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MLB Odds, Picks, Prediction: Phillies vs. Nationals Betting Preview (Wednesday, May 12)

MLB Odds, Picks, Prediction: Phillies vs. Nationals Betting Preview (Wednesday, May 12) article feature image

Rich Schultz/Getty Images. Pictured: Zack Wheeler #45 of the Philadelphia Phillies.

  • Philadelphia won the first game of this series yesterday in a game that included a Bryce Harper home run.
  • The Nationals sit in the bottom of the NL East and will send Jon Lester to face Zach Wheeler on the mound.
  • With both pitchers off to solid starts in 2021, Mike Vitanza is eyeing the total in Wednesday's game.

Phillies vs. Nationals Odds

Phillies Odds -138
Nationals Odds +118
Over/Under 8.5
Time 7:05 p.m. ET
Odds as of Wednesday and via DraftKings.

The Philadelphia Phillies (19-17) took the first game of this series with the Washington Nationals (13-18) on the road Tuesday night.

The Phillies were led by strong offensive performances from Bryce Harper, Alec Bohm and Andrew Knapp, all of whom drove in runs in the victory. Harper’s solo shot in the first inning got the scoring going in a game the Phillies lead wire to wire.

The Nationals, meanwhile, were led offensively by Trea Turner, whose three hits — which included a home run — accounted for a large percentage their overall offensive production. Overall, they ended the game with just seven hits.

Both starting pitchers in Wednesday’s game have been solid contributors for their teams so far in 2021; will strong performances by each in this one be enough, or will the lackluster bullpens on both sides cause mayhem in the later innings?

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Philadelphia Phillies

Zach Wheeler will make his eighth start of the season for the Phillies on Wednesday night. Wheeler picked up right where he left off last season, serving as a reliable contributor in the rotation. Over 47 2/3 innings pitched thus far, Wheeler has produced a 3-2 record and a strong 3.02 FIP.

He’s also seen a marked increase in his strikeout levels this season compared to last year, averaging 9.3 K/9 this season compared to just 6.7 K/9 last year. If we dive deeper, we see there he’s been throwing his slider at a much higher rate this season (24% vs. 16% last season) than last. He’s also seen an increase in velocity on that pitch as well (92 mph average versus 90 mph last season).

The result has been a minuscule .201 batting average against so far to go along with his typically low home run rate (0.76 HR/9).

On Wednesday, he’ll take on a Nationals team that has struggled against right-handed pitching so far, collectively hitting to a .294 wOBA, fifth-worst in all of baseball.

Washington Nationals

Jon Lester will take the hill for the Nationals in what will amount to his third start of the season. Over 10 innings so far, Lester has been reliable, pitching five innings in each of his first two starts and compiling a 3.10 FIP.

While the sample size is small, Lester has been less reliant on his fastball and curveball than in recent years, and instead leaned on his cutter as an alternative. When comparing this season versus last, we see that his cutter usage has increased from 32% to 45% so far this year. The result has been an increase in his swinging strike percentage from 7.2% last season to 8.9% so far this season.

Lester’s cutter has been a strong pitch in his repertoire throughout most of his career, so it’s yet to be seen if this is temporary noise or a strategic change brought on by the Nationals pitching coaches.

On Wednesday, he’ll take on a Phillies team that has been near league average against lefties so far this season, hitting to a .314 wOBA thus far (18th in MLB).

Phillies-Nationals Pick

Despite a subpar start for both teams thus far, both of the starting pitchers in tonight’s game have proven effective so far in 2021. Each has also made notable changes to their approach that has led to marked improvement this year when compared to last. Finally, they both take on opposing offenses that have either struggled or been merely league average in similar matchups so far this season.

The bullpen adds the greatest layer of risk in this one for both sides. Each unit ranks in the bottom-third amongst all teams in both FIP and xFIP, with the Phillies in particular struggling with the long ball (1.48 HR/9).

While the full game under does hold some intrigue, the bullpen risk is too high. With the F5-U at 4.5 runs, I’ll give it some consideration for a half-unit play.

Lean: Under 4.5

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