Not that long ago there was a time that when Stephen Strasburg was on the mound it usually resulted in another notch in the win column for the Washington Nationals. His struggles this season through shaky performances and nagging injuries basically mirrors his team's struggles to stay in the race for another NL East Division title.
The good news is that even though Washington is just four games above .500 through Tuesday's results, it is still in position to end up on top in the East for the third time in the last four years.
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I have been handicapping the Nationals all season long and with the use of Doc's Sports Unit Betting System, I have also been releasing my free picks for select games. The following is a preview and free pick for Thursday's series opener on the road against the San Francisco Giants.
Washington Nationals Free Picks, Odds and Predictions
Thursday, Aug. 13, 10:15 p.m. EST (AT&T Park)
Washington continues its current 10-game swing through the NL West this Thursday night with Game 1 of an extended four-game weekend series against the San Francisco Giants. Game time from AT&T Park is set for 10:15 p.m. (ET), and it will be available on MLB Extra Innings.
Ever since the Nationals dropped a three-game set to the New York Mets to start the month of August, they have been fighting to keep their heads above water with an even 4-4 record through Tuesday's 5-0 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers as +176 road underdogs. Heading into the rubber match of that three-game series on Wednesday, they are now 2.5 games in back of the Mets in the division title race.
San Francisco has been able to keep the Dodgers within its sights in the NL West race at 60-52 on the year. The Giants are just 4-6 in their last 10 games, but they won Game 1 of a quick two-game interleague matchup against Houston 3-1 on Tuesday night as -135 home favorites. They are now 31-23 at home this season, and the total has stayed "under" in five of their last six home games.
Washington at San Francisco Betting Storylines
Washington has been battling injuries throughout its lineup all season long, and after recently getting Anthony Rendon, Ryan Zimmerman and Jason Werth back from extended stays on the DL, it now has a concern with Bryce Harper's knee. He missed Tuesdays start with soreness and he remains questionable for Wednesday's game. The main problem with the Nationals this season has been a lack of consistency in a pitching staff that had the best ERA in the majors last year. This season it is just sixth in the National League with a team ERA of 3.65.
One starter leading that upward trend has been former staff ace Stephen Strasburg. In between his own trips to the DL, the right-hander is 6-5 this season with an ERA of 4.76 and a 1.38 WHIP. He did look solid in his only start since early July by holding Colorado to one earned run on a home run while striking out 12 in seven full innings of work this past Saturday to pick up the win. Thursday night will be a key start to see which direction he heads in from here.
The Giants continue to win more than they lose behind a lineup that is ranked third in the NL in scoring with an average of 4.4 runs a game. The biggest bat belongs to catcher Buster Posey, who leads the team in hits (127) and RBI (75). Brandon Crawford is a close second with 71 RBI and Brandon Pelt and Matt Duffy have also come up big with a combined 103 RBI. San Francisco's pitching staff has basically matched the Nationals with a 3.73 team ERA.
Ryan Vogelsong is slated to get the start for the Giants in this series opener. The right-hander is currently filling a spot in the rotation for an injured Mike Leake and in last Friday's 7-3 loss to the Chicago Cubs he lasted four innings while allowing three earned runs on six hits. Overall this season, he has a 4.26 ERA and a 1.39 WHIP.
Washington at San Francisco MLB Betting Odds and Key Trends
BetOnline has opened Washington as a -126 road favorite for Thursday night, while the Giants will open this series as +116 home favorites. The betting odds for the total have been set at 7.
The Nationals are 1-5 in their last six games against a team with a winning record and 1-5 in Game 1 of their last six series. The total has gone over in eight of their last 10 games.
The Giants are 9-1 in their last 10 home games, and they are 5-1 in their last six games against the NL East. The total has stayed under in five of their last six games at home.
Washington has posted a 5-2 record in its last seven trips to San Francisco, and this season it swept the Giants at home in a three-game series in early July. The total has stayed under in six of the last seven meetings overall.
Washington at San Francisco Free MLB Picks and Betting Predictions
I was encouraged with Strasburg's effort last Saturday in easily his best start of the year. While I am not sure he can duplicate those kinds of numbers against the Giants, I am confident enough to go with a 3-Unit play that Washington goes against recent trends with a win in Thursday night's opener.
YTD Record: 8-9 (-$374)
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Read more articles by Dave Schwab
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