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NLCS Game 1

Washington Nationals at St. Louis Cardinals

Over/Under: 7.5

First pitch: 5:08 p.m. PT


Probable pitchers: Anibal Sanchez (11-8, 3.85 ERA) vs. Miles Mikolas (9-14, 4.16 ERA)

Really? A total of 7.5 for this? I see it has gone to 8 at some places and that’s to be expected. This matchup, for instance, shouldn’t be a full run lower than this past Sunday’s battle featuring Mike Soroka opposite Adam Wainwright in the National League Division Series (and also at Busch Stadium), which had an over/under of 8.5.

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But we’ll take it, with there being a pretty decent ceiling here for some activity on the scoreboard. Both offenses are rolling and at least one of the two starters may be prone to an off outing this evening.

There’s Sanchez, who actually enjoyed a pretty fine year in his first campaign with the Nationals, going 11-8 with a respectable 3.85 ERA. However, his 4.44 FIP tells us he wasn’t as good as that line.

First, arguably the main thing about Sanchez in enabling him to succeed in 2019 is that, according to Fangraphs, he was drawing a higher swinging percentage from batters on pitches outside the strike zone (34.4 percent) than any other season during his 14-year career. But the team whom he’ll be facing doesn’t give into such tendencies, striking out less as a team than most.

Sanchez logged just 7.27 K/9 as it is, his lowest rate in 10 years. A lot of that can be contributed to the veteran right-hander’s average fastball velocity (90.7 mph) being at its lowest — lifetime. With Sanchez also registering his lowest percentage of pitches thrown inside the strike zone (39.7 percent) in his time in the big leagues, it seems to add up to a favorable night for Cardinal hitters.

Let’s also not forget that a potential early exit by Sanchez keys an early entry in that suspect Washington bullpen.

On the other end of the equation, Mikolas gets the ball for St. Louis in Game 1, and even as much as I’ve professed my fondness of the 31-year-old throughout his career, I don’t envision him putting together one of his better showings.

Like his counterpart, Mikolas finished with a not-ideal strikeout rate (7.04 K/9) this year. That’s also been on display in his meetings with the Nats since returning to the majors last year, stringing together only 14 punch-outs across 25.2 innings. Of note, Mikolas has only recorded a pair of K’s in six postseason frames thus far.

Perhaps even bigger than the St. Louis right-hander is the fact that the Nationals offense comes into this series hot. They plated at least four runs in each of the final four games of their NLDS showdown with the Los Angeles Dodgers and obviously, that required hitting some quality pitching. Play: OVER 7.5 (-120)

Yesterday’s Result: Rays-Astros Under 7 (Push)

2019 MLB Over/Under Betting Record*

Regular Season: 89-78-12, +1.05 units

Playoffs: 7-2-1, +2.5 units

*Each bet graded as if it were to win 1 unit (playoffs 0.5 unit)

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