(Max Scherzer photo courtesy Brett Davis/USA TODAY Sports)
Note: The 5/5 does NOT represent the best overall pick of the day’s games when there are multiple games, simply the best pick(s) from each individual game.
When and Where: Thursday, July 25, Nationals Park, Washington D.C., 4:05 p.m. EDT.
After a brief stint on the injured list, Max Scherzer is slated to make his return Thursday when the Washington Nationals complete a four-game series against the Colorado Rockies.
Rockies hoping Hoffman can give bullpen some relief
Recalled on Sunday from Triple-A Albuquerque to help an overworked bullpen, Jeff Hoffman (1-3, 6.75 ERA) is making his first start for Colorado since June 20 and eighth overall on the season.
The hard-throwing right-hander had mixed results during his month-long stint with the Isotopes, going 3-2 with a 7.00 ERA in five starts after picking up a win in his most recent outing July 17. The good news for Hoffman is he walked only six in 27 innings in that span after issuing 13 in 33 1-3 innings in his seven starts with the Rockies.
Hoffman made his season debut against Washington on April 23, taking the loss at Coors Field after yielding four runs and six hits in five innings of a 6-3 Rockies defeat. That was his second loss in as many starts to the Nationals, with the other coming as a rookie in 2016 in the nation’s capital.
Scherzer looks to pick up where he left off and win eighth straight start
Scherzer (9-5, 2.30) was forced to miss out on the All-Star festivities with what was originally described as a mid-back strain. Further tests, though, revealed the injury as an inflamed bursa below the right shoulder, which prompted a stint on the injured list.
After throwing a full bullpen session Monday, the only debate was whether the right-hander would start this game or Washington’s series opener versus the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday.
Manager Dave Martinez projected Scherzer’s schedule for the rest of the season, and starting this game would put Scherzer in line for all of Washington’s key series against NL East rivals in September as well as a potential wild-card game.
“You know Max,” Martinez told the Nationals’ official website. “He wants to pitch today. He wants to pitch tomorrow. He wants to pitch Friday, Saturday, Sunday. So Thursday’s his day.”
While the Rockies have a potent lineup, rust may prove the bigger obstacle for Scherzer as he makes his first start in 19 days. He ended the first half of the season on an absolute tear, going 7-0 in as many starts with an 0.87 ERA and 79 strikeouts in 52 innings while holding opponents to a .157 batting average.
Scherzer’s spot did not come up in Washington’s series at Colorado, and he is 1-1 with a 5.09 ERS in four starts versus the Rockies since joining the Nationals. The win came last year at home in which he shook off a first-inning homer by Charlie Blackmon to pitch six shutout innings and strike out 11 in a 6-2 Nats victory.
Blackmon is 4 for 13 with two homers against Scherzer, who is 2-4 with a 4.47 ERA in nine career starts versus Colorado.
The Nationals are:
- 12-4 in Scherzer’s last 16 starts vs. NL West teams.
- 7-2 in Scherzer’s last nine home starts vs. sub-.500 teams.
- 7-0 in Scherzer’s last seven starts following a quality start in his previous appearance.
The Rockies are:
- 1-5 in their last six games vs. starters with a sub-1.15 WHIP.
- 0-5 in their last five games vs. right-handed starters.
- 1-5 in their last six road games vs. right-handed starters.
UNDER 5 runs first 5 innings (-115)
A confidence pick in Scherzer as well as the expectation the Nationals will continue their trend of slow offensive starts that has contributed to the five-inning under going a staggering 20-1 in their last 21 contests.
The five-inning under has delivered comfortably in all three games of this series as the teams have combined for three or fewer runs in each game. Additionally, the five-inning under is also 6-2-1 in Scherzer’s last nine starts, with both overs hitting when the number was four.
Nationals -1.5 runs (-150)
There was consideration to using PointsBet.com’s alternate line of -2.5 runs after the Nationals completed the sweep of Wednesday’s day-night doubleheader, but there is a little bit of leeriness about expecting Scherzer to resume being overpowering in his first start in 19 days.
The Nationals are playing well enough they should be able to pick up their staff ace should he run into spots of trouble, which is why there is a good feeling about the standard run line in this instance.
Nationals -0.5 runs first 5 innings (-191)
Despite the sub-par return on this bet, it is the better play compared to being aggressive and seeking out an alternate line of -1.5 runs. While Scherzer has helped the Nationals have a five-inning lead in his last nine starts, the margin has been one run in six of them.
Additionally, this series has been low-scoring in the first five innings, with Washington holding one-run leads in two of the three games. The Nationals are also 7-1-1 at the midway point of their last nine home games, while the Rockies are 1-7-1 in their last nine on the road.
UNDER 9 runs (-115)
Even without Scherzer since the All-Star break, the under has been solidly trending with the Nationals as their rotation picked up the slack and enters this game 16-3 in Washington’s last 19 games.
The under is also 3-0-1 in Scherzer’s last four starts and 4-0-1 in his last five against sub-.500 teams. The under has also delivered the last four times the Nationals ace has started game 4 of a series.
The under has also trended for both Hoffman and the Rockies when it comes to facing NL East opponents, going 5-1 in Hoffman’s last six starts and 4-1-1 in Colorado’s last six contests.
Nationals UNDER 3 runs (-115)
The Nationals starting pitching has been a buzzsaw through the Rockies lineup in this series as Stephen Strasburg, Eric Fedde and Patrick Corbin have combined to hold Colorado to one run and nine hits in 16 innings.
And now comes Scherzer, who will undoubtedly have a lot of extra life on his pitches early after being sidelined nearly three weeks. If his command in the strike zone is on point, this figures to be another long day for Rockies hitters.
UNDER 0.5 runs/NO 1st inning run (Even)
Under lies, damned lies, and statistics: Scherzer’s “worst” ERA in any individual inning is the first at 4.74, but he also has conceded just one first-inning run in his last 11 starts.
Hoffman is more of the X-factor in this pick, but he has been around the team all week ahead of this start as opposed to being dropped in from Albuquerque. He has been reached for runs in two of his seven starts and also kept Washington off the board in the first inning of his April matchup.
The Nationals have also scored in the first inning just once in their 12 games since the All-Star break, so a scoreless first is worth a flyer at even money.