Nationals vs. Phillies Odds
|Over/Under||7 (-105 / -115)|
|Time||7:05 p.m. ET|
|Odds as of Friday morning and via BetMGM.|
In the National League East, there are two tiers of teams: The New York Mets and everyone else. The Mets are in first place by four games, and the other four teams in the division have a plausible but unlikely path to winning the division. This weekend, two of those “other” teams face each other when the Philadelphia Phillies host the Washington Nationals.
Washington’s team is built on the strength of its starting rotation, but its batting lineup is weak. The Phillies feature a couple of decent starting pitchers and a decent lineup.
On Friday night, both teams field strong starting pitchers in Max Scherzer for the Nationals and Zack Wheeler for the Phillies. As a result, oddsmakers have set Friday’s game as a low-scoring tossup.
The question is if Max Scherzer can pitch well enough on the road to beat a Phillies team that is much better than they look on paper.
If the Nationals win, it will be because of their starting pitcher, Max Scherzer. Even though he is 36 years old, Scherzer is having another great season. His 4-4 record may not impress, but he boasts a 2.34 ERA and 3.00 xFIP. Not only is Scherzer keeping runs off the scoreboard, but he has also achieved a strikeout rate (K/9) of 12.33 strikeouts per nine innings.
Not only has Scherzer played well, but most impressively, he has also pitched for many innings in each of his starts. In a league where the average starting pitcher only delivers around five innings per start, Scherzer is an exception to the rule: Scherzer has averaged about 6 1/3 innings per start this season.
Even though the Nats are usually favored when Scherzer pitches, Washington is by no means a lock to win when Scherzer takes the mound. This is chiefly evidenced by Scherzer’s 4-4 record despite otherwise stellar statistics.
The problem? The Nationals lineup only averages 3.92 runs per game, which is the ninth-worst scoring rate in MLB. Additionally, Washington’s bullpen has a 4.26 xFIP, which is a slightly worse than the median MLB team.
Opposing Max Scherzer is Phillies starting pitcher Zack Wheeler. Since Philadelphia acquired Wheeler via free agency in 2020, Wheeler has been one of the best pitchers in Philadelphia’s rotation.
In 2020, Wheeler had a 4-2 record with a 2.92 ERA, 3.76 xFIP, and he averaged more than 6 1/3 innings per start. This year Wheeler is doing even better, reporting a 4-2 record, 2.52 ERA, 2.75 xFIP, and averaging almost seven innings per start. Undisputedly, Wheeler has been the ace of the Phillies rotation this season.
Backing up Wheeler is a Phillies lineup that averages only 4.13 runs per game, which is 0.19 runs fewer than the median MLB team. Philly’s lineup is not the team’s strength, but it is not a clear weakness, either.
The Phillies are missing OF Bryce Harper and SS Didi Gregorius due to injuries, but the team still fields a manageable lineup. With OF Andrew McCutchen, 2B Jean Segura, 1B Rhys Hoskins, and C J.T Realmuto, my model projects Philadelphia’s probable lineup for Friday to score 3.94 runs in a typical ball game.
The question is: Can Philly’s lineup can produce against Max Scherzer on Friday night?
Nationals vs. Phillies Pick
I cannot pick a side that I like for Friday’s game, and neither can my model. Additionally, the total seems to be efficiently set at seven runs.
However, the Phillies 2.5-run team total at BetMGM is a bet that my model likes. The Phillies have a decent lineup, and Scherzer is unlikely to pitch for all nine innings on Friday night. Even without Harper and Gregorius, three runs are a low-water mark for the Phillies lineup.
Pick: Philadelphia Phillies Over 2.5 Runs (-165). Play up to (-185).