Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 11:45 AM EST
4:05 PM EST. The first thing to note here is the strong gale-like winds that will be blowing in from center. The total of u7½ -120 combined with those strong winds means runs will be at a premium here, which also means that small-ball figures to play a major part. It is for that reason among a couple of others that we’ll side with the Nationals. Washington was fifth in the majors in stolen bases with 109 while Chicago was 24th with 62. Nats leadoff man Trea Turner turns singles into automatic doubles and if he can get on base, he’ll surely have Jake Arrieta thinking about more than just making his next pitch. The Cubbies have nobody that can do that type of damage on the base paths.
Speaking of Arrieta, entering September, it appeared that Arrieta had turned it around, recovering from a subpar first half to put up a 1.69 ERA in 11 starts in July and August, albeit with a 3.49 xERA. Then he tweaked his hamstring in a September 4 start against the Pirates and quickly went from sure thing to question mark. He has pitched twice since returning from the injury, with mixed results. The Cubs are hoping they get the Grade A version of Arrieta, or at least the version that can keep them in the game for six innings but we’re not so sure. His first-pitch strike rate over his last seven starts was a troublesome 51%. His swing and miss rate over that same span was 6%. The regression in Arrieta’s control is foretold by his very shaky first pitch strike rate, which gives it the look of a potentially chronic issue. His velocity has declined to a career-low in 2017 and these Nationals hitters are too good to be fooled by a pitcher in a major decline.
Tanner Roark does not have the same pedigree as Arrieta but he and the Nats are without question the value play here. Roark provided no value in the first half (5.27 ERA, 1.48 WHIP) but he totally changed course in the second half. After the break, Roark has been great with a 3.05/3.29 ERA/xERA split and a 1.09 WHIP. And his aggregate skills have nearly doubled: 9.8 K’s/9, 3.2 BB’s/9 and a 54% groundball rate. Over his last 32 frames, Roark has struck out 35 batters while walking nine.
There is no way to overstate the stakes for the Nationals. A win brings the series back to Washington with Strasburg (presumably) on the mound in a winner-take-all Game 5. A loss means yet another long winter of wondering what might have been. On paper, the Cubs have no advantages here with the wind blowing in or with Arrieta on the bump. With the Cubs’ offense generating a mere eight runs in the first three NLDS games, we’re merely playing the value and the advantages based on conditions and starting pitchers.
UPDATE at 2:00 PM EST.
Pitching change for Nats - Strasburg in for Roark.
Price change to +105 and if we're certainly not backing off.
OFFICIALLY Washington +105
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Washington +105 (Risking 2 units - To Win: 2.10)