The San Francisco Giants will welcome the Washington Nationals into Oracle Park on Friday at 9:45 p.m. ET for the first of a three-game duel. MLB odds have the Giants at -149 with the Nats at +134. The runs total has been set at 8 1/2.
The Giants have shocked pundits and fans alike by climbing into sole possession of the best record in baseball, while the Nationals have started to fulfill the potential that they possess.
The Giants enter with a 54-32 record. They do not have the most incredible roster but have played consistently and soundly. They have solidified themselves as contenders just ahead of the All-Star break.
San Francisco can get it done across the board on the mound; the Giants have the second-best earned run average, allowed the lowest batting average, claimed the most saves, and relinquished the fourth-fewest home runs in the MLB.
Their offense has not been too far off of their defense, either; the Giants will be represented by Buster Posey (starter) and Brandon Crawford (reserve) in the All-Star Game, both of whom have been major contributors to their top-10 marks in runs, home runs, and batting average, and on-base and slugging percentages. Posey has hit .328 with 12 homers in 58 games, while Crawford leads the team with 17 shots and 55 RBIs, all while maintaining a .275 standard at the plate.
San Francisco will put Logan Webb, who rounds out their five-person rotation, on the mound for game one; Webb has gone 4-3 with a 3.86 ERA in 2021.
The Washington Nationals’ are currently third in the National League East at 42-44, 4.5 games behind the first-place New York Mets.
A significant catalyst in the Nats’ resurgence was Kyle Schwarber, who hit a ridiculous 16 home runs in 18 games to close out the June schedule; however, he was lost to an injured hamstring last Friday and has not appeared since.
Schwarber will not be able to make his first All-Star appearance after being voted in as a reserve, but teammates Trea Turner and Juan Soto will. Soto will also take on the Home Run Derby, starting with a first-round matchup against Shohei Ohtani.
The trio of Schwarber, Soto, and Turner has accounted for 51 homers and 132 RBIs, though the team as a whole is still in the bottom half in each of these categories. The redeeming quality of Washington’s offense is their ability to get runners in scoring positions, currently boasting the sixth-best batting average and seventh-best on-base percentage.
Washington’s bullpen is almost exclusively in the middle across every major pitching category, whether that be ERA, saves, or total scoring. Typically, great teams are separated from the pack by their ability on the mound, and the Nats must begin to separate from the pack to have a real shot at making noise in the postseason.
Fortunately, they will have one of their better pitchers, Paolo Espino, in the starting lineup. The 34-year-old has gone 2-2 with a 2.48 ERA and has only allowed five runs in his last seven appearances, spanning 21.2 innings.
The Giants and Nationals split their four-game series in Washington earlier this season, only notching 11 total runs in the process.
San Francisco has demonstrated an ability to pull games out through its offense or their defense, depending on the night. At the same time, the Nationals are more reliant on getting their bats hot and using momentum to rack up the runs. Washington has allowed the 11th-most home runs in baseball, while the Giants have left the park more times than any team not named the Toronto Blue Jays. This is a situation to monitor and could prove decisive in the series.
The Giants will have a decided advantage in the pitching department, closing out the series with Anthony DeSclafani (9-3, 2.84 ERA) and Kevin Gausman (8-3, 1.74 ERA), both of whom have performed much better than their opposition has.
Because both teams have been playing well, bet on this series to come down to Sunday’s rubber match, and the Giants to come out on top behind a shutout from All-Star starter Kevin Gausman.
Washington has survived on beating teams that they should and losing to superior teams, and this will hold true in the final series before the break.