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Nationals vs. Braves Betting Preview (Wednesday, September 21)

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Nationals vs. Braves Odds

Nationals Odds +215
Braves Odds +260
Over/Under 9
Time 12:20 pm ET
TV MLB.TV
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute MLB odds here.

Josiah Gray and the Washington Nationals match up with Bryce Elder and the Atlanta Braves on the road on Wednesday.

Gray has had an underwhelming season, but he’s still only 24-years-old. He has limited hard contact, even while throwing 94 MPH with his fastball on average, because he does a nice job of mixing in sliders and curves over half the time. However, his Walk Rate has eclipsed 10% in the last two seasons. Even with a 5.14 ERA and 4.27 xERA (showing he has been unlucky overall), his second-half 1.61 WHIP tells a greater story: He will almost always allow baserunners.

Elder has only thrown in seven MLB games this season as a spot starter. He has struck out 16 batters in his last two starts but has struggled with control as he has walked at least two batters in most of his starts at the big-league level.

Neither bullpen is particularly dazzling, and the Nationals are far worse overall. That said, both teams have a 110+ wRC+ off of right-handers in the last month.

With raw pitchers on the hill, even if they have the talent to eventually excel, take the over on behalf of two solid offenses.

Will Gray and the Nationals Avoid Barrels?

Digging into it a bit more, Gray is kind of a pariah for one who ranks in the 77th percentile in Average Exit Velocity. Yes, he is unlucky almost every start, and he issues free passes, but some of this damage has come from weaker teams, like the Chicago Cubs and Miami Marlins. For one, teams barrel him up pretty well, especially with men on base. In that metric, he ranks in the fourth percentile, so teams boast some timely hitting when he takes the bump.

The Braves tout a 114 wRC+ off of righties since August 21. They also have a .455 SLG as a team, while Gray ranks in the 21St percentile in xSLG. They also have plenty of injuries. Ozzie Albies, Adam Duvall, Ehire Adrianza, Manny Piña, and Chadwick Tromp are on the IL. They still have six bats over a .330 xwOBA, so the top of the order will find a way on base with Gray pitching.

However, the Nats also have a brutal bullpen. They have four-to-five solid arms, but overall their 4.27 ERA and 24th-ranked xFIP in the last month is telling. Look for the Braves to squeak across a few runs late.


The Braves Have an Edge Over Gray

Elder has a bright future as one of the Braves’ top prospects, but it might not show in this game. For one, his 3.67 ERA in those starts does not tell the whole story. He has a 5.19 xERA, issues a ton of walks (as mentioned above), and has a Hard-Hit Rate over 40%.

The Nationals rank right around the Braves in hitting righties lately. In the same timeframe, they have a 116 wRC+ and .447 SLG. Yadiel Hernandez is on the IL, but the rest of the team is healthy as they have five batters with a .325+ xwOBA. The rest of the lineup is mostly above .300, so this means they can string together consecutive baserunners. This should not be hard against a pitcher who walks hitters consistently like Gray.

The Braves do have a better bullpen, but Elder has had trouble at times going more than five innings. With a good hitting team against him, it may be harder. They have four arms under a 4.00 xFIP with Luke Jackson injured and Kenley Jansen not performing well. The Nats will find a way to score late.

Nationals-Braves Pick

Overall, this looks like a high-octane baseball game. Neither starter has worked out the kinks on the hill, despite both having good repertoires. Gray and Elder will both allow runs, as will the bullpens. Considering how well both offenses have done off of righties lately, the over is in play. Take the total at Over 9 +100 on FanDuel with value to Over 10 at -110.

pick: Over 9 +100 (FanDuel) | Play to Over 10 (-110)

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