Nationals vs. Dodgers Betting Picks, Odds & Predictions: Can Strasburg Dominate on Short Rest?

Nationals vs. Dodgers Betting Picks, Odds & Predictions: Can Strasburg Dominate on Short Rest? article feature image

Brad Mills, USA Today Sports. Pictured: Stephen Strasburg

  • Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers are -165 betting favorites at home against the Washington Nationals in Game 2 of the NLDS.
  • Will the Nationals (+140 moneyline odds) pull the upset on the road?
  • MLB expert Sean Zerillo breaks down all the angles for the matchup and gives his favorite betting picks.

Nationals vs. Dodgers Betting Picks, Odds & Predictions

Probable starters: Stephen Strasburg (18-6 3.32 ERA) vs. Clayton Kershaw (16-5, 3.03 ERA)

  • Nationals odds: +140
  • Dodgers odds: -165
  • Over/Under:  7.5
  • First pitch:  9:37 p.m. ET on TBS

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

The Dodgers took Game 1 of this series, 6-0, in relatively uneventful fashion, compared to the Nationals dramatic comeback in the NL Wild Card Game.

Washington’s offense couldn’t get anything going against Walker Buehler, who allowed just one hit and three walks over six shutout innings while striking out eight.

Patrick Corbin was erratic early for the Nationals, walking four batters in the first inning, but he settled in to toss a quality start before his bullpen allowed four runs over the final three frames.

That could be a theme for the Nationals in this series – sticking around early in games before the Dodgers take over late – and it’s an assumption confirmed by my Game 2 projection, which is indicative of my betting approach for Friday’s matchup.

Can the Nats draw even with the Dodgers, or will they fall behind 2-0 in this series before heading home?

The Starters

Kershaw has the better ERA, but Strasburg has a better argument for winning a Cy Young Award. Not only because he threw five more starts and 31 extra innings, but because all his underlying metrics show him to be a better pitcher than the current version of Kershaw.

In the offseason, Strasburg seems likely to opt-out of the four years and $100 million remaining on his current deal – and the Nationals are now using him like this is the end of his road in Washington – whether they win the World Series or not.

This is a far cry from 2012 when they refused to pitch Strasburg in the NLDS, when they lost to the Cardinals in five games, due to a team imposed innings limit that turned into a national story. In hindsight, few things have ever made so little sense – as playoff opportunities are so few and far between.

Strasburg makes this start just three days after throwing 34 pitches in the NL Wild Card Game.

Meanwhile, the Dodgers slotted Kershaw into Game 2, so he would be fresh for a Game 5 relief appearance if needed.

His velocity has declined in recent seasons, and Kershaw has responded by using his fastball less often, and his slider more often:

His fastball returned a negative value in 2018 but has bounced back into positive territory this season. However, Kershaw’s underlying metrics continue to trend in the wrong direction – towards league average:

Strasburg’s 2019 uptick was partially due to a change in approach – throwing his four-seam fastball less often in exchange for more sinkers and curveballs:

On the season, Strasburg ranked behind only Charlie Morton in total pitch value with his curveball; and fourth on a per pitch basis. The pitch was responsible for a 40% swinging-strike rate.

Stephen Strasburg, 10 Swinging Strikes on Curveballs (in under 15 seconds)

— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 8, 2019

And when you overlay his three best pitches, it’s easy to see why Strasburg is so dang effective:

Stephen Strasburg, 82mph Curveball, 87mph Changeup and 94mph Fastball, Overlay.

All to the same spot. 😯

— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) September 22, 2019

It seems that either Strasburg or Jacob deGrom will take home the NL Cy Young Award, and this could be your final chance to back Strasburg in a Nationals uniform.

The Bullpens

On the season, the Dodgers bullpen ranks sixth in FIP, seventh in xFIP, and fifth in K-BB%. By the same metrics, the Nationals rank 26th, 29th, and 23rd.

As I mentioned, Strasburg will start Game 2 on short rest, meaning that the Nationals may need to turn to their bullpen by the sixth inning.

They needed 27 pitches from Hunter Strickland, 23 pitches from Fernando Rodney, and 16 pitches from Tanner Rainey to record six outs on Thursday – so look for their other relievers to get into this game.

The Dodgers went to more prominent arms, in Joe Kelly, Adam Kolarek, and Kenta Maeda to close out the game behind Buehler.

Every bullpen arm should be available on Friday, however, which helps the Dodgers maintain their significant advantage in the late innings.

Projected Lineups

Data per FantasyLabs

Weather Report

Data per Sports Insights

Trends to Know

Stephen Strasburg is 15-15 in his career as an underdog, including a 13-13 record on the road.

Since the start of the 2016 season, Strasburg is 83-35-1 (70.3%) on the full game moneyline, netting a consistent $100 bettor $1,897 – the third-most profitable pitcher in baseball over that span.

Over the same period, he is 58-34-20 (63%) against the first five innings moneyline, only generating a profit of $207.

For his career, Clayton Kershaw is 177-91-80 (66%) on the F5 moneyline but has only generated a profit of $648.

Kershaw is 252-132 (65.6%) against full game moneylines, generating a profit of $2,178.

It has also been profitable to bet the under in every Kershaw start (193-163-15, 53.2%), though not so in Strasburg’s starts (108-128-9, 45.8%)

Kershaw is 9-6-9 against the F5 moneyline in the playoffs, and 13-11 against full game moneylines.

Model Projected Odds

Favorite Bet

I projected the Dodgers as a -128 favorite in this game, and I would need to see +145 or higher on the Nationals moneyline to consider betting it. I set the total at 7.57– and see no value compared to the listed total of 7.5. 

In the first five innings (F5), I would take anything over +120 on the Nationals.

I locked in an F5 bet at +135, as I set the Nationals F5 moneyline fair odds at +105. I also placed another bet on their F5 spread (+0.5, -110)

Compared to current lines, I see a gap of more than 5% in expected value from +105 (implied 48.8%) to +130 (implied 43.5%) in the first five innings – more significant value than exists between the full game projection at +128 (implied 43.9%) as compared to game moneyline line at +140 (41.7%).

I wouldn’t look to back the Nationals live if they fall behind early, but I would consider betting on the Dodgers to storm back in the late innings if they’re playing with a deficit. They led MLB with more than 10 walk-off wins this season, and are never out of any game.

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