Regional coverage of the Tuesday night MLB Network Games of the Week as the Atlanta Braves continue their series with the Washington Nationals and the Kansas City Royals and Detroit Tigers continue their battle for AL Central supremacy.
Matchup: Atlanta Braves at Washington Nationals
Date/Time: September 9, 7:05 p.m. ET
TV: MLB Network
MLB Betting Odds From 5Dimes Sportsbook
Probable Starters: ATL: Ervin Santana (14-7, 3.61) v. WSH: Jordan Zimmermann (10-5, 2.93)
Moneyline: Washington -143
The Washington Nationals will have their most consistent starting pitcher on the hill in the middle game of their series with the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday night. Jordan Zimmermann will face Ervin Santana, in what could be one of Santana’s final starts for the Atlanta Braves. The Nationals won on Monday night by a score of 2-1 to expand their lead in the NL East, which now sits at eight games. Every game is important for the Braves, who are fighting for their playoff lives in the clustered NL Wild Card standings. With Monday’s loss and a win from Pittsburgh, the Braves are 1.5 back in the wild card hunt.
Ervin Santana has been a godsend for the Braves rotation. With injuries to Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy, Santana was signed by the Braves on a one-year deal right before the season began. Santana’s season started a little late because of his need to build up arm strength, but he has made 27 starts for the Braves with a 3.61 ERA. Perhaps most importantly, Santana has eaten up 174.1 innings. In 10 starts since the All-Star Break, Santana is 7-1 with a 2.92 ERA and the Braves are 8-2 in those 10 starts. He has not given up more than four runs in any of those starts.
Jordan Zimmermann currently has the best ERA and lowest FIP of his career in his age-28 season, yet he only has 10 wins because the Nationals have not scored for him. Zimmermann has been excellent this season with a 2.93 ERA, a 5.78 K/BB ratio, and a 2.75 FIP. Zimmermann made only four starts in July due to an injury concern, but since the start of August, Zimmermann is 4-0 with a 2.30 ERA and the Nationals are 7-0 in his seven starts. He has pitched into the seventh in all seven starts with three runs or less allowed in each of those starts.
Santana will be facing the Nationals for the seventh time in his career. He’s 1-1 with a 4.15 ERA in his previous six starts. This season, Santana is 1-1 with a 5.25 ERA in 12 innings of work. The Braves are 16-11 in Santana’s 27 starts for a profit of 2.47 units.
Zimmermann will be facing the Braves for the 10th time in his career. The big right-hander is 3-2 with a 2.92 ERA in those starts. He’s 1-1 over the last two seasons with a 1.88 ERA in 24 innings. The Nationals are 19-9 in Zimmermann’s 28 starts for a profit of 7.34 units.
Free MLB Pick: Washington Nationals
Both starters come into this game pitching well and that means that it could be a battle of the bullpens. The Nationals seem to be in better shape from a middle relief standpoint. Offense also seems to come easier for the Nationals right now with their lineup back in tact and healthy. In a game where one key hit could be the difference, the advantage goes to the Nationals.
Matchup: Kansas City Royals at Detroit Tigers
Date/Time: September 9, 7:08 p.m. ET
TV: MLB Network
MLB Betting Odds From 5Dimes Sportsbook
Probable Starters: KC: Jason Vargas (11-7, 3.14) v. DET: Max Scherzer (15-5, 3.25)
Moneyline: Detroit -172
The Detroit Tigers were thoughtful of their downtown counterparts, the Detroit Lions, by playing a rare Monday day game to open up their series against the Kansas City Royals. The Tigers won by a score of 9-5 behind an offensive explosion off of Jeremy Guthrie. That win pushed the Tigers to within one game of the Kansas City Royals, with a tie in the win column and two fewer games played for the Royals. Tuesday’s game is certainly big for both teams as the second wild card spot implications are also present.
The Royals will turn to Jason Vargas in this big game. Vargas returned to the Major League rotation on August 2 after spending some time on the disabled list with an elbow issue. Vargas has a 2.66 ERA since returning from the DL with a 3-3 record. Vargas has exhibited great control with a 30/5 K/BB ratio in 44 innings of work, though he has allowed four unearned runs. Four of those seven starts have been quality outings.
The reigning AL Cy Young award winner hasn’t been quite as dominant this season, but he’s still been very good. He’s 15-5 with a 3.25 ERA after going 21-3 with a 2.90 ERA last season. He has improved his strikeout rate slightly, but his walk rate and home run rate have risen very slightly. Scherzer finished his June 17 start with a 3.84 ERA after allowing 10 runs in four innings to the Kansas City Royals. Since then, Scherzer is 7-2 with a 2.64 ERA. The Tigers are 10-4 in those 14 starts and Scherzer’s performance has been huge with an injury to Anibal Sanchez and ineffectiveness from Justin Verlander.
Vargas will be facing the Tigers for the ninth time in his career. He’s 3-2 with a 4.66 ERA in those previous eight starts. This season, Vargas is 1-1 with a 4.74 ERA. The Royals are 14-12 in Vargas’s 26 starts for a loss of 0.44 units.
Scherzer will be taking on the Royals for the 20th time in his career. In 19 previous starts, Scherzer is 9-5 with a 3.88 ERA. This season, Scherzer is 0-1 with a 7.88 ERA, but he allowed 10 runs in four innings in one start and threw eight shutout innings in the other. The Tigers are 20-9 for a profit of 7.93 units in Scherzer’s 29 starts.
Free MLB Pick: Kansas City Royals
The value lies with the Royals in this start with a big price on Scherzer. The Royals were blown out on Monday and the silver lining to that is another day off for their key relievers. If Vargas can keep the Royals in the game, they’ll have a big advantage in the late innings and Royals bettors could be holding a plus-money ticket at a time when the Royals should be favored.