Home run (Safe bet)
Look for the Washington Nationals (1.53) to win at home versus the Cincinnati Reds.
There are no really easy calls on this Monday slate, but the Nationals enjoy distinct advantages in this game.
Reds starter Mike Leake has been his typically solid self so far this year, posting a 3.09 ERA through nine starts. But his lifetime work against Nationals hitters is not great. In 101 plate appearances, Washington batters have a robust .350 on base percentage and an excellent .489 slugging percentage. Surprisingly, Leake’s pitching opposition, Stephen Strasburg hasn’t been as strong overall in 2014 (3.48 ERA in nine appearances). That said, much of that inflated ERA is a reflection of some struggles early on. In his past four starts he’s posted a 1.65 ERA.
Another big factor here is that the Reds’ Joey Votto is sidelined with a leg problem and Jay Bruce is also out. Votto’s lose is particularly devastating One player cannot normally dictate the success of a lineup, but Votto is truly the fulcrum on which this team’s offensive fortune rests.
Squeeze play (Gutsiest call)
Expect the Milwaukee Brewers at the Atlanta Braves to score fewer than 7 total runs; take it at 1.81
A number of reasons make a low-scoring game likely here. The first is the venue. Turner Field ranks twenty-second out of thirty teams in terms of run production this year, according to ESPN’s MLB Park Factors. So even in an average situation, it’s not a place that’s yielding big scores.
Then there are the pitchers going in this game. The Brewers’ Wily Peralta has been an absolute ace this season. In eight starts he’s delivered a 2.05 ERA and has been extremely consistent. With the exception of his first outing, he’s thrown a quality start (six innings or more pitched; three runs or less allowed) every time out. The Braves’ Mike Minor is a bit more of a wild card. This will only be his third start after his season was delayed due to injury. His overall ERA of 4.24 suggests uncertainty, but he’s a very good pitcher (in 32 starts in 2013 he delivered a 3.21 ERA), and he’s coming off 6 2/3 innings of scoreless pitching against a good-hitting San Francisco Giants team in his last outing.
Finally, neither of these lineups have been offensive juggernauts. The Braves rank fourteenth out of fifteen National League teams in runs scored per game and the Brewers, who have key hitter Aramis Ramirez on the disabled list as well as nagging injuries to Carlos Gomez and Ryan Braun, are ranked tenth.