The Washington Nationals will finish a four-game series against the Cincinnati Reds on Sunday afternoon at Great American Ball Park. Cincinnati leads the series 2-1 so far after picking up a dramatic 7-6 win on Saturday night to cash in as a -121 favorite. Washington falls into last place in the NL East at 64-91, while the Reds are all but eliminated from the Wild Card race at 80-75.
This is the final meeting of 2021 between these teams, with Cincinnati now holding a narrow 4-3 advantage in the season series. Cincinnati has not won the season series against Washington since 2015.
Nationals bullpen can't hang on again in another lossAs expected, the Nationals have been one of the worst teams in baseball since selling a large chunk of the roster off at the trade deadline, and a spiraling bullpen faltered in the late innings of another loss on Saturday. Luis Garcia opened the scoring in the top of the first with an RBI double and later homers by Lane Thomas and Keibert Ruiz helped Washington lead 6-5 in the seventh, yet Cincinnati managed to rally in its last at-bat.
Starting pitcher Erick Fedde struggled through 4.2 innings, allowing five earned runs on seven hits and three walks while striking out just one. Patrick Murphy was charged with the loss, allowing one run in his 1.1 innings of work. Juan Soto was on base three times and scored a run as his torrid second half continued.
Few teams have been worse to bet on, as Washington is 71-82 against the spread while being down a huge amount on the money line. Overs are 70-77-6 for the Nationals, with five of their last six games going over the betting total.
Even with the firesale at the trade deadline, Washington has maintained good numbers at the plate with an average of 4.51 runs per game and a 0.757 team OPS, the fifth-best in baseball. Washington's pitching staff has not fared as well with a 4.74 collective ERA to rank in the bottom 10, including a mark of 4.95 from a bullpen that has struggled badly in the second half.
Josh Rogers will get the ball in the series finale as he looks to continue an impressive run since being signed to a minor league deal with a 2-0 record and 2.16 ERA across four starts. The 27-year-old is coming off the best start of his career last Tuesday against the Miami Marlins, allowing one run on five hits and two walks while striking out four across 7.2 stellar innings. Juan Soto has a strong argument as the best hitter in all of baseball right now with a .324/.472/.557 line, 29 homers and 92 RBI.
Outfielder Gerardo Parra is the only Washington position player on the IL as he deals with knee inflammation. It's unclear when star starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg will return due to thoracic outlet syndrome, while Joe Ross is rehabbing a partially torn UCL. Reliever Kyle McGowin is out with a sprained elbow, while Luis Avilan (Tommy John surgery) and Will Harris (thoracic outlet syndrome) are out long-term.
Huge game for Castellanos capped by walk-off homerIt would take an absolute miracle to get into the postseason at this point, but the Reds are still fighting hard and stayed alive for another day thanks to Nick Castellanos' walk-off homer on Saturday night. Eugenio Suarez initially got the Reds on the board with an RBI double in the second, and while Washington led most of the game after that, the Reds tied the score in the seventh on Kyle Farmer's RBI double before Castellanos slugged the walk-off homer to grab the win.
Nick Castellanos, professional hitter‼️ pic.twitter.com/8hh067eLLR— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) September 26, 2021
Rookie starter Vladimir Gutierrez lasted just 2.2 innings, allowing four runs on five hits and four walks while striking out three. The beleaguered Reds bullpen had a strong game, with Mychal Givens earning the win for a perfect ninth inning. Castellanos went 3-3 with a double, a walk, two runs scored, and three RBI.
It has not been a positive gambling season for Cincinnati due to a slide over the past month, as the Reds are 69-85 against the spread while being down on the money line for the year. Overs are 76-71-4 for the Reds, with four of their last six games going over the betting total.
A typically elite Reds offense has slumped down the stretch, bringing its overall numbers to an average of 4.81 runs per game with a 0.754 OPS. Cincinnati's pitching has been below average with a 4.36 collective ERA, including a mark of 4.93 from a bullpen that has been the weak point of the roster all season.
Tyler Mahle will get the ball to close out the series, looking to continue an outstanding season as he's 12-6 with a 3.66 ERA and 198 strikeouts in 169.2 innings. The 26-year-old is coming off a rare rough outing last Tuesday against the Pittsburgh Pirates, as he lasted just 4.1 innings allowing three runs on six hits and three walks while striking out six to take the loss. Joey Votto has paced the prolific Cincinnati offense with an 0.936 OPS, 33 homers and 92 RBI in just 124 games.
The Reds are down a huge bat in the lineup, as outfielder Jesse Winker returned for one game last week only to go directly back on the IL as his strained intercostal muscle isn't healed yet. Second baseman Mike Moustakas is out with plantar fasciitis, while outfielders Tyler Naquin (bruised ribs), Shogo Akiyama (strained hamstring) and Nick Senzel (knee surgery) on the IL. Starting pitcher Wade Miley, who is having a great season, hit the IL last week with a strained neck, while Brandon Bailey will miss the entire season rehabbing Tommy John surgery. Top reliever Tejay Antone also underwent Tommy John surgery.
- 16-35 in its last 51 games overall.
- 14-31 in its last 45 games against a right-handed starter.
- 18-42 in its last 60 games as an underdog.
Trends via Covers.com Cincinnati is:
- 8-3 in its last 11 games against the NL East.
- 28-13 in its last 41 games as a home favorite.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
As poorly as the Reds have played in the second half, Mahle has come up with a number of huge wins to break the team out of a skid and can handle the struggling Nationals. This is the perfect matchup for the Reds offense to finally get back on track, as Washington has the worst pitching staff in baseball by a huge amount since the trade deadline.
Mahle has quietly put up the numbers of a frontline pitcher this season across the board, including a strong 19.3 K-BB% as increasing the use of his split-finger fastball has been a big difference maker compared to previous years. The Washington pitching staff won't be able to keep up with that, as Rogers is posting a 4.53 FIP to make his current results unsustainable while the Nationals bullpen has a 5.65 ERA over the last 30 days.
That has been enough to get the Reds offense going this series following a horrendous slump over the past few weeks, and Cincinnati is still tough to pitch to when at its best with elite hitters like Votto and Castellanos in the middle of the order. Bet Mahle to turn in another strong effort to lead Cincinnati to a win by more than one run this time.
Full-Game Total Pick
Even with so many big names like Trea Turner getting dealt in late July, the Nationals have held steady with a 102 wRC+ as acquisitions like Thomas and Riley Adams have been far better than anyone expected to go along with the force that is Soto. Mahle might be tough, but the Reds have consistently been one of the five worst bullpens throughout the season, particularly after Antone went down.
Cincinnati is still respectable with a 97 wRC+ despite the late struggles, and it has a ton of power hitters that play well at the hitter-friendly confines of Great American Ball Park. Bet on a high-scoring game here, as both teams will generate plenty against two of the worst bullpens in baseball.