Nationals vs Cardinals MLB Odds, Picks, Predictions: Fade Overvalued Starter, Take Big Underdog (Thursday, September 8)

Nationals vs Cardinals MLB Odds, Picks, Predictions: Fade Overvalued Starter, Take Big Underdog (Thursday, September 8) article feature image

Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post via Getty Images. Pictured: Washington Nationals pitcher Josiah Gray

  • Adam Wainwright leads the Cardinals against Josiah Gray and the Washington Nationals.
  • The Cardinals are playing well and fighting for playoff positioning, but is there value on the underdog in this game?
  • D.J. James previews the matchup and shares his best bet below.

Nationals vs. Cardinals Odds

Nationals Odds+255
Cardinals Odds-305
Over/Under7.5 (-105 / -115)
Time1:15 p.m. ET
Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute MLB odds here.

Adam Wainwright has been impressive this season as a 41-year-old. However, he is feasting on good fortune that eventually needs to expire.

He ranks in the top 42% of MLB in both Hard Hit Rate and Average Exit Velocity, but much of this is due to how hard he throws his fastball. Overall, he has a 4.26 xERA and 3.21 ERA.

He and the St. Louis Cardinals will face off with the Washington Nationals on Thursday afternoon. The Nats are clearly rebuilding and one of the worst teams in the National League.

Josiah Gray will throw for the Nats. He has a 4.91 ERA against a 4.15 xERA. He also has allowed a higher Average Exit Velocity than Waino (88 mph versus 88.2 mph). He has a higher strikeout rate but may walk a few more hitters than the savvy veteran.

That said, based on expected statistics, the difference between these two starting pitchers is negligible.

Now, the Cardinals have been one of the best hitting teams in baseball for some time. They have the highest wRC+ off of righties at 128 in the last month. The Nats are above average, though, at 103. This puts value on Washington with how close the pitching matchup looks in this game.

Washington Nationals' Pitching Good Enough?

Gray is not the best starting pitcher, but he is still young and improving. His underlying statistics are far more encouraging than his traditional numbers.

In the second half of the season, Gray does carry a 6.19 ERA, but much of this has to do with issuing walks. He just needs to stay in the strike zone to keep the Cardinals hitters at bay. The Cardinals rank in the middle of the pack with Chase Rate, so he will get some swings and misses.

The Cardinals have a stacked batting order. They have seven hitters on the team with a .330+ xwOBA off of right-handers since Aug. 8.

Gray does throw his slider and curveball 53.6% of the time, compared to his fastball at 41.5%. This should at least limit the damage somewhat with a tougher lineup. Five hitters still carry a .330+ xwOBA off of those off-speed pitches, but a higher off-speed usage will definitely benefit the young starter.

Washington has a 4.18 xFIP out of the bullpen in the last month. This number is a tad deceiving. In that same timeframe, every reliever besides Jake McGee and Steve Cishek has a sub-4.00 mark. This should benefit them later in the game, especially if Gray has issues with control.

Can Nats Get to Cardinals' Waino?

"Waino" may be impressive for an older pitcher, but he is still overrated. Having an xERA more than a point higher than his actual ERA proves that the luck will run out at one point or another.

The Nationals have five hitters with a .325+ xwOBA off of right-handers in the last month. The rest of the lineup significantly drops off, but they will only need to string together consecutive hitters to execute while Wainwright remains in the game.

The Nats have struck out at only a 20.7% rate in the last month off of righties. Wainwright strikes out hitters at a 19.2% rate. Washington will have the opportunity to put the ball in play.

In addition, the Cardinals’ bullpen has not been as elite. They have a team 3.93 xFIP. They have six pitchers below a 4.00 mark, so this is the exact same as the Nationals.

There is no edge either way in the bullpen, even if the Cardinals usually have one against a team of the caliber of Washington.

Nationals-Cardinals Pick

Wainwright is overvalued in this matchup. His expected stats are even worse than those of Gray, who is still finding his ground as a young starting pitcher in the league.

Washington has enough weapons at the top of the order to compare with St. Louis. Gray needs to mix it up with his off-speed pitches more than usual to pitch deeper into this game.

Either way, both bullpens are relatively even. Take the Nationals at +255 as an above-average offense against right-handers. Play it to +180.

Pick: Washington Nationals +255 | play to +180

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