ST. LOUIS CARDINALS (91-76)
at WASHINGTON NATIONALS (101-66)
National League Division Series Game 5 - Series tied 2-2
First pitch: Friday, 8:35 p.m. EDT
Line: Washington -130, St. Louis +120, Total: 7
After Jayson Werth tied the series at two games apiece with a walk-off home run on Thursday, the Nationals and Cardinals will play Game 5 of their series on Friday night to see who advances to the NLCS.
Gio Gonzalez takes the mound for Washington amid a potential Cy Young season. In 33 starts he has a 21-8 record, 2.91 ERA and 1.14 WHIP. His numbers are even better at home, where he has a 2.38 ERA and 1.00 WHIP. Overall, Washington tends to dominate St. Louis at home, going 10-3 against them over the past three seasons. And even though the Cardinals dominate lefty starters with a 31-19 (.620) record against them, they have yet to figure out Gonzalez, who is 1-0 (team 2-0) with a 1.29 ERA and 1.14 WHIP in his two career starts against St. Louis, both of which came in the past seven weeks. Both of those starts also came against Adam Wainwright, who takes the hill for the Cardinals on Friday after losing to Gonzalez in Game 1 of this series. He is having a solid season with a 3.88 ERA and 1.26 WHIP, but his ERA jumps to 4.20 on the road where St. Louis is just 6-9 in these 15 away outings. Ultimately, Gonzalez, whose team is 9-2 in his past 11 starts, looks to be too much to stop here. Play on WASHINGTON to advance in front of its home crowd.
This pair of three-star FoxSheets trends also side with the Nationals.
WASHINGTON is 41-16 (71.9%, +26.3 Units) against the money line after a one-run win over the last 2 seasons. The average score was WASHINGTON 4.1, OPPONENT 3.4 - (Rating = 3*).
Play Against - Road underdogs with a money line of +100 or higher (ST. LOUIS) - excellent defensive catchers - allowing <=0.35 SB's/game on the season, after allowing 4 runs or less 6 straight games. (49-14 since 1997.) (77.8%, +30.7 units. Rating = 3*).
St. Louis has been mediocre on the road this season with a 40-44 record away from Busch Stadium, losing 24 of the past 39 road tilts (.385). Although Wainwright has good career numbers against the Nationals (4-3, 3.54 ERA), he has been shelled in his past two trips to the nation's capital, allowing 10 runs, 15 hits and six walks in just 7.2 innings of work. The most recent of those outings came on August 31, when Gonzalez blanked his team in a 10-0 laugher. However, the Cards have scored 21 runs on 30 hits over the past three games of this series, so they are certainly capable of providing some run support. However, the St. Louis bullpen on the road has to be a concern for them. Cardinals relievers are 8-18 with a 4.42 ERA, 1.37 WHIP and 11 blown saves away from home this year. Play against.
Washington is 10-4 when Gonzalez takes the mound in his home ballpark this season, as he has recorded 92 strikeouts in 90.2 innings. The only time he ever faced the Cardinals at Nationals Park was on August 31, when he threw a five-hit shutout, striking out eight batters. He averages 6.5 innings per start at home this season and is supported by a stellar crew of relievers. The Washington bullpen has a 3.30 ERA and 1.24 WHIP this season with a 28-19 record. They have compiled 52 saves on the season, converting on 75% of their opportunities. Washington's relievers were outstanding on Thursday, with three no-hit innings, racking up eight strikeouts in the nine outs. The Nationals offense needs to snap out of its funk though, as they are scoring a pathetic 2.2 runs per game in the NLDS, batting just .215 with a .287 on-base percentage. However, Gonzalez is one of a few pitchers in baseball that can deal with such little run support. Take the Nats here.