Sunday MLB Odds & Picks for Nationals vs. Dodgers: Back Washington To Touch Up Kershaw, Los Angeles (April 11)
Jonathan Newton /The Washington Post via Getty Images. Pictured: Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer.
- Two of the Major League Baseball's best starting pitchers of the last decade meet Sunday, with Max Scherzer set to battle Clayton Kershaw.
- The Dodgers, who are off to a strong start, are looking to sweep the Nationals in this affair.
- BJ Cunningham details why he likes underdog Washington to triumph below.
Nationals vs. Dodgers Odds
|Time||Sunday, 4:10 p.m. ET|
Two of the best starting pitchers of the last decade meet Sunday in Los Angeles, with Max Scherzer set to battle Clayton Kershaw. The Washington Nationals, who have dropped the first two games of the series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, find themselves 1-5 to start the season.
Washington needs a good start from its ace to avoid beginning the season on the wrong foot before a road series with the St. Louis Cardinals commences early next week.
In contrast, Los Angeles has started its World Series title defense in solid fashion, going 7-2 thus far. The Dodgers send their veteran ace to the mound,’with the hope he can lead them to a series sweep.
The Nationals’ lineup essentially revolves around Trea Turner and Juan Soto. Both young sensations had fantastic 2020 seasons, with Turner leading MLB in hits, while Soto led the league in wOBA and wRC+. However, outside of them, it gets a little bleak for Washington.
On the bright side, the Nationals were one of the best teams against left-handed pitching last season, hitting for a .284 average and a .357 wOBA, which were top five in the league. So, they’ll have a good matchup against an aging Kershaw.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The reason the Dodgers won the World Series was because of their offense, which was on of the best in the game. They dominated right-handed pitching, putting up a .355 wOBA and 126 wRC+ in the process.
Los Angeles kept its entire lineup together, so it will once again be one of the best lineups in baseball this season..
The Dodgers have a fantastic matchup against Scherzer, who struggled with his fastball, allowing a .359 wOBA. They were the second best team against fastballs, so they should be able to get to Scherzer.
Starting Pitching Matchup
Max Scherzer vs. Clayton Kershaw
2021 ZIPS Projected Stats (via Fangraphs)
Nationals Starting Pitcher
Max Scherzer, RHP
2020 Pitch Arsenal (via Baseball Savant)
Scherzer is getting up there in age, which is starting to show. His fastball got rocked for a .264 average and .359 average, which is a problem, since he throws it 46 percent of the time.
He put up his worst xFIP, xERA and ground-ball, which were his worst numbers since 2011, so at age 36 it’s hard to imagine he’ll drastically improve in 2021.
Specifically in this matchup, it’s going to be difficult for Scherzer since he’s facing one of the best right-handed pitching and fastball team in the game.
Dodgers Starting Pitchers
Clayton Kershaw, LHP
2020 Pitch Arsenal (via Baseball Savant)
Kershaw was really good again in 2020, posting a 2.16 ERA and a 3.05 xFIP. The reason Kershaw was so strong is because he was on point with his arsenal, allowing a wOBA under .295 with each pitch.
Over the past few years, Kershaw’s fastball has lost a lot of velocity, going from an average of 94.2 MPH in 2015 down to 91.8 MPH in 2020. However, that big dip in speed hasn’t seemed to make a difference on its effectiveness, as it’s only allowing .203 average to opposing hitters in 2020.
The Nationals are stellar against left-handed pitching, so Kershaw will have to be on point in the showdown.
The Dodgers will have a distinct advantage in the bullpen, because the Nationals were one of the worst bullpensin 2020, ranking 23rd in ERA and 24th in xFIP.
On the flip side, Los Angeles was one of the best bullpens ranking inside the top five in both of those categories. Considering these squads made very minimal changes in the offseason, the Dodgers will have a major advantage in the later innings.
Even though the Dodgers have a good matchup against Scherzer, I think they’re overvalued in this matchup. The Nationals were one of the best teams against left-handed pitching last season, and should be able to get to an aging Kershaw.
Therefore, I am going to back Washington at +163 odds via DraftKings and would play it down to +150 odds.
Pick: Nationals ML (+163)