With the MLB All Star Break now behind us, it’s a dead sprint without any significant time off for the sport until the postseason begins in October. The break is welcome for me after our first 0-2 weekend in months, leaving me hungry to work even harder at finding winners as the season begins its second half.
We're still at 56% winners on the year though and hope to continue at least that pace moving forward.
Last week: 0-2
Sunday, July 18, 1:05 pm ET
San Diego Padres (Joe Musgrove) @ Washington Nationals (Max Scherzer)
The Nationals and Padres met in San Diego just last week, a series in which San Diego took two of three. It was a particularly high scoring series, with the average game seeing 16 runs scored between the two offenses. Both Musgrove and Scherzer pitched in the series, and both were touched up in what would be two of their worst outings of the season. For Max Scherzer, it was a particularly strange moment that led to his demise, as rookie relief pitcher Daniel Camarena of the Padres hit a grand slam on a pitch ankle high to turn the game on its head.
The outing in San Diego was the third this season in which Scherzer had allowed 4 or more runs - in 14 others, he hasn’t allowed more than 2 in any one outing. He’ll have had 10 days between starts and an All Star Game inning tuneup in between the nightmare in San Diego and his next matchup with them on Sunday, this time at home. Having watched Scherzer for more than a decade, even the most casual fan knows what his scowl looks like when he’s angry on the mound, and how scary that pitcher can be - on Sunday, I think we’re about as likely to see Mad Max in his maddest form as we possibly could be. Scherzer didn’t allow more than one run in the two outings that followed his past 2 poor starts this year, and the extra time to stew on a bad start should only lead to a nastier Max on Sunday, spitting curse words under his breath as he stares down the hitter.
It helps the Nationals’ case as well to be taking on San Diego on their home turf in Washington. The Padres have a losing record on the road (20-21), consistently unable to bring the energy given to them by the Petco Park crowd when they travel on the road. The Padres’ dugout energy is well-documented, dancing around after home runs and seemingly celebrating every home win like a World Series title. If the Nationals can jump out to an early lead with Scherzer on the bump, San Diego may find that their dugout is uncomfortably quiet on the road once again.
Like Scherzer, Joe Musgrove will be facing an opponent he recently struggled against on Sunday when he pitches against the Nationals. Joe Musgrove has had the best season of his career, thus far posting a 2.93 ERA through 17 starts. Unlike Scherzer, though, Joe Musgrove’s bad start against the Nationals in San Diego (5 earned runs in 5 innings) is part of a season-long trend that has quietly seen him pitch less effectively month by month. He posted a 1.24 ERA in April, followed by a 2.84 mark in May. June saw that number jump to a more pedestrian 3.81, and now in July he’s posted a 5.79 ERA through 2 starts. For Musgrove, I’d make the argument the downward trend is simply a form of regression toward his career mean (34-45, 4.10 ERA), more of a correction toward true expectation than a blip on the radar.
With both bullpens putting up messy performances in recent weeks, this is a spot where it makes clear sense to target a first 5 innings bet and isolate the starting pitching matchup. I trust Max Scherzer’s track record and the Nationals at home over Musgrove and San Diego on the road, and think we’ll see Washington out to a lead through the early portions of Sunday’s game.
The Pick: Nationals First 5 Innings -140 or Better (or F5 Run Line -0.5, +100 or Better)