Nationals vs. Phillies Odds
|Time||1:05 p.m. ET|
|Odds as of Sunday morning via DraftKings.|
I’m starting to believe the National League East is the worst division in Major League Baseball. And despite the Philadelphia Phillies and Washington Nationals holding the second- and fourth-place positions, I’m also beginning to think these are the two worst teams in the division.
Washington and Philadelphia own the two-worst run differentials in the division, and while the Phillies are two games up on the Nationals, both are more than seven games back in the wild-card race.
However, we’ve only played a third of the season and both teams aren’t devoid of talent. That said, let’s dive into this game and see where the value sits.
Nationals Struggling Across the Board as Unit
Given the Nationals lack of success, young superstar Juan Soto has felt invisible at times.
However, he’s posted a .408 OBP and an .857 OPS this season and has hit three home runs in his past eight games. His plate discipline is historically good, as he walks (17.6 BB%) far more than he strikes out (13.6%) this season.
It’s worth noting that Trea Turner has been one of the best shortstops in baseball and Max Scherzer is having a comeback year for the ages. Unfortunately, the rest of the lineup is just OK, while Patrick Corbin has been awful (6.28 ERA) and Stephen Strasburg has been hurt en route to just give starts on the mound.
The Nationals went a pathetic 11-17 in May, but are 3-1 in June. I’m not entirely sure what Washington needs to do to get back in form, as it’s below average in every area of the game. However, they could start with getting healthier in the starting rotation.
Streaky Best Defines Phillies at Moment
The Phillies roster features a bunch of streaky hitters and pitchers. Guys like Rhys Hoskins and J.T. Realmuto can get hotter than any hitters, while usual pitching ace Aaron Nola has been uncharacteristically up and down this season.
Bryce Harper is banged up a bit again and it’s showing in his game. Over his past seven games, Harper is just 2 for 25 with 13 strikeouts and just one walk. However, like the rest of the team, Harper can be streaky, as his season-long numbers are generally excellent (seven HRs, .400 OBP, .883 OPS) for the Nationals.
Today’s starter, Vince Velasquez, is also a guy looking for consistency. Before conceding six runs to the Cincinnati Reds in his last outing, he had four straight one-run starts. Yet, Velasquez has not been a great pitcher by any means.
While he strikes out nearly a third of batters he faces, Velasquez also allows a ton of hard contact. His 12.4% barrel rate, 48.5% hard-hit rate and 92.4 mph average exit velocity are all in the bottom 10% of qualified pitchers. He also walks nearly 15 percent of the batters he faces, which is another extremely high number.
All-in-all, Velasquez has a WHIP approaching 1.4 and an xERA above 5.00 this campaign. He’s stranding nearly 90% of baserunners and has just a .239 BABIP, both of which should regress to league averages. I wouldn’t expect Velasquez to get this lucky for the rest of the season.
Washington will be playing a bullpen game, and at the time of this writing, the starter hasn’t been formally announced. However, I would expect Austin Voth (2.93 ERA in 18 games) and Paolo Espino (2.12 ERA in 11 games) to play a part.
The Phillies picked up a win in the opener of this series on their own bullpen day, allowing only two runs and picking up four in one inning off Nationals starter Joe Ross (although none of them were earned).
For all their faults, Washington has been a very effective on the road when it comes to offense. The Nationals rank among the top 10 teams in road OPS (.718) and wOBA (.314), and I’m looking for Soto and Turner to smash some balls off the vulnerable Velasquez.
Meanwhile, while Philadelphia has a much better home record, its offensive statistics have actually been slightly worse at home. That’s said, I’m hoping the Nationals can string together a group of bullpen arms to keep Philadelphia at bay.
I’m banking on the Washington offense to get the job done in this spot, which is why I’m making it my top selection.
Pick: Nationals ML (+100)