MLB Regular Season

Matchup: New York Mets at Washington Nationals

Date/Time: July 20, 7:00 p.m. ET

Pitching Matchup: Matt Harvey (8-6, 3.07) vs. Gio Gonzalez (6-4, 3.99)

MLB Betting Odds From BetDSI Sportsbook

Moneyline: Washington -110

Total: 7

Even though the All-Star Break just passed, 10 teams have Monday off. Two that don’t are currently sitting atop the National League East. The New York Mets and Washington Nationals kick off a big series in the nation’s capital on Monday night with the top pitching matchup of the evening between Matt Harvey and Gio Gonzalez. The Mets trail by only two games, one in the win column, in this ESPN nationally-televised contest.

Low scores have been the story of the season series between these two teams. The Nationals hold a slim 4-3 lead in 2015, but both teams have only scored 16 runs in the seven matchups. The Mets took two out of three at Nationals Park to begin the series, but then lost three out of four at Citi Field over the first weekend of May. The final two wins by the Nationals were 1-0 decisions and five of the seven games this season have stayed under the total.

Pitching will be the name of the game again on Monday night. It’s Matt Harvey day for the Metropolitans. There have been some concerns about Harvey throughout the season, as he has had some occasional command issues. His biggest problem is simply that the bar was set entirely too high over his first 36 starts and people got unrealistic expectations. He only spent parts of two seasons in the minors, with 46 minor league starts spanning just over 225 innings. He lost the entire 2014 season to Tommy John surgery and has pitched really well upon returning.

Harvey has a 3.07 ERA with a 3.52 FIP and a 3.30 xFIP. He hasn’t pitched since July 11 because of the All-Star Break, but that may not be a bad thing. Harvey walked four in his last start and looked a little bit uncomfortable at times. He made exactly zero starts in the minors before starting with the big league club this season and it takes time to get everything in working order. Harvey’s swing-and-miss stuff is still there, with just shy of a strikeout per inning and a swinging strike rate of 11.6 percent. He’s one of the game’s top young arms.

Gio Gonzalez has been an underrated arm throughout his career and he has battled through numerous injuries since he made his debut in 2008. He had a string of 32 or more starts in a season snapped last year when he made 27 starts, the first time since 2009 that he failed to crack 30 starts. This season, Gonzalez’s strikeout rate is down and he has been victimized by the Nationals’ poor defense. Gonzalez has a .343 BABIP against, leading to a 3.99 ERA, a 3.26 FIP, and a 3.46 xFIP. Gonzalez has seen a drop in velocity of late and an increase in walks, leading some to wonder if he may be pitching through some discomfort.

One very interesting change about Gonzalez is that he is inducing more ground balls than ever before. He’s throwing more two-seam fastballs than ever before and fewer four-seam fastballs. That has contributed to both the drop in strikeouts and the high BABIP because the Nationals really struggle on the infield. This should be a decent matchup for Gonzalez, against a Mets lineup that entered play on Sunday ranked 23rd in wOBA against left-handed pitching, with the third-lowest OBP in the league.

MLB Prediction: Washington Nationals

The layoff had to help both pitchers, but the smallest of leans goes to the Nationals in this game. The Mets aren’t going to benefit a whole lot from Gonzalez’s wildness because they aren’t a very patient offensive team against southpaws. This game certainly has potential to be a pitcher’s duel, with an early move on the total from 7.5 to 7. It also wouldn’t be a surprise to see Harvey dominate an inconsistent Nationals lineup. Ultimately, the Nationals lineup has earned more trust than the Mets lineup, hence the pick.