Reds vs Nationals Pick, Odds, Prediction | MLB Opening Day

Reds vs Nationals Pick, Odds, Prediction | MLB Opening Day article feature image

Getty Images. Pictured: Josiah Gray and Elly De La Cruz.

Reds vs Nationals Odds

Thursday, Mar 28
4:10 p.m. ET
Nationals Odds
-105o / -115u
Reds Odds
-105o / -115u
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute MLB odds here.

Everybody take a deep breath. Do you smell that? The weather is warm (kinda). The sun is shining (kinda). The beers are poured, and the hot dogs are on the grill because baseball is back!

Opening Day is a joyous day where every team in the league has hope, a clean slate and is tied for first place. However, no team celebrates opening day quite like Cincinnati.

Since 1889, the Reds have opened the season at home every year. They are the only team in the league granted this privilege. The city has a big parade leading toward Great American Ballpark. It is truly a holiday for the entire city.

Needless to say, Reds fans are much more excited for the start of baseball season than the Nationals. Cincinnati outperformed last year’s expectations by more than 15 wins and has an exciting core of young talent.

Washington is in a clear rebuild, and despite being better than expected last year, the Nationals still finished at the bottom of the NL East Standings. The Nationals enter 2024 with a preseason win total of 66.5 and the expectations of finishing at the bottom of the division once again.

Despite the third-best odds in the division, Cincinnati has +350 odds to win the National League Central and should be right in the race for the division late in the season — but this is just one game.

Below I’ll break down my Nationals vs. Reds pick on Opening Day.

Check out our MLB Betting Hub for more previews from today's slate.

Washington Nationals

26-year-old Josiah Gray will get the ball for his first Opening Day start as he kicks off his third full big-league season. A former top-100 prospect, Gray was traded to the Nationals in 2021 from the Dodgers as part of the blockbuster package for Max Scherzer and Trea Turner.

After struggling to a 5.02 ERA in his first full season with the Nats, Gray was a bright spot for the team last season, pitching to a 3.91 ERA in 30 starts. He was named an All-Star and established himself as the clear ace of this team.

While Gray definitely overperformed last year, with a 3.91 ERA compared to a 5.03 xERA, he did make a lot of tweaks to his pitch arsenal that contributed to his improvement. In 2022 he threw a fastball nearly 40% of the time, and it was terrible. He mixed that mainly with a slider and curveball, with his slider dominating as his best pitch.

Gray returned in 2023 and threw his slider nearly 25% of the time as his most frequent pitch. He added a cutter and sinker to his arsenal and dropped his four-seamer usage to just 17%. He also tweaked his windup near the end of last season to a shorter and more simple delivery.

Washington’s biggest problem is its lineup. If you are reading this at work, bet any coworker at your office $20 to name two players in the Nationals lineup and enjoy a free lunch. Most casual baseball fans probably can’t even name one National.

The Nationals finished among the bottom 10 in nearly every offensive category last year. Their best hitter was likely Jeimer Candelario, but they traded him at the deadline, and he now plays on the other side of the diamond for Cincinnati.

Shortstop CJ Abrams and outfielder Lane Thomas are the two best players in this lineup, but after them production falls off a cliff. The Nationals brought in veterans like Eddie Rosario and Joey Gallo to help raise the floor, but they really need catcher Keibert Ruiz to have a breakout season. At least they have the eventual arrival of Dylan Crews to look forward to!

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Cincinnati Reds

In perhaps a bit of a shocker, the Reds are going with free-agent signee Frankie Montas for Opening Day instead of Hunter Greene. Montas is coming off a dreadful year-and-a-half after being traded from the A's to the Yankees at the 2022 trade deadline. After making eight starts with a 6.35 ERA for the Yankees, Montas missed the entire 2023 season following shoulder surgery.

The Reds are hoping they get a post-Yankees bounce back from Montas, similar to the one they saw from Sonny Gray. This will be the third Opening Day start for Montas (2020 and 2022) as he looks to return to the form which gives him a 3.90 career ERA in 99 starts.

Montas finished sixth in AL Cy Young voting in 2021 with Oakland and was having a stellar 2022 season before the trade. He utilizes a four-pitch mix with his split-finger fastball working as his best pitch.

The future is bright in Cincinnati with seven of the nine players expected in the Reds Opening Day lineup at age 28 or younger. That doesn’t even include TJ Friedl (28) and Matt McClain (24) who will start the year on the injured list, or the team’s No. 1 prospect, Noelvi Marte (22), who was suspended for 80 games for PED use.

Playing in one of the most hitter-friendly parks in baseball is certainly an advantage, but the Reds finished ninth last season in wOBA. They get on base at a top-10 clip, and when they do, they are dangerous.

No team stole more bases last season than the 190 that the Reds swiped. They were of course led by the Human Highlight Reel, and one of the most electric players in the game, Elly De La Cruz. The 6-foot-5 shortstop hit 13 homers and stole 35 bases in 98 games last year, and this game is worth watching for him alone.

Nationals vs. Reds

Betting Pick & Prediction

What could be more fun than starting the year off with an afternoon over bet on Opening Day? While I probably lean toward the Nationals on the side, that’s just too gross to bet on a fun Opening Day slate, so I'll save that for a Wednesday in June.

Both of these lineups have some questions. Projection systems do not have a single player on the Nationals projected to post a wRC+ above 105. Their ceiling is severely capped, and they will likely finish the season with a bottom-three offense. However, they signed some veteran big-league players to help raise the floor a little bit.

The Reds have a young and fun offense, and although being without McClain and Friedl will hurt them, they still have some pop in this offense. Christian Encarnacion-Strand made his MLB debut last July and hit 13 home runs in just 63 big-league games in his first taste of the majors.

Spencer Steer and Jake Fraley are both above-average hitters, Jonathan India is a former NL Rookie of the Year winner, and Candelario is coming off a career season after his breakout campaign with the Nationals. Oh, and De La Cruz is the most electric player in baseball and could end up on third base after a walk.

The biggest reason for this over is a fade of these two starting pitchers. Gray posted a sub-4.00 ERA, but his expected numbers tell a different story. His 5.03 xERA, .342 xwOBA and 11.5% Walk Rate all were career worsts. His Strikeout Rate was also down, and he ranked in the bottom 20% of the league in xERA. In each of his previous three seasons, he has allowed at least four runs in his season debut. He has allowed a total of seven home runs in those three outings.

For Montas, it just comes down to the unknown. Montas is 31 years old and coming off shoulder surgery. He has pitched one inning since September 2022. It’s hard to have a ton of confidence in what his form will look like or how long he will last in this game.

I don’t typically put much stock into Spring Training as guys are often working on specific things, but it’s worth noting that as Montas works back from injury, he posted a 5.94 ERA across his five starts. Gray faired even worse with a 6.61 ERA across his five Spring Training outings.

To summarize, one pitcher is due for massive negative regression, another pitcher hasn’t pitched in two years, the most electric hitter in baseball will play, and betting overs is fun, especially in the afternoon of Opening Day. Let’s ride!

Pick: Over 8.5 -110 (Play to 9) 

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