Network Notebook: Nationals/Dodgers Series Preview

TWO CURRENT NL FAVORITES SQUARE OFF WHEN NATIONALS VISIT DODGERS

With all due respect to Chicago Cubs fans, the two clear favorites right now to win the National League pennant are the Washington Nationals and the Los Angeles Dodgers.

There's still plenty of time for the Cubs to right their ship and start playing championship caliber ball again. About a third of the way through the season, the Nats and Dodgers are already playing championship caliber ball. Plus, Washington's in such a horrible division that they can coast the rest of the summer and enter the postseason rarin' to go. The Dodgers may have a tougher battle in the surprisingly competitive NL West. But...their "peripherals" are so strong that the market keeps pricing them like a 100-win team.

So, this three-game series between Washington and LAD isn't just a potential playoff preview...but a potential NLCS preview. And, the baseball gods have blessed us with some playoff caliber pitching matchups! Let's run through JIM HURLEY'S key indicator stats to outline expectations for this showcase series.

TEAM QUALITY
Washington: +70 runs, while playing 25 home games and 30 road games
LA Dodgers: +84 runs, while playing 29 home games and 29 road games

Fairly close to even in run differential once you account for the home/road splits. Washington would very likely improve with those five extra home game games. The Dodgers give you a clean read since they're split evenly. Clearly two elite teams. The betting markets aren't wrong to respect these guys so much. The only time fans of these teams can get affordable prices is when they're playing other great teams!

TEAM OFFENSE
Washington: 5.7 runs-per-game, .347 on-base, .478 slugging
LA Dodgers: 4.9 runs-per-game, .337 on-base, .423 slugging

We've talked in prior previews about how the Dodgers quality offense can go unnoticed because they play home games in a park that is friendly to pitchers. But, head-to-head with the Nats, the Dodgers look like a bunch of slap hitters! Those are fantastic offensive numbers for the visitors. Yes, each roster has some elite pitchers. But, these teams are expected to dominate their league in the second half of the season because they have a combination of arms AND big bats. Edge to Washington this time around. The Dodgers will have an edge over most other NL teams in on-base percentage and slugging.

Here are the probable starting pitching matchups. Note that the Dodgers have the superior bullpen by a good bit (the Nats almost blew a huge ninth-inning lead Sunday in Oakland!). Maybe the LA ace will get some rare save opportunities in this series.

MONDAY
Gonzalez: 3.03 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 6.9 K's per 9 innings
Ryu: 3.91 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 8.2 K's per 9 innings

Ryu is regressing back toward acceptable numbers after a shaky start. Note how Ryu would be expected to have the better season going forward based on the similar WHIP and higher K-rate. Bottom line here is that both pitchers are likely to be fairly similar in the opener...because WHIP provides a more consistent read than ERA. Nice appetizer for the big-name pitchers coming later in the meal.

TUESDAY
Scherzer: 2.56 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 11.6 K's per 9 innings
McCarthy: 3.38 ERA, 1.16WHIP, 8.4 K's per 9 innings

Big edges here for Scherzer, though McCarthy is certainly pitching very well for his spot in the rotation. The Nationals MUST get great stuff from Scherzer to reach the World Series (a mere playoff berth is already almost a shoe-in). Whatever McCarthy does for the Dodgers is gravy because other pitchers are carrying bigger loads. Edge to Scherzer, which will probably make him a cheap favorite Tuesday night. If McCarthy can hold his own through 6-7 innings, the edge flips to the Dodgers with the better bullpen.

WEDNESDAY
Strasburg: 2.91 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 9.8 K's per 9 innings
Kershaw: 2.28 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 10 K's per 9 innings

This is what everyone was hoping for. A dream showdown of star pitchers. Strasburg is always tough to hit when he's healthy. Kershaw is the single most dynamic pitcher in the sport right now. Amazing that Strasburg can have such great numbers and still not match Kershaw! Edge to the hosts. It will be interesting to see how low oddsmakers go with the Over/Under here. Remember, these are great OFFENSES on the field taking their cuts against superstar pitchers. If you only watch one baseball game this regular season, this might be the one to watch!

JIM HURLEY is likely to have at least one selection in this series. But, he doesn't limit himself to just the games the mainstream media is salivating over. We know you're expecting BIG, JUICY WINNERS! The exclusive TEAM HANDICAPPING approach of NETWORK will go up and down the card to find you winning edges.

You can purchase NETWORK'S BEST BETS right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453 during normal business hours. Be sure to ask about combination packages that include the current NBA Finals (Game 3 goes Wednesday!), and this Saturday's Belmont Stakes. If you're not yet a horse racing bettor, you might be surprised to find out that JIM HURLEY has more horse racing clients than most places have sports clients!

Whatever the sport...whatever the betting challenge, you're going to GET THE MONEY with JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK! Back with you tomorrow to preview Game 3 of Warriors/Cavs!

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