Nationals vs. Cardinals Odds & Picks: Washington Is Mispriced

Nationals vs. Cardinals Odds & Picks: Washington Is Mispriced article feature image
Credit:

G Fiume/Getty Images. Pictured: Stephen Strasburg

  • The Nationals are priced based on their slow start to the season, but that's not representative of their current form.
  • As a small moneyline underdog, our MLB betting analyst Michael Arinze explains why he sees value on Washington.
  • Find his full preview for Tuesday night's matchup between the Nationals and Cubs below, complete with his pick.

Nationals vs. Cardinals Odds

Nationals Odds +102
Cardinals Odds -120
Over/Under 7
Time Tuesday, 7:45 p.m. ET
TV BSMW
Odds as of early Tuesday afternoon and via DraftKings

The Nationals snapped a five-loss streak with a 5-2 road victory against the Cardinals on Monday night.

It was a much-needed win for Washington after starting 1-5 without multiple key players in the lineup due to a COVID-19 outbreak in the clubhouse — those absences included Josh Bell, Kyle Schwarber and Josh Harrison, though all three returned to the lineup on Monday.

The Nationals will now try for their first win streak of the season as they’ll send Stephen Strasburg to the mound while the Cardinals will counter with Jack Flaherty.

After allowing six runs in 4 1/3 innings of work on Opening Day, Flaherty rebounded with a six-inning, shutout performance against the Marlins in his last outing. However, as good as that start may seem, the California native may have been a bit fortunate to escape unblemished after allowing four walks in the game.

Walks have become an issue for Flaherty, and as a result, the Cardinals are slightly overvalued as a -120 favorite.

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Washington Nationals

Strasburg’s 2020 season barely got underway before he was shut down with carpal tunnel neuritis — CTS is a condition caused by the median nerve’s compression in the wrist, leading to loss of grip strength, pain, swelling and numbness. Such a condition in the pitching hand is certainly problematic, and that could explain why the former World Series MVP struggled with a 10.80 ERA in his two starts that season.

This season, Strasburg looked like himself again in his last outing against the Braves as the injury looks to now be behind him.

He pitched six shutout innings, but the Nationals failed to scratch a run with their depleted lineup and surrendered two runs in the seventh inning as soon as Strasburg departed the game. Nonetheless, it was a dominant pitching performance as Strasburg allowed just one hit and two walks while striking out eight batters.

Coming into Tuesday’s game, Cardinals’ hitters have 82 at-bats against Strasburg with a .244 AVG/.319 OBP/.366 SLG slash line and a below-average .122 ISO. The Cardinals haven’t exactly dominated him, and they haven’t necessarily gotten off to a great start offensively this season.

The Cardinals are hitting .219 with a below-average wRC+ value of 88. That’s not a promising sign when you have to face one of the game’s most elite pitchers in Stephen Strasburg.

One thing that you often find with good teams is their ability to hit the fastball. This season, the Cardinals have yet to demonstrate that as they’re currently 4.7 runs below average when facing the heat, which puts them 25th in the league.

St. Louis Cardinals

At 25 years of age, Flaherty is already in his fifth major league season.

One often expects young pitchers to struggle with their command early in their careers, and Flaherty is no different. In his third season, he posted a 2.52 BB/9 ratio — the best of his career — and it looked like any control issues were firmly behind him, but they seemed to resurface again last year.

In 2020, his 3.57 BB/9 ratio was the second-highest of his career. That number is up to 5.23 BB/9 this season. Flaherty is also carrying a 5.76 FIP through two starts, which is higher than his 5.23 ERA. If he continues to give free passes to first base, he’s likely to pay for it sooner or later.

One thing we know about Flaherty is that he has a plus arm.

His fastball averaged 94.2 mph last season, but he still needs to continue his evolution as a pitcher to be considered more than just a hurler.

In each of his four previous seasons, he’s had an HR/FB ratio that’s at least 13.8%, and in two of those seasons, it was above 20%. That was the case last year as he posted an HR/FB rate of 23.1%. Through two games this year, that ratio is at 16.7%.

To truly be an elite pitcher, he’ll want to bring that number down to at least 11% or better.

He’ll be facing a Nationals lineup that has already hit five home runs against him in just 69 at-bats. Washington carries a .246 ISO against him, and that’s something that should be worrisome for St. Louis fans.

Nationals-Cardinals Pick

When it comes down to what I’ll play in this game, let me start by saying that sharp money is targeting the Cardinals in this matchup.

After doing some research in our Action Labs database, I found that the Cardinals have impressive numbers off a three-loss streak.

As promising as that 28% ROI looks, it doesn’t mean this angle hits 100% of the time. In fact, St. Louis is 3-3 in the last six games in this spot.

I can’t help to think that the Nationals are being marginalized in this spot as an underdog. They’ve been downgraded off their slow start to the season, but we’ve already pointed out that they were without three key players.

Washington actually has a higher wOBA (.316) than St. Louis (.295), and the Nationals’ wRC+ value is just a tick below average at 99 while the Cardinals are further down the pecking order with a value of 88. And if we’re comparing pitchers, are we really saying that Flaherty is preferred to Strasburg?

I thought Washington showed tremendous grit in Monday’s game –particularly in the later innings as the Nationals continued to tack on insurance runs. Had they not gotten off to such a slow start this season, it would be a much easier decision for me to side with the Cardinals. But this Nationals team looks ready to make up for lost time and go on a roll themselves.

Washington is 6-3 in Strasburg’s starts against St. Louis while the Cardinals are 0-2 against the Nationals with Flaherty on the mound.

This game’s much closer to a coin-flip for me, so I’ll look to play the plus price of +102 with the Nationals at DraftKings.

Pick: Nationals (+102)

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