NL Wild Card Brewers vs. Nationals Betting Picks: Bank on Scherzer as a Big Favorite?

NL Wild Card Brewers vs. Nationals Betting Picks: Bank on Scherzer as a Big Favorite? article feature image

Sam Navarro, USA Today Sports. Pictured: Max Scherzer

  • Washington Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer will take the hill tonight for the Washington Nationals in the NL Wild Card Game against the Milwaukee Brewers. The Nationals and Scherzer are -185 moneyline favorites.
  • Sean Zerillo uses his betting model to break down the odds for tonight's matchup, including how weather and trends factor into his picks.

Brewers vs. Nationals Wild Card Betting Picks & Predictions

Probable starters: Brandon Woodruff (11-3, 3.62 ERA) vs. Max Scherzer (11-7, 2.92 ERA)

  • Brewers odds: +155
  • Nationals odds: -185
  • Over/Under:  7.5
  • First pitch:  8:08 p.m. ET on TBS

Odds as Monday evening. Check out PointsBet, where Action Network users get an exclusive 200% deposit match (deposit $50, bet with $150).

The Milwaukee Brewers (89-73) and Washington Nationals (93-69) meet in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday night, with the winner slated to play the NL West champion Los Angeles Dodgers (106-56) in a five-game series beginning on Thursday.

Milwaukee went 20-7 in September to reach the Wild Card game, staying within range of the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central race until the final game of the season.

They own a 4-2 advantage in the head-to-head series against the Nationals this year, sweeping three games at home in early May before dropping two out of three at Nationals Park in August.

After winning the NL Central in 2018, can the Brewers make it back to the divisional round for the second consecutive year?

The Starters

Brandon Woodruff will start the game for the Brewers, though I wouldn't expect him to pitch more than two or three innings – or until he turns the Nationals lineup over once.

Woodruff missed around two months with an oblique injury and has thrown two innings in each of his two outings since returning from the injury in September.Before the injury, he was Milwaukee's best starter, using his blazing fastballs (average 96.3 mph – seventh amongst starters) to generate an abundance of swinging strikes and groundballs by alternating between the four-seam fastball and sinker.

Here is Woodruff blowing through a lineup, mostly with high fastballs:

Brandon Woodruff's 10Ks in 17 Seconds.

— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 26, 2019

It's not unintentional. Where is Woodruff's average four-seam fastball location?

I would expect to see Woodruff give way to Jordan Lyles after a couple of innings.

The righty has posted a 7-1 record with a 2.45 ERA over 11 starts with the Brewers since the All-Star break while throwing his curveball 33% of the time – more frequently than all but four starters.

Jordan Lyles, Nasty 83mph Curveball. 😷 [h/t @Shapalicious ]

— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 15, 2018

It's an eye-catching pitch, but Lyles is nevertheless primed for regression – with a FIP (4.42) and xFIP (4.91) that suggest that he cannot maintain his sub 2.50 ERA with Milwaukee.

Bettors backing Max Scherzer might not even realize how good Mad Max has been in 2019. You can argue that this is the best version of Max Scherzer that we have ever seen:

His FIP, xFIP and K-BB% are all career bests, but Scherzer pitched six fewer starts and 48 fewer innings than he did in 2018 – which is why he won't win his fourth Cy Young Award this season.

Scherzer's swinging strike rate (16.3%) is also a career-high, with his four-seam fastball and slider serving as the primary offerings.

Based on average pitch value, Scherzer has the sixth-best fastball, and easily the best slider in baseball this year.

Max Scherzer, 94mph Fastball and 89mph hard Slider, Overlay.

Good look at why that pitch is so lethal,

— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 29, 2018

Brewers hitters have 143 at-bats against Scherzer and own a .182/.235/.343 triple-slash line. However, most of that limited damage was done by Christian Yelich, who is out for the season.

The Nationals will look to ride their Ace for as long as possible in Tuesday's start.

