The second half of the MLB season is now back and last night the Braves took the first of 3 games with rival Washington, 8-5. The Nats were the big preseason favorite to win the N.L. East Division, but so far the team can’t get out of it’s own way to get hot for any real period of time. The Nats sit one game under .500 and are now falling badly behind in the division, now 6 1/2 games back of leader Philly and 6 full games behind the second place Braves.
The Braves, along with the Phillies, were expected to be a year away from being a serious contender, but they have come out smoking and are likely in this for the duration. The Nats simply have not come together under new Manager Dave Martinez, and last night things got ugly again in Natstown with it’s two star Pitchers getting heated in dugout.
These next two games are critical for the Nationals, who with two more losses to the Braves this weekend, would sink deeper in the hole to 8 games behind, a tough number to come back from. The Braves have won the season battle so far, winning 7 of the first 11 meetings between these two this season.
Tonight we will see two Lefties take the hill and neither enters tonight’s game on a good run. We saw the two combine for 13 runs last night, and the summer humidity and heat in the East could make for some long ball fun tonight if both Pitchers stay in their funks on the mound.
Lets see the Braves first, with Lefty Sean Newcombe taking the hill. His season stats overall are fine, (8-5) and (3.51 ERA), allowing only 84 hits in 105 innings of work. He has 97 K’s to 52 walks allowed and has allowed 11 dingers on the season. He hasn’t pitched for a full week, so rest may be what he needed, but he also could be rusty too. He has been dreadful of late, losing all 3 of his past starts, allowing 13 earned runs in just 12 innings of work. He has gone just (5.2, 3.2, and 2.2) innings after incurring very high pitch counts. He’s walked a dozen batters in those past 12 innings and also allowed 4 homers, while striking out only 7. The Braves have lost his last 5 starts overall and he’s faced the Nats a total of 11.1 innings this season, allowing 9 hits and 7 earned runs. He’s walked 6 and struck out 8, with a very high ERA of 5.56.
The Nats will counter with Lefty Gio Gonzalez, who has also struggled of late, with the team losing 5 of his last 6 starts. He has not gone deep in his last 5 starts, going (6, 5, 5, 1, and 4) innings and allowing 13 earned runs his last 4 starts combined (just 17 innings). His biggest problem has been command issues and he has walked 14 batters while striking out only 14. You don’t win much with a 1-1 ratio of walks to strikeouts. He did face the Braves earlier this season, going 7 innings and allowing 3 earned runs and 5 hits. His command that game was excellent, as he struck out 9 and walked none.
LAS VEGAS BETTING ODDS: WASH NATS (-$1.38) vs. Atl Braves * TOTAL: (8 1/2 Runs)
GARY’S FINAL PITCH:
The Nats simply can’t dig a much deeper hole if they wish to stay in this race and the best time to move up in it’s own division is winning vs. the teams also in that division. They catch the Braves without one of it’s young stars and best hitter, as Ozzie Albies will sit out with an injury. That is a big loss to the lineup.
When you are betting on Baseball, the line is set for the Pitching matchup and neither of these two guys would be in my “go to the window to bet this game” mode. I am always leery of guys coming back from break and pitching out of their normal 5th days time slot. Relievers as well, as they are “same routine” guys and it can take 3-4 games to get back into a groove. I’d lean to this game going OVER the posted 8 1/2 run as both Pitchers have been so off the mark heading into the break. The Nats little dugout blowup between Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg might be the shot in the arm this team needed to break out of it’s season long slump. For the Nats sake I hope it doesn’t pull the team apart even more.
For the Nats, these next two games are the two biggest games of their season and they can ill afford to lose them both.
Enjoy the game.
LAS VEGAS SPORTS HANDICAPPER GARY GREENE
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