Braves vs. Nationals MLB Odds & Picks: Atlanta’s Offense Should Get Right Against Joe Ross (Tuesday, May 4)
Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Ronald Acuña Jr.
- The Nationals and Braves have struggled to start the season, but Washington has won four straight while Atlanta has lost four straight.
- Who has the edge when the two teams begin a series on Tuesday in D.C.?
- Jeff Hicks breaks down the matchup and makes his pick below.
Braves vs. Nationals Odds
|7:05 p.m. ET
|Odds as of Monday and via PointsBet.
The Washington Nationals put their four-game winning streak on the line against the Atlanta Braves' four-game losing streak on Tuesday in the nation's capital. Neither team is wowing after one month due to injuries and COVID-19.
Washington enters Tuesday's game as the NL East leaders with a 12-12 record, but have a -14 run differential. The Braves have a disappointing 12-16 record and -16 run differential. The only team in the division with a positive run differential is the last-place Miami Marlins.
Both teams have been buoyed by strong defense and the ability to put the ball in play. Neither offense is in the top half of strikeout or walk percentage. If Atlanta did not have the strong starts from Ronald Acuña Jr. and Tuesday's starter, Huascar Ynoa, this team could be in a worse state.
The Nationals have recovered well from COVID-19 and injuries, including to their star player Juan Soto. Trea Turner has done his best superhero impression and leads the Nats in average, runs, home runs, and steals.
Despite the individual heroics of both teams, their pitching staffs have been issues and could cost one team a chance at a series win.
Ynoa was a doubleheader spot starter who has turned into a necessity in the Braves' rotation. His control has been improved in his third abbreviated stint with the club and has limited opposing batters to a .190 average and .230 BABIP. The 22-year old will see regression at some point, but the Nationals do not represent as big a threat without their offense clicking.
The Nats are tied for 19th in Offensive WAR (-9.4) despite having a top-five average. The lack of power, walks, and disciplined baserunning (-1.1 BsR, 21st in MLB) have prevented the offense from staying afloat.
Ynoa will receiver support from the 11th-best defense according to Defensive WAR, and it reflects in his 2.64 xFIP. That is 0.32 points below his ERA. His xERA and HR/flyball rate are the concern if he gets in trouble.
This is also a game which the Atlanta offense can tee off. Joe Ross has been poor and he does not miss bats. Atlanta's league-average offense has been boosted by its top-five slugging percentage. Ross has also allowed a 13.1 Barrel Percentage, double his career average.
A good pitching story and a powerful offense is a good combination against a contact pitcher.
The Nationals could use a pick-me-up with the way 2021 has started. Free-agent acquisitions Josh Bell and Kyle Schwarber have been underwhelming, injuries have crushed the pitching rotation and bullpen, and Soto is still a ways away from returning.
Ross has been tough to watch. He has a 5.31 xERA and his xFIP has been saved by his teammates' 10.3 Defensive WAR. His Hard% is up 3% from his career average and his HR/FB inflate to 23.8%, by far the worst of his career.
Ross is not going to slow down the Braves' offense, let alone miss bats. This is a get-right game for the NL East favorites.
Aside from Turner, Yadiel Hernandez, and a resurgent Josh Harrison, the offense has been horrific in D.C. Starlin Castro leads the team with 13 RBI.
If the Nationals cannot find a way to get to Ynoa early and get to Atlanta's bullpen (4.72 ERA), it will be a tough night.
I cannot in good conscience bet on Washington unless Max Scherzer is on the mound. Despite being 5-9 on the road, Atlanta only getting -124 juice in a favorable matchup is more than palatable. I also debated taking Atlanta's run line but know its offense can be volatile.
Pick: Braves ML (bet to -140)