The Bullpens

On the season, the Nationals bullpen ranks 26th in FIP, 29th in xFIP and 21st in K-BB%. By the same metrics, the Brewers rank 13th, 5th, and 7th.

Both teams had Monday off, so all of the prominent relief pitchers should be well-rested coming into this game.

The Nationals bullpen has been a mess all season long, and only two pitchers from their opening day bullpen (Sean Doolittle, Wander Suero) will be a part of their Wild Card pitching staff.

In the one-game format, both teams are willing to go all out to advance to the next round of the playoffs.

Reportedly, both Patrick Corbin and Stephen Strasburg will be available in relief for Washington.

Brandon Woodruff will start for the Brewers, but I would expect Jordan Lyles, Drew Pomeranz and Brent Suter, amongst others, to fill in the middle innings before Milwaukee turns a close game over to Josh Hader.

Hader posted the third-best xFIP (2.36) amongst relief pitchers while striking out 16.4 batters per nine innings this season – an increase from his K/9 rate of 15.8 in 2018.

Hader's swinging-strike rate (22.9%) was easily the highest in baseball amongst pitchers who threw more than 70 innings this season.

His nearest competition, Blake Snell and Emilio Pagan, finished at 17.7%, as Hader's fastball is essentially wizardry:

Josh Hader, 12 Swinging Strikes on Fastballs in 2 innings (in under 20 seconds). 😮🔥

— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 28, 2019

Umpire and Weather Report

Data per Sports Insights

Plate umpire Mike Everitt has had a slight lean to the under (52.6%) throughout his career.

He has been the plate umpire for five postseason games, and all five games have gone under the total, by an average of 3.3 runs per game.

Trends to Know

Favorites are 9-5 (64.3%) straight up in Wild Card Games, while home teams are 8-6 (57.1%). Over/unders are split down the middle, 7-7.

The Nationals are 7-12 in postseason games dating back to 2012, including a 3-8 record at home.

Max Scherzer is 3-10 on the moneyline in postseason play, dating back to 2011, losing four games in a row and all three starts with the Nationals. However, he has suffered some rough luck in the late innings, as Scherzer is 8-4-1 (66.7%), on the first five innings moneyline (F5)

During the regular season (since 2015), Scherzer is 99-59 (62.7%) on the moneyline with the Nationals, but a consistent $100 bettor would be down $514.

However, on the F5 moneyline, Scherzer is 88-44-26 (66.7%) with Washington.

The Brewers are 12-13 in postseason play dating back to 2008, with a 3-8 record on the road.

Brandon Woodruff is 24-10 on the moneyline (70.6%) dating back to 2017, netting a consistent $100 bettor $930 (27.4% ROI)

Model Projected Odds

Favorite Bet

I projected the Nationals as a -143 favorite in this game, so I see a 2% value gap between my projection for the Brewers (41.2%) and the odds implied by their +155 moneyline (39.2%). 

I set the over/under at 7.7, so I don't see any value on the total of 7.5. 

With Max Scherzer starting in a playoff game against the relatively unknown Brandon Woodruff, I'm expecting the public to pile on the Nationals. As of writing, more than 70% of the moneyline tickets, and 80% of the cash is on Washington.

If you're playing this game, however, it should be Brewers moneyline or pass.

Ideally, I would have waited until the line touched +165 before playing it (a 3.5% gap between my projection, and implied odds), but I was satisfied when the price reached +163, and I locked in a half unit play on the Brewers moneyline.

The Nationals should have the advantage early in the game, but the Brewers have the benefit of approaching this game in a non-traditional manner – knowing that they can pull any pitcher at any time with zero long-term consequences either from those players or the media.

Meanwhile, Dave Martinez has to play the careful balance between leaving his Ace in too long and pulling him too early, as the slightest mistake in this big of a game could magnify over his entire managerial tenure.

The Brewers looked dead in the water in August but rebounded to make the playoffs. The Nationals can be extremely dangerous if they make it beyond this round, but I'll back the unorthodox Brewers as an underdog in this one-game scenario.

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