Two Shaky Pitchers Meet in Nationals-Phillies Finale

Saturday, June 30, 2018 7:06 PM UTC

Saturday, Jun. 30, 2018 7:06 PM UTC

The Phillies close a four-game series with the Nationals on Sunday at 1:35 ET. Both starting pitchers are on fade alert and will help push this game „over“ the betting total.
 

Washington Nationals vs Philadelphia Phillies

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Free MLB Pick: Over 9
Best Line Offered: at Bookmaker

Washington’s Gio Gonzalez's (6-5, 3.68 ERA) poor form climaxed in his catastrophe on June 25, in which he allowed six runs in an inning against Tampa Bay. Gonzalez has yielded an FIP over five in four consecutive starts.

The southpaw is even struggling to throw a strike. In two of his last four starts, his pitches landed in the strike zone with less than 30% frequency. His inconsistency with location is predictable based on the variance of his vertical release points, which are often varying between games with as much disparity as they had been varying between months.

The quality of his pitches is also suffering. Since his slump began on June 9, Gonzalez’s pitches are suffering a drop of 91 spin rotations per minute. Consequently, his pitches are flatter, less deceptive and easier for batters to track and hit. Gonzalez, who on the season averages 15.9% opposing soft contact, has induced less than a third as much in three of his past four starts. Gonzalez is famous for his curveball. Opponents batted .143 against it in May. But in June they are batting .500 against it. Its velocity has dropped and its vertical movement lessened, so that it’s become less elusive. His change-up also shows less movement and opponents’ slugging went up .514 against this pitch from May to June.

Gonzalez is a must-fade while he works out his mechanical difficulties. Philadelphia boasts numerous options with which to slug the southpaw. Left-handed hitter Odubel Herrera is actually hitting lefties better than righties, batting .306 against them. Rhys Hoskins is slugging .652 in day games.

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Jake Arrieta (5-6, 3.54 ERA) isn’t faring any better than Gonzalez. He’s allowed an FIP over six in four consecutive starts.

Arrieta is struggling with his sinker, which had been his favorite pitch. He was throwing it with over 60% frequency before his slump began on June 9, but he has since reduced that number drastically. He’s having trouble locating it, throwing it for a ball with 12% extra frequency. His sinker is also achieving less horizontal and vertical movement than before. Because it’s not so difficult to hit, opponents’ slugging against it is up .122. He’s struggling to find a solution that works. One attempt has been to emphasize his slider more. He had previously focused on it when ahead in the count against a same-handed batter or with two strikes. But now, for example, he’s throwing it with 16% more frequency when the batter is ahead. His slider is suffering in this expanded role, yielding an opposing .650 slugging percentage. With his curveball, he’s making more location errors, leaving it in the lowest middle region of the strike zone with five percent extra frequency. Opponents are slugging 1.500 against this pitch.

Recent results substantiate Arrieta’s struggles with his pitches. He’s allowed over 40% hard contact in his last three starts. In his last two, he’s failed to achieve a 50% ground ball percentage, but instead yielded an opposing fly ball rate well over 30. He isn’t keeping the ball on the ground as he likes to, but is allowing hitters to consistently elevate his pitches because he’s leaving more of his pitches up in the zone. He’s allowed a home run in five straight starts, and two homers in each of his last two starts.

Washington’s top bats will hit Arrieta. Anthony Rendon is slugging over .800 in his past seven days. The 19-year old Juan Soto is an underrated threat. He is slugging over .600 in June and over .700 in his past seven days.

In terms of bullpens, the Nats’ pen is struggling more than almost any other team's, yielding a 4.89 ERA in June, while the Phillies’ pen is hardly performing better, with a 4.26 June FIP. Both pens will contribute to the „over“ for an MLB Pick.

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