Wednesday MLB Odds, Picks, Predictions: Pirates vs. Nationals Betting Preview (June 16)
Adam Hunger/Getty Images. Pictured: Paolo Espino and Alex Avila
- The Pirates and Nationals meet in the finale of their three-game series on Wednesday.
- Both teams are starting inexperienced pitchers in Chase De Jong and Paolo Espino.
- Mike Ianniello breaks down the matchup and makes his betting pick below.
Pirates vs. Nationals Odds
|Time||4:05 p.m. ET|
The Washington Nationals will look to finish off a three-game sweep of the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday afternoon in D.C.
Washington has won three straight games to pull itself out of last place in the NL East, but is still just 29-35 on the season. Pittsburgh has now lost nine games in a row and sits with the third-worst record in baseball at 23-43.
Pirates’ Offense Continues To Struggle
Right-hander Chase De Jong is already on his fourth big league team in five seasons. He has actually been part of six organizations in his young career. He was drafted by Toronto and has spent time as part of the Blue Jays, Dodgers, Mariners, Twins, Astros and now Pirates organization. He has just 13 major league starts under his belt, going 1-5 with a 6.62 career ERA.
In three starts this season, De Jong has lasted five innings in each outing but has yet to register a decision. He has a 4.80 ERA and 5.55 FIP. He actually has looked OK in two of his three outings, although he really struggled with his control in his most recent start, allowing four walks against Milwaukee.
The Pirates’ lineup is extremely top heavy. Their top three hitters of Adam Frazier, Ke’Bryan Hayes and Bryan Reynolds are batting a combined .308 with 15 home runs. However, the rest of their team is batting just .201.
Espino Steps Up For Washington
Despite being 34-years old, right-hander Paolo Espino has made even fewer starts than De Jong. A career minor leaguer, Espino has spent a remarkable 13 seasons and 342 appearances grinding it out in the minors. This season has been an awesome story for the journeyman, though, as he entered the season with just 14 total big league games, 12 appearances in 2017 (for Texas and Milwaukee) and two for Nationals last season.
He has already doubled his MLB game total, appearing in 14 games for Washington this season. Used mostly out of the bullpen, Wednesday will be his second start of the season and just the fifth start of his career as he takes the place of the injured Max Scherzer. His only other start was back on April 18 when he allowed two runs and five hits over 4 1/3 innings.
Don’t expect Espino to last long in this game, but overall he has actually been pretty solid out of the bullpen. In his 14 appearances this year he has a 2.78 ERA and 4.17 FIP in 22 2/3 innings. He does give up a ton of hard contact though, allowing a 51.6% HardHit% and 15.6% barrel rate, both are in the bottom 2% of the league.
Just like Pittsburgh, the Nationals offense is very top heavy. Kyle Schwarber is batting .318 with four home runs over the last week, Juan Soto has struggled but is still one of the best hitters in the game and gets on base a ton, and Trea Turner leads the team in runs and hits and has been their best player all season.
The Nationals rank seventh in the league in batting average this season, however are just 29th in runs per game as they really struggled with runners in scoring position. They sit 16th in wOBA at .305, however they have an xwOBA of .327, which would rank 11th. That could be a sign they are due for some regression.
I made the mistake of betting on the Pirates Tuesday night, and I never make the same mistake twice in a row. However, I don’t love the idea of betting on a 34-year old making his fifth career start, despite what a great story it is.
So let’s get have a little weird and wild Wednesday afternoon. I mentioned that both of these teams are very top heavy on offense, so I am going to bet on the top of these lineups against two pitchers with 17 career starts combined.
The No Runs First Innings (NRFI) bet has become increasingly popular this season and my colleague Tanner McGrath wrote a terrific piece on the strategy behind it a couple weeks ago.
I am going to take a YES Runs First Inning (or over 0.5 runs depending on the book).
The Nationals rank second in the league with a .291 batting average in the first inning this season. They have a solid top four of Schwarber, Turner, Soto and Josh Bell. They put up five runs in the first inning against the Pirates on Tuesday.
Despite Pittsburgh’s offensive struggles, the Pirates are actually batting .260 in the first inning, 12th best in the league. They have a very capable top of the order in Frazier, Hayes, Reynolds and Colin Moran.
Both of these teams rank in the top 10 in the league in first inning runs this season so let’s have a little fun with a 4:05 p.m. ET start time. The work day is almost over, take a quick bathroom break, pull up the game on your phone and lets root for a quick run!
Pick: Yes Run First Innings (-120 at BetMGM)