Nationals vs. Yankees Odds & Pick: How To Bet Max Scherzer vs. Corey Kluber

Nationals vs. Yankees Odds & Pick: How To Bet Max Scherzer vs. Corey Kluber article feature image

Will Newton/Getty Images. Pictured: Max Scherzer

  • A pair of aging aces will take the mound Saturday when Max Scherzer and Corey Kluber square off in the Bronx.
  • Both have proven effective in their mid-30s, but does either side hold an edge in this one?
  • MLB editor Collin Whitchurch breaks down the matchup and makes his betting pick below.

Nationals vs. Yankees Odds

Nationals Odds+110
Yankees Odds-121
Over/Under8 (+100 / -120)
Time1:05 p.m. ET
Odds as of Friday evening and via William Hill.

Thirty-one percent of the Cy Young awards that have been handed out since 2013 have gone to either Max Scherzer or Corey Kluber. That's five out of the last 16 awards (three for Scherzer and two for Kluber) for the math nerds out there.

Now in their mid- and late-30s, neither is at his peak anymore, but they've both proven effective and are important rotational cogs for teams with playoff aspirations.

Who has the edge in this one? Let's look at both sides and see where we can find betting value in this Bronx matinee.

Washington Nationals

We might not be too far off from wondering why the Nationals are wasting Juan Soto in the way we have, for years, said the same thing about Mike Trout and the Angels. Soto, who returned to the lineup on Friday after being out since April 19 (he pinch-hit three times in the Atlanta series) is one of the best hitters in baseball and at just 22 years old, is projected to be for the foreseeable future.

Surrounding Soto in the Nationals' lineup is Trea Turner, a very good and effective shortstop — All-Star-caliber, even — and a mishmash of past-their-prime veterans or Quad-A types. Yan Gomes (33) and Josh Harrison (33) have been the Nationals' next best hitters this season, followed by Ryan Zimmerman (36), and none of that trio is significantly better than league average.

The front office brought in Josh Bell and Kyle Schwarber, a pair of mashers who were so good a year ago they were either traded for lotto tickets (Bell) or just told their services were no longer required by the organization (Schwarber), and they've combined to go 23-for-147 through Thursday (that's a .156 batting average). Bell has nine more hits than me this season.

The Nationals were once teeming with young talent, now it's just Soto. Victor Robles hasn't figured it out yet. Carter Kieboom can't even crack the lineup for some reason. I saw the last name "Mercer" on the back of a Nationals jersey recently and remembered former major-league player Jordy Mercer, only to find out that's exactly who it was. Jordy Mercer! In a major-league lineup! In 2021! Friday's outburst notwithstanding, this is not a good offense.

And yet … when Scherzer is on the mound, the Nationals remain a threat. The 36-year-old has turned in two stinkers through his first six starts, but even in those (nine earned runs in 11 innings) he was still missing bats (two walks against 14 strikeouts). He's doing that, generally, with a Scherzerian 7.83 SO/W through 39 innings, and he tossed a complete game his last time out against Miami.

Simply put, when Scherzer is on the mound, you have to consider backing Washington.

New York Yankees

Through four starts, it seemed we should begin writing Corey Kluber's career epitaph. In 15 innings over four starts against the Blue Jays (twice), Rays and Braves, Kluber allowed nine runs and walked 11 batters. It was ugly, and made it fair to wonder if the 35-year-old, who had only thrown 36 2/3 innings since 2018 entering the season, was done.

His last two starts were more like vintage Kluber: 14 2/3 innings, one earned run, three walks, 15 strikeouts. But oh, those two starts also happened to come against the cellar-dwelling Orioles and Tigers. So is Kluber back, or was this an opponent-fueled mirage?

The advanced metrics say the latter. Despite a perfectly serviceable 3.03 ERA, Kluber's xFIP sits at 4.48, and DRA (5.10) is even more bearish. Even after a 10-strikeout performance last time out, Kluber isn't missing bats at a rate we've seen in the past, while his walk rate remains inflated by those first few starts. A couple more outings like his last two starts will temper that a bit, but for now, the former ace still looks like a subpar pitcher taking advantage of subpar opponents.

The good news for Kluber and the Yankees is that he gets to face another subpar offense in the Nationals, and the Yankees' bats have awoken enough that there's at least a chance they can scratch across a few runs of support against Mad Max. After an abysmal start to the season, the Yankees are up to a better-than-average 105 wRC+, seventh-best in the majors.

Nationals-Yankees Pick

Since Max Scherzer became MAX SCHERZER in 2013, he's made 178 starts. His teams (the Tigers and Nationals) have been listed as underdogs in 27 of them. On Saturday afternoon against the Yankees, it will be 28. If you bet on Scherzer's side in the previous 27, you'd have a 13-14 record but a slightly positive ROI.

Scherzer as an underdog is certainly tempting, but backing the Nationals given the state of their offense makes it too risky to recommend, although having Soto back should help. Scherzer should hold the Yankees' bats at bay, though, and Kluber has proven he can shut down subpar offenses, so all signs point to the total.

I would bet under 8 at -120 but no further than that. You can also get under 7.5 at some books at slightly less juice, but I would prefer the extra half-run just to be safe.

Pick: Under 8 (-120)

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