The Nationals started the season as heavy favorites to not only repeat as NL East Champs, but to make a strong run towards a World Series title. That is no longer the case after losing 12 of their first 16 games in August. A small ray of hope was a 6-3 record in its final nine games of the month, but Washington is now sitting 6.5 games off the pace in the division race set by the red-hot New York Mets. Faced with a do-or-die situation over the final month of the regular season, the Nats need to win far more that they lose to keep their rapidly-fading playoff hopes alive.
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I have been handicapping Washington all season long and releasing a weekly free pick with the use of Doc's Sports Unit Betting System. The following is a preview and free pick for this Thursday night's all-important series opener against Atlanta at home. This matchup is so big that I have made it my 6-Unit Washington Nationals "Game of the Year".
Washington Nationals Free Picks, Odds and Predictions
Thursday, Sept. 3, 7:05 p.m. EST (Nationals Park)
Washington kicks off a crucial seven-game homestand this Thursday night with the first of a four-game weekend series against the rival NL East Atlanta Braves. Game time from Nationals Park is set for 7:05 p.m. (ET), and it will be available on MLB Extra Innings.
The Braves have been phoning it in lately with just one victory in their last 15 games heading into Wednesday's series finale at home against Miami. This slide has dropped them to 54-78 on the year, and they will head on the road with a MLB-worst record of 21-47 in 68 previous road games this year. The total has gone "over" in six of their last 10 outings.
Washington ended the month of August with an 8-5 loss to St. Louis as a +118 road underdog, and it book ended that result with another 8-5 loss as -116 road favorites on Tuesday to kick off the month of September. The Nationals are listed as slight +105 road underdogs to get swept by the Cardinals in this series finale on Wednesday night. The total for this game has been set at 6.5, and it has gone over in their last three games.
Atlanta at Washington Betting Storylines
Atlanta was actually hanging tough in the NL East Division race through most of the first half of the season, but that is just a distant memory in light of this current collapse. The Braves lineup has fallen all the way to bottom of the league in scoring with an average of 3.6 runs a game, and their pitching has not been all that much better with a staff ERA of 4.44. It does not help that their current DL reads like a roster card, especially when it comes to pitchers.
Look for Matt Wisler to be on the mound this Thursday night as Atlanta's starter. The right-hander did hold the New York Mets to two earned runs on four hits in six innings his last time out, but the Braves still lost their fourth straight game with him as their starter. Wisler's ERA on the year now stands at 5.22 with a 1.57 WHIP through 13 previous starts.
The Nationals have been a tough team to figure out this season. They have also had their issues with injuries all season long, but even when this potentially lethal lineup has been intact it has struggled with consistency. Led by Bryce Harper, Washington is still ranked fourth in the NL with an average 4.3 runs a game. The bigger frustration has been with a pitching staff that is now eighth in the league with a team ERA of 3.80.
Jordan Zimmermann has been penciled in as the Nationals' starter for this series opener. He is 11-8 on the year through 27 starts with a 3.45 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP. The right-hander is coming off a very solid outing against Miami last Saturday in which he allowed just one earned run on seven hits in seven innings of work.
Atlanta at Washington MLB Betting Odds and Key Trends
BetOnline has opened Washington as a prohibitive -256 home favorite for Thursday's series opener against rival Atlanta, which is listed as +234 road underdog. The betting odds for the total have been set at 7.5.
The Braves are 1-4 in Game 1 of their last five series, and they are 0-4 in Wisler's last four starts on the road. The total has gone over in six of their last eight road games.
The Nationals have a 6-2 record in their last eight games against a team with a losing record, and they are 6-2 in their last eight home games. The total has gone over in 13 of their last 19 games at home.
Atlanta has lost nine of its last 10 road games against Washington, and it is just 2-9 in the last 11 meetings overall. The total has stayed under in five of the last six meetings.
Atlanta at Washington Free MLB Picks and Betting Predictions
It has been a very tough season handicapping the Nationals, but I am saving my best for last with a 6-Unit Washington "Game of the Year" selection. In my strongest play of the season I am going with the Nationals -1.5 on the run line to start this home stand on a solid note with a big win over the punchless Braves.
Washington 6-Unit Game of the Year
YTD Record: 8-12 (-$1452)
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