It is just as important to know when not to lay action. Today’s slate is an uninspiring one from a betting perspective, with only one play truly standing out above the rest. Rather than forcing the issue with more recommendations, I will instead focus on my top play for Friday. This can be utilized straight up on a moneyline or as part of parlays attached to action in the NHL or NBA playoffs.
Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Washington Nationals
The Pittsburgh Pirates visit the Washington Nationals in an evening affair. Both teams have identical records, but profile much differently. The Nationals have scored 6.7 runs per game to the Pirates’ 3.5. That is not where the differences end. While the Pirates have held their opponents to 40 combined runs, the Nationals have surrendered a whopping 60 in the same amount of games. At this early juncture of the season, this has as much to do with opponents than anything else, but it still remains noteworthy. The Nationals are the higher-graded team based on my most recent power rankings. Washington gets a slight edge in the team form department.
Both teams will send strong pitchers to the mound. The Pirates will deploy Trevor Williams, and the Nationals will counter with Patrick Corbin. Both pitchers have been solid this season, but Williams has been more impressive. He holds a pristine 2.25 ERA and 0.92 WHIP through two starts, both Pittsburgh victories. Williams tossed six shutout innings and tallied as many punchouts in his first contest against the Cincinnati Reds. He came back to earth in his second turn against the same NL Central foe. Strangely enough, he fared better at the hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park than his more favorable home venue. Based on his most recent season splits, Williams typically has worse control on the road, which is what I am banking on in this contest.
Corbin, who hasn’t recorded a decision through two starts, is currently sitting with a solid, yet unspectacular 3.75 ERA. His 1.33 WHIP reveals control issues, a facet of his game that could get him in trouble if the Nats cannot provide their usual run support. Williams has been in better form, but the talent edge still rests with Corbin.
The trends in this contest are intriguing. The Pirates are undefeated in their last five following a game where they scored two runs or fewer. They sit at an impressive 5-1 in their last six games following a loss. Even more impressive is their 5-2 record in their last seven road games against teams with a winning record. They’re a strong team with Williams on the mound, winning four of his last five starts and five of his last seven road starts. On the flip side of things, they’re 1-4 in his last five Friday outings. Talented but inconsistent, the Pirates are 8-19 in his last 27 games following a quality start. The Pirates have also lost their last four games against a left-handed starting pitcher. They’re an even more telling 7-22 in their last 29 road games against a lefty.
The Nationals also have trends on both sides of the fence. They are 5-1 in their last six games against a right-handed starter. The Nationals are 5-2 in their last seven against a team with a winning record and hold the same mark in their last seven overall. On the other side of things, they have lost six of their last eight following a victory. Making matters worse, they are winless in their last five Friday games and their last five following a game in which they allowed two or fewer runs. They also sit at 2-8 in their last 10 series-openers. The Nationals hold an edge in the trend department due to the location of the game.
The line on this contest tells us all we need to know. Vegas has the Nationals pegged as heavy favorites. Based on form and trends, this is no surprise. Regardless of what their stats through two starts may say, Corbin is viewed as the far superior and consistent pitcher in this matchup. The Nationals are the day’s largest favorite at -174. They opened at -164, and it is evident that early action has moved this line quite a bit. This contest is nearing the drop-dead barrier, as anything more than -180 is a walk-away line for a contest that is tighter than it is getting credit for.
The +149 on the Pirates presents good value, but value should not dictate which way you lean on a contest. The Nationals are scoring over three more runs per game and have 70 percent of the public behind them. This high percentage dictates that the line is likely to get worse by game time, so lock this in as soon as possible. While this line does not reflect the Pirates’ win probability, it is apparent that Vegas would much prefer action on them. With that and form and trend analysis in hand, the Nationals are today’s top play.
Pick: Washington Nationals