MLB Betting - Nationals vs. Cardinals NLCS Game 1 Odds

PUBLISHED: Thursday, October 10th, 2019
LAST UPDATE: 12:37 pm, Fri, November 1, 2019

MLB Betting - Nationals vs. Cardinals NLCS Game 1 Odds
It’s not exactly the pairing most experts expected in the NLCS as the back-to-back National League Champion Los Angeles Dodgers have been eliminated and we’re left with the two NLDS underdogs fighting it out in the NLCS for the National League pennant.

Date & Time
October 11th, 2019 8:08pm
Busch Stadium andNationals Park
Media Coverage
Probable Pitchers
Score Prediction
Nationals in Six

It’s not exactly the pairing most experts expected in the NLCS as the back-to-back National League Champion Los Angeles Dodgers have been eliminated and we’re left with the two NLDS underdogs fighting it out in the NLCS for the National League pennant.


The Washington Nationals recorded their first ever postseason series victory on Wednesday night to get to this championship series and will face the St. Louis Cardinals who will have homefield advantage despite fewer regular season wins by virtue of winning their division.


The Nationals and Cardinals offer an interesting matchup with both teams surging late in the season and getting to October playing well, lending credence to the theory that it’s not necessarily the best team that wins in October, but the hottest one.


Now, which team can maintain their winning ways as they get set for a head-to-head battle in this best of seven showdown. Can the Nationals’ reach their first World Series in franchise history or will the Cardinals get back to the Fall Classic after their brief hiatus?


Long time underachievers, the Nationals looked primed for a post-season run for years but seemed cursed since shutting down Stephen Strasburg in the postseason all those years ago. It took from then, until now, for the Nationals to record their first-ever postseason series win. After snapping a 95-year stretch of no post-season baseball victories in the Nation’s Capital, the Nationals are now pushing for even more on the backs of a trio of starters.


The Nationals’ season looked over in May when the team was 19-31, but they’ve been one of the best teams in the game since and have now shown they can come out victorious with their backs against the wall.


The Cardinals have had a similar story themselves. St. Louis looked like the third best team in the NL Central for much of the year and was merely .500 at the break, but a strong second half elevated this team and they came into October—like Washington—playing some of their best baseball.


Now, we have two teams each fresh off NLDS upsets looking to continue proving their doubters wrong. That’s an excellent recipe for an amazing series.


Lineup Breakdown


The Nationals offense is a bit underrated. The team lost Bryce Harper in the offseason but got better at the plate as the team has better depth and quality hitters top-to-bottom.


After a slow start, the Nationals’ offense really kicked it into gear. On the year, the ended scoring the second most runs in the NL behind only the Dodgers, the team they beat in the NLDS. In the second half, the even outscored L.A. and put up a team OPS of .832.


Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto are the heart and soul of this lineup. The two illustrated that with their back-to-back jacks in Game 5 of the NLDS against Clayton Kershaw. That got the Nationals all tied up and forced the game into extra innings where Howie Kendrick’s grand slam locked it up for Washington.


Kendrick has been a huge veteran bat for the Nationals all season long, hitting .344 while offering enough power to keep the opposition honest. He’s a nice compliment to Rendon and Soto in the middle who both ended the regular season with 34 home runs and had a 1.010 OPS and .949 OPS, respectively.


Kendrick had just 17 homers, though it was in a limited number of at-bats, but he was always delivering big hits just like he did in the NLDS.


In addition to those three, Adam Eaton and Trea Turner are strong table-setters at the top of the order, Victor Robles is a valuable bat with some pop and speed at the bottom and guys like Ryan Zimmerman, Kurt Suzuki, and Asdrubal Cabrera help lengthen the lineup.


Much like the Nationals, the Cardinals’ second half offense outpaced that of the first half.


A slow start by Paul Goldschmidt slowed the Cardinals early in the year, but Goldschmidt is back to being his All-Star self and put up a pair of home runs and four doubles in the NLDS. He’s hitting well in the middle of the order while Marcell Ozuna as swung just the bat very well, too.


Those two are a strong heart of the order. Meanwhile, Yadier Molina has already delivered a huge hit despite his 3-for-21 start to the postseason. He and Dexter Fowler didn’t show up much in the NLDS, but the offense still managed to dominate. We saw the potential of these bats in the first innings of Game 5, when they put up a 10-spot against the Braves in route to an easy victory.


