The cardiac Atlanta Braves did it again on Friday night, stealing their series opener against the Washington Nationals thanks to a two-run rally in the bottom of the eighth. They’ll look to go for a series win in the rematch on Saturday, with first pitch from Truist Park set for 4:10 p.m. ET. It’ll be a battle of young lefties on the mound, as MacKenzie Gore (3-4, 3.66 ERA) goes for the Nats while rookie Jared Shuster (2-2, 4.99) gets the ball for Atlanta.
The Braves enter as -180 favorites on the moneyline at DraftKings Sportsbook, with Washington checking in at +155. The run total is set at 9.5.
Nationals-Braves picks: Saturday, June 10th
Out: OF Victor Robles (back spasms), C Israel Pineda (left oblique strain)
Out: RP Dylan Lee (left shoulder inflammation), SP Max Fried (left forearm strain)
MacKenzie Gore vs. Jared Shuster
Gore has shown flashes of the skill that made him arguably the top pitching prospect in all of baseball a few years ago, although it hasn’t been consistent enough quite yet. The lefty boasts electric stuff, with whiff rates north of 40% for both his slider and curveball and a K rate in 83rd percentile of the league. He’ll often struggle with his command, though, especially with his fastball, which carries a .304 average and .486 slugging percentage so far this year. When he’s avoiding the heart of the plate, he can be dominant (he’s put up double-digit strikeouts while allowing just one run twice this year), but if he’s not, things can go haywire.
After a rocky start to his rookie year, Shuster is slowly but surely settling in. Atlanta’s top prospect has allowed three or fewer runs while going at least five innings in each of his last four starts, with a dismal 14.6% walk rate being the one thing really holding him back. His slider and changeup both profile as plus offerings, but his mediocre fastball — which sits at just 91 mph — catches too much of the plate too often.
These teams played a pitcher’s duel yesterday, combining for just five runs, but I think we see the bats bust out a bit on Saturday afternoon. These are two of the best offenses in baseball against lefty pitching, ranking first (Atlanta) and seventh (Washington) in team OPS on the season, and both of these starters — and bullpens, for that matter — have shown the ability to cough up crooked numbers this year. The Braves have scored five or more runs in five of their last six, and if they get there again today, this over should hit.
Pick: Over 9.5
The Nats were in position to win the opener last night before the bullpen imploded, and I’m backing the underdogs again today. Gore is simply a better pitcher with far more upside than Shuster, while this righty-heavy Washington lineup has shown that it can feast on southpaws. Silencing these Atlanta bats is a tall order, but Gore has the stuff to do it, and I’m willing to take the risk at plus odds.