I have been concentrating all of my efforts on handicapping the Washington Nationals this MLB season, and with the use of Doc's Sports Unit Betting System, I have also been releasing free weekly picks for select Nationals' games. The bottom-line goal of this exercise in specialization is to build a profitable MLB bankroll on my free Washington picks by season's end.
Doc's has been posting these free MLB picks on its homepage, so you can follow along to chart my progress. The Nationals are neck deep in their quest for another NL East Division title, and I am right in the thick of things trying to turn a profit on their games.
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Washington Nationals Free Picks, Odds and Predictions
Thursday, July 23, 7:05 p.m. EST (PNC Park)
The Nationals will kick off an extended 10-game road trip with a stop at PNC Park in Pittsburgh this Thursday night for Game 1 of a four-game weekend series. The first pitch for Thursday night's series opener is set for 7:05 (ET), and the game will be available on MLB Extra Innings.
Washington will wrap up its current six-game homestand with this Wednesday's rubber match against the New York Mets. The top two teams in the NL East split the first two games by identical 7-2 scores, with the Nationals closing as slight favorites in both contests. They are holding onto a two-game lead over New York at 50-42 overall.
The Pirates have stumbled out of the gate in the second half at 1-4 after going 11-2 in their previous 13 games before the all-star break. This week they are on the road against Kansas City, with the deciding game of that three-game interleague clash set for Wednesday as well. Pittsburgh is a full five games behind St. Louis in the NL Central race at 54-39.
Washington at Pittsburgh Betting Storylines
The Nationals continue to be a tough team to figure out. Just when you think they are ready to put things together in every phase of the game, their pitching goes south or their bats go quiet. Overall, Washington's pitching staff is ranked sixth in the National League with a team ERA of 3.59. It is now ranked fifth in the league in scoring with 388 total runs in 92 games after averaging just three runs over its last 11 outings.
Look for Doug Fister to get the start for the Nationals on Thursday night. The right-hander is 3-5 on the year with a 4.30 ERA and a 1.43 WHIP. He has allowed nine earned runs on 24 total hits over his last three starts while only pitching a combined 17 innings. Fister did not make it past the fifth inning in last Saturday's loss to the Dodgers and he has only lasted seven innings once in his last 10 starts.
Pittsburgh has not been known for its power lineup with an average of four runs a game, but it did pound out 10 runs in Monday's win against the Royals as a +123 underdog on the road. It has now scored five or more runs in six of its last 10 games. Pitching remains the strong suit for the Pirates with a staff ERA of 2.96 that is second only to St. Louis in the National League.
Francisco Liriano is scheduled to be on the mound for Pittsburgh in this series opener. Through is first 18 starts this season he is just 5-6 overall, but his ERA stands at 2.98 and he has a 1.03 WHIP. The left-hander held the Cardinals to two earned runs on five hits through 6 1/3 innings, but he failed to get the decision in last start on July 12. He missed his last scheduled start with some minor neck soreness, but he should be good to go on Thursday night.
Washington at Pittsburgh MLB Betting Odds and Key Trends
The Nationals are 7-2 in Game 1 of their last nine series and they are 10-4 in their last 14 games against a team with a winning record. The total has stayed under in five of their last six games against the NL Central.
The Pirates are 12-5 in Game 1 of their last 17 series and they are 20-8 in their last 28 games against a team from the NL East. The total has gone over in three of their last five home games.
Washington brings a seven-game winning streak into this matchup, including a 3-0 series shutout against Pittsburgh in late June at home. The total stayed under in two of those three games.
Washington at Pittsburgh Free MLB Picks and Betting Predictions
Both teams have enjoyed some resent success in series openers, but I am leaning heavily towards Pittsburgh at home with a 3-Unit play in Thursday's opener on the run line (-1.5 +140). Despite a slow start out of the gate in the second half, the Pirates have been far more consistent than Washington in their overall form, especially when playing at home.
3-Unit Play: Take Pittsburgh -1.5 (+140) over Washington
YTD Record: 6-8 (-$694)
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