While that kind of an inning isn’t likely again, it paints the picture of a solid lineup top-to-bottom for the Cardinals though overall, the lineup isn’t quite as deep or as strong as Washington’s.


Starting Pitchers


For the Cardinals, the key cog in the rotation is Jack Flaherty. The 23-year old right-hander is in just his second full season, but really came into his own in the second half of the season.


Overall, Flaherty was 11-8 with a 2.75 ERA and 0.968 WHIP in his 33 starts. He amassed 6.0 WAR and threw 196.1 innings. Those numbers alone are impressive and bump him into the Cy Young Award conversation, but his second-half numbers are truly staggering.


In 15 starts after the All-Star break, Flaherty has pitched 99.1 innings, pitching to a 0.91 ERA and 0.715 WHIP. His strikeouts went up and walks down in the second half as he exhibited impressive command.


Flaherty carried his second half success into the NLDS where he made two starts against the Braves. He took the loss in his first start but grabbed the win in Game 5. Overall, he threw 13 innings with four runs, 12 hits, two walks and 16 strikeouts. By starting Game 5, however, he will likely see his first NLCS start pushed back to Game 3. That’ll put Adam Wainwright and Miles Mikolas on the bump for the first two games. Fellow second year arm, Dakota Hudson, would be in line for Game 4.


Wainwright had a bounce back season of sorts this year after he looked all but done the last few seasons. Overall, his ERA+ was 102, marking him marginally better than league average, but that combined with pure grit and postseason experience make him a solid option.


The right-hander, after all, did throw 7.2 scoreless innings against the Braves in the NLDS, not bad for an over-the-hill 38-year old. He walked two and gave up four hits in the start while striking out eight. That start lowered his postseason ERA to 2.79.


The right-hander was nearly as good against the Nationals when he last faced them back in September, giving up on run on eight hits in 7 innings in that win. He went 5-1 in September and, counting his NLDS appearances, has five starts allowing a run or less in his last seven.


Mikolas threw well down the stretch, too, with a quality start against Washington on September 17, his second to last start of the regular season.


The 31-year old regressed after a surprising season in 2018 when he led the NL in wins. He led in losses this year, but still had a 4.16 ERA, 103 ERA+ and 4.27 FIP. Those aren’t great numbers, but they’re respectable and enough to keep the team in the game.


He was better in the NLDS, going six innings with one run and three hits allowed against Atlanta.


As for Hudson, he ended the regular season with 16 wins and a 3.35 ERA, but he also walked an NL worst 86 batters, posting a 1.58 K:BB ratio leading, in part, to a 4.93 FIP.


The right-hander also threw 174.1 innings, well above his career high since going pro. He lasted just 4.2 innings in his NLDS start and gave up four runs. The Cardinals will need him to be better than that to compete with the Nationals’ starting pitchers. He did allow just two runs in seven innings against Washington when he faced them in September.


For as good as Flaherty was this season for the Cardinals, the Nationals have three pitchers that can go toe-to-toe with the young ace, all with more experience: Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Patrick Corbin.


While those three will be asked to carry the Nationals and toss most of the innings in this series, Anibal Sanchez—the team’s No.4 starter during the season—will be the starter for the series opener after the other three were used heavily in the NLDS.


Sanchez was a very strong No.4 starter, starting 30 games and pitching 166 innings with a 11-8 record, 3.85 ERA and 1.271 WHIP. His FIP indicates he may have been a bit lucky, but the veteran right-hander took care of business. The only down side for his has been depth.


The 35-year old threw five innings of one-run ball against the Dodgers in the NLDS and will be asked for a similar performance in the series opener here against the Cardinals. He’s certainly capable of providing it though the Cardinals stuck him for three runs in five innings in his only start against them this year. Granted that was in April when he pitched to a 5.91 ERA. He’s been better since.


After Sanchez in Game 1, the Nationals go back to the meat of their starting staff with Scherzer, Strasburg and Corbin, though not necessarily in that order.


Max Scherzer ended the regular season with some issues. Injuries limited him in the second half, and he didn’t quite look himself down the stretch. He ended the year with a 11-7 record, 2.92 ERA and 1.027 WHIP, but had a 5.16 ERA in five September starts. His K:BB ratio was looking better in his last start, but the results still weren’t there.

