Cardinals vs. Nationals Game 3 Picks, Odds & Predictions: Is the Total Too Low?

Cardinals vs. Nationals Game 3 Picks, Odds & Predictions: Is the Total Too Low? article feature image

David Kohl, USA Today Sports. Pictured: Jack Flaherty

  • The betting odds for Monday's Cardinals-Nationals NCLS Game 3 opened with Washington as a -126 moneyline favorite, while St. Louis' odds were +114.
  • MLB expert Sean Zerillo analyzes the updated odds, and gives his favorite betting picks for the matchup.

Cardinals vs. Nationals Odds

Probable starters: Jack Flaherty (11-8, 2.75 ERA) vs. Stephen Strasburg (18-6, 3.32 ERA)

  • Cardinals odds:  +115
  • Nationals odds: -135
  • Over/Under:  7
  • First pitch:  7:38 p.m. ET on TBS

The Cardinals come into Monday looking to dig out of an 0-2 hole in the NLCS, after dropping the first two games of this series against Washington at home.

They will look to get back on track behind their best pitcher, Jack Flaherty; but he will have to defeat or at least match Stephen Strasburg — the most well-compensated player in the sport ($35 million) and a pitcher who has been lights out in the postseason (1.34 ERA over 32 IP).

Odds as of Monday morning and via PointsBet, where Action Network users get an exclusive 200% deposit match (deposit $50, bet with $150).

Flaherty posted a 0.77 ERA over the final two months of the 2019 season, and he was solid in two NLDS outings against the Braves (combined 13 IP, 12 H, 4 R, 2 BB, 16 K) — but he needlessly tossed 104 pitches in Game 5 with the Cardinals out to a double-digit lead.

Flaherty has thrown nearly as many pitches in his two playoff starts (221) as Strasburg threw over 15 innings between his two NLDS starts and Wild Card game relief appearance (225).

Will either pitcher begin to wilt in Game 3?

The Starters

The Cardinals have pitched fine, but the question is whether they can get anything going offensively against Strasburg or any of these dominant Nationals starters.

I would expect Jack Flaherty to have another strong outing to match him.

Flaherty’s stock has been on the rise during the second half of the season, showing increased fastball velocity and improved command — leading to a 0.91 ERA in the second half.

Before his Game 2 start in the NLDS, I highlighted Flaherty’s rolling gains in velocity and command, in addition to his elite fastball/slider combination.

He induced 31 of his 37 swinging strikes in his two NLDS starts against the Braves with either the four-seam fastball or slider:

On a per-pitch basis, Flaherty ranked second behind Gerrit Cole in fastball value, and fifth behind Jacob deGrom in total slider value this year:

Jack Flaherty, 96mph Fastball and 86mph Slider, Overlay.

— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) October 4, 2019

While Flaherty is gaining velocity, Strasburg’s has dwindled in recent seasons, but he is arguably more useful than ever.

As I demonstrated before Game 2 of the NLDS and again before Game 5 of the NLDS, Strasburg:

  • Reduced his four-seam fastball usage this season in exchange for more sinkers and curveballs
  • Now ranks in the top five for curveball pitch value
  • Has a plus changeup, leading to reverse splits in 2019 and an even wOBA split for his career

And 29 of his 39 swinging strikes in these playoffs have come on the changeup or curveball:

Fortunately for the Cardinals, their best lineup is mostly right-handed — meaning that they don’t have the same problem as the Dodgers with regard to whether to stack lefties against Strasburg.

But when your stuff is this good, if you’re sharp, it doesn’t matter who you’re facing:

Stephen Strasburg, Fastball, Changeup, Curveball (spin isolated).

— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) October 5, 2019

The Bullpens

On the season, the Cardinals bullpen ranks 11th in FIP, 12th in xFIP, and 15th in K-BB%. By the same metrics, the Nationals rank 26th, 29th, and 23rd.

After throwing in Games 1 and 2, Sean Doolittle has now pitched four times in the past week (68 pitches total), and the Nationals might look to use him for one out at most in Game 3.

Ryan Helsley and Andrew Miller each pitched in Games 1 and 2 for the Cardinals, but both should be available in Game 3.

Miller struggled during the regular season, but he has thrown three shutout innings over five postseason appearances.

Hesley has seven strikeouts over 3.1 shutout innings in the playoffs, and is ascending the Cardinals bullpen pecking order with his blazing fastball and sharp slider:

Ryan Helsley, 💯🔥

— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) October 7, 2019

Projected Lineups

Data from FantasyLabs:

Umpire and Weather Report

Data from Sports Insights:

Bill Miller will be the plate umpire, and he is one of the more profitable umpires for under bettors in our database, with a 55.5% lean to the under since 2005, generating a consistent $100 bettor $3,243 in profit.

However, that under record is just 2-4 in postseason games.

Trends to Know

Since 2005, in postseason games where the over received fewer than 50% of bets, the over is 46-28-3 (62.2%), covering by 1.5 runs per game.

In games where the majority of the cash was also behind the under, overs are 15-5-1 (75%), covering by more than 3.3 runs per game.

Series Moneyline Corner

Before Game 2, I suggested that the Nationals should be listed as a -567 series favorite (implied 85%) if they took a 2-0 lead in the series.

Their series price re-opened at -600 (implied 85.7%), while the Cardinals are listed around +500 (implied 16.7%), meaning that I don’t see series moneyline value on either side; and do not expect to before Game 3.

If the Cardinals win Game 3, I would still show the Nats as a -257 series favorite (implied 72%). But if Washington continues their winning streak, they edge within 5% of the World Series at fair odds of -1900 (implied 95%).

Model Projected Odds

Favorite Bet

I projected the Nationals as a -118 favorite in this game, and I set the total at 8.05 runs. Therefore, I don’t see value compared to the moneyline, but I do see value on the total. 

At even money, there is a 7% edge between over 7 (+100), and my projection (8.05 runs) on the full game total.

While I consider that bet to be actionable, I prefer the first five innings (F5) over at either 3.5 (+110), which represents a 15.8% gap in expected value from my projection (4.61 runs); or 3 (-125) which represents a gap of 14.75% from my projection.

I bought down to 3 and bet F5 over 3 (-125) for a half unit.

While the run-scoring environment in St. Louis is more than 7% below league average, Nationals Park is roughly 6% above the league average in terms of scoring.

As for the sides, I need to see some line movement before getting involved.

I would consider St. Louis at +128, or Washington at -109 on the full game moneyline.

I do show the Nationals as a more substantial favorite in the first half of this contest, and I would consider them at -120 on the F5 moneyline. The Cardinals F5 moneyline would require movement closer to +140.

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