MLB Odds and Predictions: Nationals at Dodgers Series Picks
by Alan Matthews - 4/26/2012
Raise your hand if you had the Washington Nationals having the best record in the National League entering the final weekend of April. If your hand is up, I’d like your selections for this weekend’s Powerball numbers, please.
Actually, perhaps it’s not that surprising that the Nats are the feel-good story of MLB so far this season. In a way, you could see this coming. The Nationals won an MLB-worst 59 games in 2009, then 69 the next year and 80 a season ago. So just going by that, the Nats should win 92 games this year. And it was expected that Washington would be better this year considering Stephen Strasburg is 100 percent healthy and the club added starting pitchers Gio Gonzalez (via trade with Oakland) and Edwin Jackson (via free agency).
Washington has done all this despite not having closer Drew Storen this season. He had bone chips removed from his elbow a few weeks ago and is hoping to return around the all-star break. Storen saved 43 games last year and has been capably replaced by Brad Lidge and Henry Rodriguez.
But by far the Nationals’ toughest series to date begins Friday night at the L.A. Dodgers.
Nationals at Dodgers Betting Story Lines
Entering their series finale Thursday night at San Diego, the Nationals lead MLB in team ERA (2.20), WHIP (1.03) and opponents’ batting average (.200). The Nats are also near the top in saves and quality starts. Strasburg and Gonzalez have headlined what has been baseball’s best rotation thus far. In his last start, Gonzalez threw six shutout innings against the Padres to lift his record as a National to 2-0 and lower his ERA to 1.52. Scarily, that ranks him only fourth in the five-man rotation. Rodriguez, meanwhile, has five saves and has yet to allow a run in 8.1 innings.
If there is a concern, it’s the offense. Nats batters are hitting just .241 (ninth in NL) with only 10 homers (second-to-last NL). And that offense isn’t going to get better anytime soon because the team’s best hitter, third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, is hurt. Zimmerman has shoulder pain, but an MRI revealed nothing structural. He hasn’t played since last Friday and certainly won’t in this series – Zimmerman is likely headed to the DL. Could that mean the Nats might call-up super prospect Bryce Harper to take Zimmerman’s roster spot? Manager Davey Johnson has said that is unlikely, and Harper actually is struggling in Triple-A. A mixture of Steve Lombardozzi, Mark DeRosa and Chad Tracy have been manning third base in Zimmerman’s absence.
The Dodgers, meanwhile, were off Thursday. They enter having lost two straight to the Braves in L.A.’s first home series against a team other than lousy San Diego and Pittsburgh (the Dodgers were 6-0 at home vs. those two). Still, L.A. is firmly in control of the mediocre NL West.
The individual story of this season so far is Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp. He hit his 10th homer in Wednesday’s loss and is on pace for a cool 85 this season. Kemp leads all of baseball in the Triple Crown categories, with a .449 average and 23 RBI (only one ahead of teammate Andre Ethier) to go with his 10 dingers.
The bullpen might be a bit of a concern for L.A. Closer Javy Guerra got torched in those back-to-back losses to the Braves. On Tuesday, he entered in a tie game and allowed two hits, the last an RBI triple, to take the loss. On Wednesday, with the Dodgers leading 3-2 in the ninth, Guerra gave up five consecutive one-out singles, which brought in three runs. Guerra lost for the third time in his last five appearances and had to undergo concussion tests after the game, which showed no signs of one. Guerra has seven saves but is 1-3 with a 5.59 ERA. Manager Don Mattingly says Guerra remains his closer – for now. But set-up man Kenley Jansen is waiting and has been very good.
Nationals at Dodgers Probable Starting Pitchers
Friday: Nationals LHP Ross Detwiler (2-0, 0.56) vs. Dodgers LHP Clayton Kershaw (1-0, 1.61) – Detwiler, a huge surprise, has gone 16 innings in his three starts this year and has allowed just one run. The 26-year-old hasn't thrown more than 81 pitches in a game this season. Kershaw, the reigning NL Cy Young winner, comes off a seven-inning blanking of Houston, striking out nine. He didn’t face the Nats last year.
Saturday: Nationals RHP Strasburg (2-0, 1.08) vs. Dodgers RHP Chad Billingsley (2-1, 3.04) -- Strasburg pitched six shutout innings against the Marlins last time out, allowing four hits and striking out six. He started once vs. L.A. last year, shutting out the Dodgers for five innings. Billingsley has been getting considerably worse in each start. He was clobbered by Houston last time out, allowing nine runs in 3.1 innings.
Sunday: Nationals LHP Gonzalez (2-0, 1.52) vs. Dodgers LHP Chris Capuano (2-0, 3.52) – One of Gonzalez’s few problems while with Oakland was control, but he has walked only seven in four starts this year. He didn’t face the Dodgers last season. Capuano held the Braves to one run in seven innings last time out. He was 1-1 with a 6.17 ERA in two starts vs. Washington last year while with the Mets.
Nationals at Dodgers Betting Odds and Trends
The Dodgers will open as -145 series favorites with the Nats at +115. For Game 1, the Dodgers are -180 with Washington at +170; the total is 6.0.
Washington is 6-0 in its past six games vs. a left-handed starter. The Nats are 5-1 in their past six games vs. teams with a winning record. They are 5-0 in Detwiler’s past five games vs. teams with a winning record. The Dodgers are 7-1 in their past eight games after an off day. They are 5-0 in Kershaw’s past five home starts vs. teams with a winning record. The ‘under’ is 5-1 in Washington’s past six openers of a series. The under is 9-2 in Kershaw’s past 11 home starts. The Nats have won just seven of their past 27 in L.A.
Nationals at Dodgers Betting Predictions
L.A. won four of six meetings with Washington last year, taking two of three at home and in D.C. The Nationals have only taken a season series against the Dodgers one time -- in 2005, their first season in Washington. I think this has a great chance to be No. 2.
Los Angeles might be doing it with mirrors. The Dodgers have won four of six series this season, but all four series wins have come against teams that finished below .500 in 2011. L.A. is a combined 2-4 against the Brewers and Braves. I think the Nats can take the final two games of the series – with their two aces -- after losing the opener to Kershaw. So take them at that +115. Go with L.A. and the under in Game 1.
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