelled for seven earned runs in 3.1 innings of work during Tuesday's 14-6 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks (+131 at home). Maybe Strasburg should try acupuncture next. Or magnets.
Next up, it's our good friend Gio Gonzalez starting for Washington this Wednesday (3:40 p.m. ET) at the BOB. You might remember Gonzalez from such gems as last week's 9-2 win over the Atlanta Braves (+187). That victory improved Gonzalez to plus-1.38 units on the MLB money charts on a team record of 4-2. Can he beat the baseball odds for us again? Or will Jeremy Hellickson get the win for Arizona?
Spoiler alert: We're putting Gonzalez (2.69 FIP) and the Nats in our MLB picks again. We went through his bona fides before, so let's focus instead on Washington's bats, which have woken up after a slow start to the 2015 campaign. In April, the Nationals ranked No. 22 in the majors at 1.2 WAR, posting a .684 team OPS. This month, the Nats are No. 4 with a bullet, already putting up 2.4 WAR going into Tuesday's action, along with a very healthy .826 OPS.
Now there's a World Series contender right there. As we go to press, the Nationals are tied with the Los Angeles Dodgers at +550 on the MLB odds list at GT Bets. If they keep hitting like this, Gonzalez and the rest of the starting rotation will finally get the run support they deserve. Washington's bullpen ranks No. 6 on the season at 1.2 WAR, so that's pretty much the whole baseball enchilada right there. Let us know when they come up with some reliable metrics for fielding.
Balls In Play
We're not quite as enthusiastic about Hellickson (4.23 FIP). He won AL Rookie of the Year honors in 2011 after a strong run through the Tampa Bay Rays farm system, but that .223 BABIP just screamed regression. Sure enough, his BABIP has risen over the years, and now Hellickson finds himself banished to the desert, where he's 3.87 units in the hole on a team record of 1-5. Sorry about your damn luck.
His luck could always swing in the other direction. Hellickson now sports a .369 BABIP, which also calls for some regression to the mean. But there's probably no going back to 2011, especially after Hellickson needed elbow surgery last year. If the Snakes are going to win Wednesday's game, they might need another 14 runs from the batting order, which ranks No. 10 on the season (4.4 WAR) and No. 10 in the month of May.
Last time around, we recommended 2B/SS Danny Espinosa for your fantasy team against Eric Stults and the Braves. Did you pull the trigger? If so, you're welcome: Espinosa hit two home runs. Hellickson's a northpaw, and Espinosa has yet to face him in the bigs, so we're going in another direction and suggesting 3B/SS Yunel Escobar instead. He's just 16% owned in Yahoo leagues despite a .811 OPS, and against Hellickson, Escobar has performed even better at 5-for-17 lifetime with a .839 OPS.
As for the game itself, Washington looks like a bargain as a –135 road fave on Wednesday's MLB odds board. The betting market agrees – our early consensus reports show near-unanimity for the Nats in this matchup. Count us in.
Free MLB Pick: Take the Nationals