The 2019 MLB season already has begun – which you may have missed because the Mariners and A’s played two games in Japan last week. It also saw future first-ballot Hall of Famer Ichiro Suzuki officially retire, perfectly doing so in his home country. The “real” season begins Thursday and here are two intriguing matchups that just happen to both be from the NL East. Check back for MLB odds.
Top MLB Betting Picks of the Week – March 25th
NY Mets at Washington Nationals
- When: Thursday, 1:05 PM ET (MLB Extra Innings)
The Washington Nationals begin life without superstar Bryce Harper (see below) but this team is still loaded with talent and this writer believes might be the team to beat in the National League after adding another terrific starting pitcher this offseason in Patrick Corbin.
This is easily the top pitching matchup of Thursday as 2019 NL Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom opposes three-time winner Max Scherzer of the Nationals. Scherzer had won the past two in the NL and was on track for a third straight last year before deGrom got incredibly hot down the stretch. DeGrom’s season ERA of 1.70 was the sixth-best in baseball since MLB lowered the pitcher’s mound to its current height in 1969. Although deGrom’s 10-9 record was pedestrian, he led the NL in ERA, all major versions of WAR and several other key run-prevention categories. He finished second to Scherzer in strikeouts and innings, pulling away from his rival by going 5-3 with a 1.49 ERA in August and September.
DeGrom will carry into the game active streaks of 24 consecutive quality starts (MLB record) and 29 straight starts of three runs or fewer. It’s the first Opening Day start of his career. Scherzer earns his fourth Opening Day assignment in five seasons in D.C.
The New York Mets made a handful of moves this offseason, including landing Jed Lowrie, who was projected to start at third but also play some short and second. However, Lowrie (knee) and No. 2 third baseman Todd Frazier (oblique) both will likely start the year on the IL and probably don’t play in the majors until mid April.
This could also be the Mets debut of new closer Edwin Diaz, who was basically unhittable last year with Seattle. He came over in the Robinson Cano trade. Armed with a high-90s fastball and a filthy hard slider, the closer struck out 124 batters in 73⅓ innings on his way to a 57-save 2018. Cano posted a .303/.374/.471 slash line during a 2018 season cut in half by an 80-game suspension for a violation of MLB’s performance-enhancing drugs policy. He batted .317 in 41 games after returning from the suspension. He’ll start at second.
Atlanta Braves at Philadelphia Phillies
- When: Thursday, 3:05 PM ET (MLB Extra Innings)
It’s the Philadelphia Phillies debut of Bryce Harper, who for a short while there was the highest-paid player in baseball history but has since been blown past by Angels star Mike Trout. Harper, who got a 13-year, $330 million deal to leave Washington, already had started recruiting Trout to join his hometown Phillies after the 2020 season when Trout was a free agent. Well, that’s no longer the case.
Harper has hit .279 with 184 home runs, 521 RBIs and a .900 OPS over his seven-year career with the Nationals. He won the 2012 NL Rookie of the Year Award, then the NL Most Valuable Player Award unanimously in 2015. Harper absolutely rakes at Philly’s Citizens Bank Park in his career.
He wasn’t the only big addition for the Phillies. They acquired catcher J.T. Realmuto, outfielder Andrew McCutchen, shortstop Jean Segura and closer David Robertson, making them the betting favorites in a very good National League East – which the Braves won last year. The 2019 Phillies will be the first team in big league history to start the season with three new position players (Harper, Realmuto, Segura) who were all All-Stars the previous season.
Philadelphia will start young ace Aaron Nola, who got a nice extension in the offseason. Nola hopes to build upon a brilliant 2018 when he finished third for the National League Cy Young Award. He gets his second consecutive Opening Day start. The last Phillies pitcher to have more than two? Roy Halladay from 2010-12.
It’s Julio Teheran for the Atlanta Braves. Teheran will join Warren Spahn as the only Braves pitchers to make at least six consecutive Opening Day starts. The right-hander has posted a 2.73 ERA in his previous five season openers. Teheran was the logical choice with All-Star Mike Foltynewicz (elbow) set to begin the season on the injured list. Teheran has been pitching exclusively from the stretch during spring training. It’s the first time he’s done so in his career as he attempts to simplify his mechanics in hopes of improving his command.
Expert MLB Betting Picks
Take Washington and Philadelphia – both games low scoring.