Despite that, the Nationals trusted him to start the NL Wild Card game. He gave up three early runs but battled his way through five innings and kept Washington in the game. After that, he looked to be his old self in a one-inning appearance in Game 2 and then pitched seven innings of one-run ball in Game 4.


Following Scherzer in the Wild Card game was fellow starter Stephen Strasburg. Strasburg has been a masterful postseason pitcher in his career with a 1.32 ERA in 34 innings. He had three scoreless frames in relief in the Wild Card game and then threw two quality starts in the NLDS. He’s struck out 21 so far this postseason in 15 innings and has walked just one.


This season, Strasburg led the NL in wins and went 18-6 with a 3.32 ERA and 1.038 WHIP in 209 innings of work.


As for Corbin, he pitched well in Game 1 of the NLDS and allowed just two runs in six innings but took the loss in the game. He came out again in Game 3 and let the game get away, giving up six runs in less than an inning. He took the loss in that as well but bounced back with a good showing in 1.1 innings in Game 5.


The southpaw signed a big contract in the offseason and delivered on it with a 5.4 WAR season thanks to a 3.25 ERA and 1.183 WHIP in 202 innings.


Bullpen Comparison


This is the one potential Achilles Heel for the Nationals. Washington finished the regular season dead last in the sport in bullpen ERA, behind 100-loss teams like the Orioles, Tigers and Marlins.


For the first half of the season, the Nationals had Sean Doolittle and little else after their starters. That wore on the veteran southpaw who has had his share of injury issues in the past. He was lights out early and an All-Star, but struggled through August, eventually losing his closing job to Daniel Hudson who the team acquired at the trade deadline.


Hudson turned out to be a great addition and pitched well down the stretch with a 1.44 ERA and 0.880 WHIP in his 25 innings of work in the regular season after the trade. Doolittle eventually turned things around, too, and pitched well down the stretch in September, giving the Nationals a solid one-two punch with Doolittle from the left side and Hudson from the right.


Both Hudson and Doolittle got quite a bit of work in to this point in the postseason for the Nationals and are reliable options for Dave Martinez, but the Nationals’ skipper has few other options.


We saw Martinez use Tanner Rainey in a higher leverage situation in Game 5 of the NLDS. He’s an okay option, but there’s little else which is why we’ve already seen Martinez use Scherzer, Strasburg and Corbin out of the pen through the team’s first six postseason games. We should see more of the same in the NLCS, leaving Washington to run the risk of over extending their best arms.


On the other end, the Cardinals may not have as great or a rotation, but they are also not asking their rotation arms to do as much. Jack Flaherty has been unhittable for the last few months, but hasn’t bene asked to pitch out of the pen as the Cardinals have several quality options in relief.


Andrew Miller didn’t have the season most expected from the relief ace, but the southpaw has looked good in his first few postseason outings and brings a ton of postseason experience.


In addition to him, Tyler Webb is another option from the left side who outpitched everyone not named Doolittle and Hudson for Washington. From the right-side, the Cardinals have Carlos Martinez, John Brebbia, Giovanny Gallegos and a few others ready to go. St. Louis doesn’t run the risk of fatigue out of the pen nearly as much as Washington.


While Martinez had a rough appearance in the NLDS, he also notched a save. He’s been good all year as have the rest of the pen which posted the second-best bullpen ERA in the NL this year.


Nationals vs. Cardinals Picks


Look for a well-played series with a lot of back-and-forth. The Cardinals have home field advantage, but the road teams won both Game 5s in the NLDS mitigating that advantage.


St. Louis’ real advantage is in the bullpen where they have more options than the Nationals, but we already saw Washington overcome that in the NLDS where it used some of its key starters in relief on their respective throw days. That strategy has worked for other teams in seasons past thanks to the added off-days in the postseason, though the margin for error is a bit smaller.


Still, count on the starting pitching to be the difference maker here. It’s hard to overcome a trio of starters like Scherzer, Strasburg, and Corbin, particularly if all three are performing up to their potential.


Washington should be able to get a big enough lead early behind the likes of Rendon and Soto as they continue to provide big hits and the necessary cushion for a limited bullpen.


Nationals vs. Cardinals Pick: Look for starting pitching to be the difference maker with the Nationals winning on the strength of their big three.