Braves at Nationals Picks and MLB Betting Odds
by Robert Ferringo - 4/12/2013
It’s never too early in the Major League Baseball season to make a statement.
That is exactly what Atlanta and Washington will try to do when they meet at 1 p.m. on Saturday at Nationals Park in Washington. These two National League East rivals are the two favorites to win their division and, as of Friday, had two of the best records in baseball.
Both teams will be going with their respective ace in this Saturday matinee. Venerable Tim Hudson will take the ball for the visiting Braves while phenom Stephen Strasburg gets the call for the host Nationals.
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These two teams have combined to go 16-4 so far this season, and each will be trying to stake its claim to the top spot in the East during this three-game set. Here is a breakdown of this weekend’s top matchup:
Braves at Nationals Betting Story Lines
Atlanta is off to a dominating start to the season. Their new-look outfield, infused with Upton brothers Justin and B.J., has been a big hit early in the season and helped the Braves get off to a fast start.
The Braves are No. 2 in the league in home runs with 15 already. Justin Upton is hitting .353 with six of those bombs, while B.J. is hitting just .103 with one home run. But in true Upton form, the duo has combined for a dreadful 24 strikeouts.
Atlanta currently boasts the No. 1 pitching staff in the league. Their 1.89 ERA is tops in the Majors, and their 1.10 WHIP is No. 2. Atlanta has surrendered more than two runs just twice in the first two weeks of the season.
The 37-year-old Hudson is playing in his 15th professional season and is clearly no stranger to big games. The Braves have won each of his two starts this season, and Hudson gave up just one run in nearly seven innings of work last Sunday to Chicago.
Hudson is an outstanding 14-5 in his career against the Nationals with a sparkling 2.65 ERA in 26 starts against them. He is 4-1 with a 3.17 ERA in his eight career starts at Nationals Park.
However, most of those numbers were rung up against the old loser Nationals. Washington proved in its breakout 2012 that they will be a force in the National League for the next several years, and they got their licks in on Hudson last season. The Braves lost all three of Hudson’s starts against the Nats, and he allowed 17 runs in just less than 19 innings of work.
Strasburg is looking for a bounce back performance after getting lit up in Cincinnati last Sunday. Strasburg went just five innings and gave up six runs in a loss to the Reds.
Strasburg is a very ordinary 3-3 with a 4.17 ERA in his seven career starts against Atlanta. But he did go 2-1 against Atlanta at home last year, surrendering just five runs in 18 innings. Strasburg has just a 2.77 ERA in his career when facing the Braves in D.C.
Like Atlanta, Washington has relied on the long ball to generate runs. Washington is tied with Atlanta (and three others) with 15 home runs. But, unlike the Braves, who were just No. 20 in the league in long balls in 2012, Washington finished No. 8 in the Majors last year in home runs from its powerful lineup.
Second-year stud Bryce Harper is hitting .417 with four home runs to pace the Nationals. He has been getting support from now-healthy Jayson Werth (.297-3-7) and offseason addition Denard Span (.323-0-2).
Schedule makers were kind to Atlanta in the early going of this year. Atlanta opened with a home series against fading Philadelphia before being treated with easy series against two of the worst teams in the National League, the Marlins and the Cubs.
Conversely, Washington has had to battle in its last two series following an easy season-opening sweep of the lowly Marlins. The Nationals traveled to face red-hot Cincinnati last weekend, losing two of three in the Queen City, before coming home to sweep the Chicago White Sox in a three-game home set.
Braves at Nationals MLB Betting Odds and Key Trends
The line on this game has really seen some strong movement. It was initially released on Friday with Washington at -165 as a favorite and Atlanta at +155 as the underdog. The price has shifted a full 15 cents, with Washington -150 and Atlanta now +140.
The total opened at 7.0 with heavy juice (-125) on the “under”. Most books have already adjusted the total down to 6.5.
The Braves are a dominating 42-14 in their last 56 games against the National League East. Dating back to last season, the Braves are 21-7 in their last 28 games, and they are 8-2 against a team with a winning record. Atlanta is 37-15 when Time Hudson starts with an extra day of rest and 35-16 in his last 51 starts overall.
Washington has become one of the best home teams in the Majors, going 39-19 in their last 58 games at Nationals Park. The Nationals are 11-5 when Strasburg starts against divisional opponents, and they are 4-1 when he starts at home. Washington has beaten the Braves four of the last five meetings in D.C.
Braves at Nationals Picks and Betting Predictions
I have to look at the “over” in this game. I know that Hudson and Strasburg are two of the best pitchers in the National League and that this game will be played at a more deliberate pace than the usual second-weekend-of-the-season snoozers. But the respective opposing lineups have definitely gotten their cuts in on Hudson and Stasburg over the past several seasons. The over is 4-0 in Hudson’s last four starts against the Nationals and is 4-0 in his last four starts on the road in Washington. The Reds torched Strasburg last week, and he has really been hit or miss against the Braves in his career. Washington has gone over in five of its last six games, and the over is 5-2-1 in Strasburg’s last eight starts with extra rest. Also, the over is 14-5 when he faces teams with winning records, which tells me that good lineups can get to the hard-throwing righty. Scoring has been abundant in this early MLB season, and I look for it to continue in this one, with one of the offenses breaking out to score at least five runs and help nudge this one over.
Read more articles by Robert Ferringo
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