Aug. 28 MLB Preview — Baltimore Orioles (44-88) at Washington Nationals (73-58)

(Juan Soto photo courtesy Brad Mills/USA TODAY Sports)

This is the full preview(s) as seen on the Winners and Whiners and Stat Salt websites. The confidence rating for all picks on a scale from 1 to 5 is in parentheses.

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: Wednesday, Aug. 28, Nationals Park, Washington D.C., 7:05 p.m. EDT.

Everything went according to plan in Max Scherzer‘s return to the rotation. Now he looks to go about winning Wednesday night when the Washington Nationals conclude their Beltway Series with the Baltimore Orioles.

Wojciechowski tries to avoid winless August for O’s

Asher Wojceichowski (2-6, 4.67 ERA) has typified the dog days of August for the team with the worst record in the majors, going 0-3 with a 6.00 ERA in five starts while opponents have taken him deep nine times in 24 innings.

Wojciechowski did well to limit the damage in his last start against Tampa Bay on Thursday, giving up a pair of solo homers and two other hits along with three walks. The right-hander was not around for the decision as the Orioles dropped a 5-2 decision.

“I’m a broken record when it comes to our homers given up,” O’s manager Brandon Hyde told the team’s official website after his pitchers set a dubious single-season mark for homer allowed with a month still to play. “I don’t know what to say, except that we have a lot of work to do with our pitches.”

Wojciechowski is looking to avoid a second loss to the Nationals this season after being reached for three runs and six hits over 5 1-3 innings of an 8-1 defeat July 16 in which he served up a pair of gopher balls.

All systems go for Scherzer after effective return

There are very few times Scherzer (9-5, 2.41) will leave a game while being effective, yet the Nationals were taking no chances with their staff ace in his first game back after missing a month with a strained rhomboid muscle.

Scherzer and manager Dave Martinez stuck to their plan of the right-hander throwing approximately 70 pitches, with the target reached in four innings while conceding a solo homer and striking out three as Washington recorded a 7-1 victory at Pittsburgh on Thursday. The three-time Cy Young Award winner, though, realizes that the outing was just the first step of many to getting all the way back to his dominant form.

“I just know I got to continue in the program,” Scherzer told the club’s official website Friday after his customary catch session the day after his starts. “I’m not out of the woods. I’ve got to still take care of this, got to do all the treatment, got to do all the strengthening, really focus on that so I can build up the intensity in the game. This is the endurance injury on my back, so we’ve got to treat it as such.

“There’s a fine line, but I completely understand where that line is at,” he added. “I can’t get hurt again, but like I said, I know … I understand more about this injury more than ever, and right now I can go out there and pitch in a controlled manner and not just try to rear back and throw as hard as I can in certain situations.”

With that concession, Scherzer is likely to max out around 90 pitches, which would put him around the six-inning mark given his average of 15.8 per inning. He also has been dominant in winning his two interleague starts, stifling AL Central lightweights Detroit and Kansas City on one run and eight hits in 15 innings while striking out 25.

Scherzer is 6-2 with a 2.85 ERA in 12 career starts versus the Orioles, including a 3-1 mark and 1.94 ERA in six starts since joining Washington in 2015. He has held Baltimore to a .147 batting average and struck out 61 in 46 1-3 innings.

Notable Trends

The Nationals are:

  • 8-1 in Scherzer’s last nine starts.
  • 5-0 in Scherzer’s last five starts on five days of rest.
  • 11-2 in their last 13 Wednesday games.

The Orioles are:

  • 1-4 in Wojciechowski’s last five starts.
  • 5-16 in their last 21 interleague games vs. above-.500 teams.
  • 13-41 in their last 54 games vs. starters with a sub-1.15 WHIP.

*****5-Star Pick*****

Nationals -1.5 runs (-196)

There is the possibility of exploring an alternate line for this pick, but at the same time, knowing Scherzer will be maxing out at six innings makes it difficult to go beyond the standard run line. And every time you think a staff ace is a sure thing at -400 and higher, occasionally something happens like Justin Verlander and the Tigers.

Washington will be eager to bounce back after Tuesday’s surprising loss and be aggressive early against Wojciechowski, but the back end after Scherzer exits this game makes the standard run line a safe play.

****4-Star Pick****

Nationals -1.5 runs first 5 innings (-125)

An equal-parts confidence pick in Scherzer being sharper in his second outing as well as the Nationals teeing off on Wojciechowski to cover this alternate line courtesy Washington led by two or more runs in the first five innings in five of its previous eight games before Tuesday night’s loss, and the expectation is they will get back to their offensive ways to back their staff ace.

***3-Star Picks***

UNDER 9 runs (-121)

The under improved to 7-1 in Baltimore’s last eight games and 5-0-2 in its last seven versus NL opponents with winning records. It also moved to 6-1-1 in the Orioles’ last eight when facing NL East teams and is currently on a five-game run in this series.

Scherzer has helped deliver the under in this rivalry with a 6-1-1 mark in the last eight times he has taken the ball versus Baltimore, and he has helped the under dominate his interleague outings. The under is 14-2-1 in his last 17 such starts and 9-1-1 in the last 11 against AL East rivals.

Nationals OVER 5.5 runs (-125)

This is a thread-the-needle pick with taking the under for the game, but Wojciechowski has an alarming home run ratio of 2.73 allowed per nine innings at home, and with the Nationals coming off a shutout, the expectation is they will be aggressive at the plate early. Opponents have scored six or more runs against Baltimore in his seven starts at Camden Yards, and the Nationals have not been held under six runs in back-to-back games since Aug. 6-7.

Pick OVER 4.5 runs first 5 innings (-125)

Another confidence pick in the Nationals offense given their pitchers have yielded two or fewer runs in the first five innings of the last eight games. Baltimore had also yielded three or more runs in the first five frames in 10 of its last 13 against above-.500 teams prior to Aaron Brooks stifling Washington on Tuesday night.

Nationals OVER 1.5 runs first 3 innings (-121)

A combination of expected aggressive hitting an Wojciechowski’s home run tendencies make the over the play. The Orioles right-hander has served up nine of his 14 gopher balls in the first three innings over his 10 starts, and the Nationals have pushed across at least two runs in seven of their last 10 contests.

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