The Braves and the Nationals are in the midst of a huge four-game series this weekend in Atlanta. The Braves picked up a 4-2 win over Stephen Strasburg and the Nats in the opener on Thursday to extend their division lead over Washington to eight games. The Nats don’t have much hope of catching Atlanta in the NL East at this point, but they are firmly in control of their position at the front of the NL Wild Card pack.
If nothing else, Washington is hoping to make something of a statement in this series. The Nationals have baseball’s best record since late May. If they hadn’t gotten off to such a middling start, perhaps we would have a real race on our hands. Regardless, this should still be a fun weekend series between a couple of legitimate National League contenders.
Dallas Keuchel will try to make it two straight wins for Atlanta on Friday, while Patrick Corbin will get the ball for the visitors.
|2019 ATR Home||35-35||36-36|
|2019 ATR Away||41-28||37-32|
|2019 O/U Home||36-31-3||33-35-4|
|2019 O/U Away||30-34-5||34-32-3|
Keuchel spent the first half of the season waiting for a phone call. The Cy Young winner didn’t get a contract as a free agent last offseason, and he instead waited until a team came calling. The Braves did just that shortly after the draft, and he made his first start for the team in late June against these Nationals.
Keuchel struggled in that one, allowing four runs on eight hits in five innings of work. He was pretty underwhelming through his first month or so with the team, but he has since turned things around. Since the beginning of August, Keuchel is 3-1 with a 3.53 ERA across six starts. He hasn’t faced the toughest competition—two starts against the Marlins, for example—but results are results.
Through 14 starts with Atlanta, Keuchel has a 3.72 ERA with an xFIP of 3.83. He doesn’t generate many strikeouts, but he never has. Keuchel has a career K-rate of 19.2%, and he’s all the way up to 19.4% so far this year. What he does do well, though, is induce ground balls. Keuchel has induced grounders at a 61% clip so far in 2019, which would put him near the top of the leaderboard among starters if he had enough appearances to qualify.
He’s in a tough spot tonight. The Nationals have been one of the most explosive offenses in baseball for months, and they have loads of right-handed power in the lineup. Washington’s projected lineup has a .222 ISO with a wOBA of .388 against left-handed pitching on the year, with Anthony Rendon (.454 wOBA, .342 ISO) leading the charge.
Corbin was the most sought-after pitcher on last winter’s free agent market, and the Nationals broke the bank to bring him to DC. The left-hander is 11-6 through 28 starts with the Nationals, and he’s checked just about every box. Corbin has a 28.4% strikeout rate to go along with a walk rate around 7%. His 3.82 SIERA and 3.59 xFIP validate his 3.19 ERA, and he’s only been taken deep 19 times.
The southpaw has started twice against Atlanta so far this season. Through those two games, Corbin is 1-0 with a 3.27 ERA. He has impressively kept the ball in the ballpark. Corbin hasn’t allowed a single home run to the Braves despite the loads of right-handed power populating Atlanta’s lineup.
The top-6 hitters in the Braves’ lineup have tattooed left-handed pitching all season. Ronald Acuna Jr., Ozzie Albies, Freddie Freeman, Josh Donaldson, Dansby Swanson, and Adam Duvall each have wOBAs of .319 or higher against left-handed pitching, and everyone but Freeman is at or above .366.
This game is pretty evenly matched. Both teams have above-average left-handers taking the hill against stacked offenses. Neither outcome would be a shocking result, as evidenced in the odds at the top baseball betting sites. Washington is fully capable of getting to Keuchel, while Atlanta is certainly good enough to do damage against Corbin. There’s a reason these teams are so close together on the moneyline.
In what essentially amounts to a toss-up game, I’ll take the best betting value. In this case, the most profitable bet is to take the Nationals to cover the 1 ½ runline at +140. Keuchel is capable of getting blown up if his ground ball stuff isn’t working, and Washington has been crushing the ball for quite a while now. It’s also going to be in the 90s with winds blowing out to center field around 10 miles an hour tonight, which is a bump for bats.
My first bet would be to take the Nationals to cover the runline. I also think the over on 9 runs is very attackable, especially in a game featuring offenses of this caliber.
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