When a game like Julio Urias vs. Max Scherzer pops up on the betting board, how can you not write about it? One future Hall of Famer and a 24-year-old kid that made his MLB debut at 19. That is a pretty darn good pitching matchup and it should make for a fun night at Nationals Park between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Washington Nationals.
Most sportsbooks have this game lined as a toss-up, as even Scherzer is just enough to bridge the gap between the two teams, so we have a line at -110 both ways and a total of 8.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers boast one of the best offenses in baseball against right-handed pitching, but not all right-handers are Max Scherzer. In fact, very few of them even come close. The Los Angeles offense has not hit for a lot of power this season, at least not relative to past seasons or the team’s talent level, but Scherzer does give up some home runs, so we’ll see if the Dodgers can capitalize.
Getting Cody Bellinger back from the IL recently should help on the power production front and maybe the warm conditions of the East Coast will provide a boost. The Dodgers do create tons of opportunities with men in scoring position, as they entered play on Thursday with the second-most PA with RISP. Only the Astros had more. About 50 more, but hey, that’s the best offense in baseball.
Los Angeles draws a lot of walks, as the Dodgers are one of seven teams with a double-digit walk rate and lead the pack in that department. Creating opportunities without having to get a hit can lead to a lot of runs down the line. Even though the Dodgers went into Thursday’s game with the ninth-ranked SLG in baseball, they were fourth in runs scored, one of four teams to eclipse 400 on the season.
Julio Urias has benefited from some run support in his games, but has also pitched well. The southpaw has a 3.95 ERA with a 3.49 FIP on the season. Urias has actually struggled a little bit of late, allowing 22 runs in his last 31 innings. He’s given up a home run in each of his last six starts.
From an outsider’s perspective, I can’t help but wonder if he’s going through a bit of fatigue or maybe a dead arm period. He did strike out 12 in his last start over just 5.2 innings, so maybe that is behind him now, but he has thrown 93.1 innings this season. That is the most for him at the MLB level in his career and the most innings since 2016 when he threw 122 across Triple-A and the Major Leagues. We need to watch for this kind of fatigue with young pitchers coming out of the shortened season.
The Nationals have all sorts of problems, but the offense has come around recently. For the season as a whole, Washington has a 99 wRC+, but ranks in the bottom five in runs scored. Over the last 14 days entering play on Thursday, the Nationals had a .378 wOBA, due in large part to Kyle Schwarber going nuclear with 12 home runs in a two-week span.
The Washington offense, which changed a lot this past winter with the signings of Schwarber and Josh Bell, seemed to take some time to gel early in the season, along with an injury to Juan Soto. The Nationals offense has a lot of guys that are swinging it well right now, with Schwarber at the forefront, but also Trea Turner, Soto, and Starlin Castro have all put up some big numbers.
Washington’s offense ranks solidly in the top 10 against left-handed pitchers, so this may not be that bad of a matchup for the Nats. They are seventh in wOBA in that split and the entire group has heated up as the weather has done the same.
Max Scherzer should relish the opportunity to face one of the league’s best. As one of the league’s best pitchers, Scherzer sports a 2.14 ERAwith a 3.08 FIP in his 88.1 innings of work. Per usual, Scherzer’s K/BB numbers are outstanding. He’s allowed a few home runs this season, but that happens as a strike-thrower that is willing to challenge hitters.
Scherzer has allowed 12 homers and has a very reasonable 12.6% HR/FB%. The one area you look for some regression with Scherzer is his 90.2% LOB%. That could very well happen here with such a good Dodgers lineup on the other side, but his high K% and low BABIP will allow him to maintain a well above average LOB% as the season goes along. Just maybe not over 90%.
Dodgers vs. Nationals Free Pick
The Nationals have been swinging the bats extremely well of late, while the Dodgers have sagged off a little bit as they’ve faced some better pitching. There aren’t many better than Scherzer, as we all know. Urias is a guy that seems to have hit a little bit of a rough patch, possibly with some fatigue from the increased workload and additional pressure as a full-time starter.
The Nationals look like a good bet in this one.
Pick: Washington Nationals