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Nationals Overtake Phillies in NL East Division Title Odds, Closing Gap on Braves

Max Scherzer throws a pitch.
Max Scherzer's performance has sparked the Washington Nationals as they've shot up the standings. Photo by Arturo Pardavilla (flickr) [CC License].
  • The Washington Nationals have won 28 of their last 39 games
  • Max Scherzer was 6-0 in the month of June with a 1.00 ERA and 0.667 WHIP
  • The Nationals bullpen and batting lineup have played well following a sluggish start to the season

The Washington Nationals have won 10 of their last 12 games and have shot up the standings in the National League East. Their NL East odds have also shot up from +900 just two weeks ago to +670 now. Are the Nats a true contender and worth the investment, or are there better bets to win the division right now?

2019 National League East Odds

Team 2019 NL East Odds at Bovada
Atlanta Braves -700
Washington Nationals +650
Philadelphia Phillies +900
New York Mets +15000
Miami Marlins +200000

*Odds taken 07/08/19

Nationals Are Heating Up

Although they were a question mark, some people thought the Nationals would be a contender in the NL East and now they’re finally coming around. They’ve won 10 of 12 and sit at 47-42 heading into the All-Star Game. They’re six games out of first place in the division, but they’re currently slotted in one of the two Wild Card spots.

Looking further back, though, this team has really turned this around. They were 19-31 at one point but are now 28-11 in their last 39 games. That’s among the best records in baseball during that span. If they keep this up, they’ll not only be a playoff team but one heck of a tough out in the postseason.

Starting Pitching Has Been Incredible

The Nationals have some weak spots on the roster, but there’s no question that their starting rotation is as good as any in the majors. Max Scherzer and his 5.5 WAR – one win better than anyone else – suggest that he’s en route to another Cy Young award this season. But even by his standards, he’s coming off an incredible month of June.

Scherzer went 6-0 in June while giving up just five earned runs in 45 innings of work.

Scherzer went 6-0 in the month while giving up just five earned runs in 45 innings of work (1.00 ERA). He struck out 68 batters and walked just five. His .667 WHIP tied St. Louis Cardinals’ legend Bob Gibson for the best one-month mark for any pitcher who has started six games.

But it goes beyond Scherzer as Stephen Strasburg is in the midst of a stellar season, Patrick Corbin has pitched well, and Anibal Sanchez has been very reliable. Who has a better starting-four than the Nationals?

Nats Still Have Plenty of Weaknesses

The Nationals bullpen has been a major weak spot this season as their 6.08 ERA is the second-worst in the Majors. However, much of that poor performance was early in the season as they’ve gotten it together. Over the last 30 days, they’re at 4.79, which isn’t great, but it ranks 15th in the Majors and is a huge improvement.

Offense has also been an issue for the Nats as they’re 15th in runs scored and 14th in OPS. However, those numbers have also shot up as they were ninth in runs scored in June and 10th in OPS. This team is playing well right now and simply can’t be ignored.

What’s the Best Bet?

Had the Nats been on a small hot streak, I’d probably forget about it. However, this team has won 28 of their last 39 games, has a stellar starting rotation, has improved in the bullpen and have gotten their bats going. They could be sellers at the trade deadline but when you look at that lethal rotation, they might only be a few pieces away from contending.

The next month will tell the story for the Nats. If they continue to win 70% of their games, management will look for some bullpen arms to shore things up and make a run. If they revert back to their early ways, this team could be stripped for parts.

I would take a small flier on them to win the division and win the World Series. They have question marks on the roster but few teams – if any – have the quality and depth in rotation that the Nats have. I like them to make a run.

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