Stuckey: Should You Fade the Dodgers Against the Nationals on Friday?

Credit:

Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Howie Kendrick and Anthony Rendon

Betting Odds: Los Angeles Dodgers at Washington Nationals

Hyun-jin Ryu (11-2 1.76 ERA) vs. Anibal Sanchez (6-6, 3.80 ERA)

  • Dodgers odds: -164
  • Nationals odds: +151
  • Over/Under: 9.5
  • First pitch: 7:05 p.m. ET on MASN

The Nationals will look to continue their summer push during a home weekend series with the visiting Dodgers. While Los Angeles boasts the best record in the National League at 67-37, Washington has actually been playing much better baseball over the past month. The Nationals have won 18 of their last 25 contests, while the Dodgers are 13-12 in their last 25 games.

Let’s take a closer look at both teams and tonight’s matchup.

Dodgers’ Defensive Woes

Yes, the Dodgers are the best team in the NL but you had to expect some regression after their magical start. They could also be getting a little complacent in the dog days of summer with the division all but locked up at this point. LA currently holds a 14.5-game lead in the NL West and a 6.5-game lead over the Braves for the best record in the NL.

Some of that lack of focus could show up in the fielding department, where the Dodgers have struggled immensely of late.

The Dodgers even had a recent stretch of seven straight games with multiple errors. It’s even more surprising when you consider they were the best defensive team in baseball over the first few months of the season.

Those struggles have coincided with the Joc Peterson first base experiment (moving Max Muncy to second or third) — which clearly hasn’t been working. Depending on who plays where tonight, that could become an issue tonight for Ryu, a ground-ball pitcher.

Southpaw Savvy

The Dodgers absolutely mash right-handed pitching. They’re now tied with the Red Sox with an MLB-best .837 OPS against righties. That could spell trouble for Anibal Sanchez, who has been pretty lucky this season. Look no further than his 5.20 xFIP, which sits significantly higher than his 3.80 ERA. Regression looms for the 35-year-old starter.

However, you can say the same about the Nationals lineup against left-handers. Washington ranks in the top four in all of baseball in Average, OBP, Slugging and OPS against southpaws. They have the bats to get to Ryu.

There’s no doubt Hyun-jin Ryu has been one of the best starters in baseball so far this season. However, he has benefited a bit from some good fortune. His sparkling 1.76 ERA (which leads all qualified starters) is over 1.5 runs lower than his 3.13 xFIP — thanks to the second-highest strand-rate among qualified starters at 86.4% (career 78.8%) and a .270 BABIP (.297 career).

Home Sweet Home

The Dodgers have been dominant at home this year with a a 40-14 record which includes a number of magical comeback wins.

However, they’ve been much less effective on the road with a 27-23 record.  That’s still impressive but it’s the same road record as the San Francisco Giants. Meanwhile, the Nats have held their own in DC at 29-21 while playing .500 ball on the road; pretty standard splits for a good team.

Speaking of home sweet home, Ryu loves pitching in the pitcher-friendly Dodger Stadium, which has a 0.917 park factor since they changed configurations in 2005. Ryu is a  perfect 8-0 this season there with a ridiculous 0.89 ERA. And his career ERA is about one run lower at home than it is on the road.

He’s obviously more vulnerable away from the friendly confines.

Bullpen Barometer

The Dodgers have the better overall pen — and one of the better ones in the National League. On the other hand, relief pitching continues to plague the Nationals, whose relievers have the worst ERA (5.84) in all of baseball. Yes, even worse than the Orioles.

Washington has also played three games over the past two days, while the Dodgers have only played one. LA will have the better and fresher arms once the starters depart.

If you’re looking for positive spin on the National pen, closer Sean Doolittle is available and Fernando Rodney is not. Washington also has as many lefties as you’ll find in any bullpen, which will help significantly against the Dodgers.

Bet to Watch

The Dodgers have the superior starter, the better bullpen and a lineup that crushes right-handed pitching.

However, this is simply a numbers game.

I could go on some more about how the Nats can mash lefties and how well they’ve been playing of late. But the bottom line is I make the Nationals a much shorter underdog. While I expect them to lose this game more times than not, I give them a better chance than the 40% the current moneyline implies.

Target: Look for +150 or better and don’t even entertain the thought of playing them at +140 or lower.

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