Red Sox vs. Nationals Odds, Preview, Prediction: How to Back Washington as Spoiler (Saturday, October 2)

Red Sox vs. Nationals Odds, Preview, Prediction: How to Back Washington as Spoiler (Saturday, October 2) article feature image

Michael Reaves/Getty Images. Pictured: Josiah Gray.

Editor's note: Looking for Sunday's Red Sox-Nationals game? Click here.

Red Sox vs. Nationals Odds

Red Sox Odds-200
Nationals Odds+170
Time4:05 p.m. ET
Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute MLB odds here.

The Boston Red Sox find themselves right in the thick of a wild wild-card race entering the final two games of the season.

Boston currently sits in position to be the visiting team in Tuesday's American League Wild Card Game, with the Mariners and Blue Jays tied at one game back. The Yankees, meanwhile, stand a game ahead of the Red Sox and are in the pole position to host the contest.

With the stage set, let's figure out if there's value in taking the team with everything to play for in this one.

Promising Houck Starts Big Game

The Red Sox will trot out Tanner Houck in the biggest game of the season to date, a young right-hander who has proven a lot in his first full big-league season.

Now, he'll have an opportunity to establish himself in a huge spot.

Houck's leash should be short in this one judging by the magnitude of the game and the fact that his starts have never lasted more than 5 1/3 innings, but it's still worth talking about him here given his brilliance at times. The 25-year-old has added almost 2 mph to his fastball in 2021, pitching it to a .246 expected batting average and a 20.8% whiff rate. That's opened things up in a big way for his slider, which has generated a 42% whiff rate.

Together with his entire arsenal, Houck ranks in the top 21% of all pitchers in whiff rate and is a high-strikeout arm.

Houck may need to go a bit deeper into this game with the way the Red Sox bullpen has looked. Boston owns a 4.20 ERA in the last two weeks, ranking 18th in MLB, and a 4.58 xFIP doesn't make that look any better. He also may need to literally shut out the Nationals with the Red Sox entering at 25th in wRC+ over the last week.

Gray Has Upset Potential

The Nationals sadly don't have anything to play for here.

While they've been a pesky opponent for several teams looking to stay in the playoff race, they haven't really pitched very well. In a similar scene, Washington's bullpen ERA over the last week stands at 5.52 which hasn't done it any favors. Luckily, the Nationals have Josiah Gray.

The young flamethrower, who was acquired from the Dodgers in the deal that sent Max Scherzer and Trea Turner to Los Angeles, has dazzled at times in his debut season. While he went through a very bad rough patch in the middle of the campaign, he's managed to find it again in his last two starts with 12 strikeouts in 11 1/3 innings of five-run ball. Those aren't amazing numbers, but he's kept things under control.

Washington hasn't slacked quite like Boston in the last week of the season with a 98 wRC+, but it has definitely looked like a lineup dead in the water at times. One thing that could help revive the Nats is their success against fastballs, where they rank fourth in weighted runs per 100 pitches. That should help against Houck, as should the fact that they sit seventh.

Red Sox-Nationals Pick

It's always tough to fade the teams with everything to play for, but there's also a lot of pressure to win ballgames on said clubs. Washington may run into a win here against the Red Sox.

The Nationals' prowess against Houck's arsenal, coupled with some better pitching from Gray should put them in a good spot here. I believe they can make this game competitive for the first five innings.

Pick: Nationals First Five ML

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