Major sports in the US return this week and the festivities will be kicked off by the New York Yankees and the defending World Series champion Washington Nationals. Given the appetite for sports’ return, Thursday night’s main event between the high-profile Yankees and the defending champs could be one of the most-wagered on regular season baseball games in history. Here are the odds and a betting preview of Thursday night’s showdown.
Yankees at Nationals – Thursday, July 23
Yankees starter: Gerrit Cole (2019: 20-5, 2.50 ERA)
Nationals starter: Max Scherzer (2019: 11-7, 2.92 ERA)
A significantly shortened 2020 regular season set to be played under a constant health threat nevertheless deserves a spectacular opening. A Cole-Scherzer face-off as part of a matchup that includes a 103-win team from last season and the defending World Series champs undoubtedly fits the bill.
Cole was the jewel of this past winter’s free agent class on the pitching side of the equation. The veteran right-hander arrives in the Big Apple fresh off his first 20-win season. Cole has been a strong road performer over the last three seasons as well, posting a 24-13 record, 3.14 ERA and 1.13 WHIP when traveling. He last faced the Nationals in 2017 while with the Pirates, going 1-1 with a 2.92 ERA in two starts.
Scherzer was limited to his fewest starts (27) since his rookie 2008 campaign last season due to a back injury. However, the ace right-hander was about as dominant as ever when healthy, even posting a career-best 12.6 K/9 and recording the highest average fastball velocity (94.9 mph) of his storied MLB tenure. Scherzer put a bow on the Nationals’ memorable 2019 run with three postseason wins, including one in Game 1 of the World Series versus the Astros.
The 1-to-9 comparison between the two clubs isn’t as close as that of the two starting pitchers, but this isn’t a mismatch by any stretch.
The Yankees were arguably one of the biggest beneficiaries of baseball’s three-month-plus shutdown. The layoff allowed the nagging injuries of Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge to heal. Both will be available on Day 1.
The remaining talent that surrounds them – Gleyber Torres, Gio Urshela, Gary Sanchez and DJ LeMahieu, among others – makes the Bronx Bombers one of baseball’s most feared teams yet again. LeMahieu is likely to play on Thursday despite having tested positive for COVID-19 several weeks back.
It’s also worth noting the Yanks were one of the best-hitting road squads in 2019, even with key pieces missing time. New York produced a .271/.342/.504 team slash when traveling, scoring a MLB-high 503 road runs as well.
The Nationals did lose Anthony Rendon in free agency, which is the main reason their lineup now falls a tier below that of the visiting Yankees. However, Trea Turner, Victor Robles, Adam Eaton, Howie Kendrick and Juan Soto make for a diversified and highly talented core that will prove capable of dominating plenty of games when hot.
Editors Note: Nationals outfielder Juan Soto tested positive for COVID-19 and will miss Thursday’s opener. Soto will be replaced in left field by Andrew Stevenson.
Washington also appeared to shop prudently this offseason with the signings of Starlin Castro and Eric Thames. The pair of veteran sluggers recorded a combined 47 home runs last season in Miami and Milwaukee, respectively. Collectively, they could certainly help make up for the subtraction of Rendon’s powerful bat.
Yankees -1.5 (-103)/ Nationals +1.5 (-117) at DraftKings Sportsbook
Breakdown: The Yankees were 46-37 (55.4 percent) against the run line on the road last season. They were 13-7 (65.0 percent) versus the number in interleague matchups.
The Nationals were 46-43 (51.7 percent) against the line at home and 17-10 (63.0 percent) versus the number in interleague matchups.
New York was second in run differential to only co-MLB-leaders Los Angeles and Houston, checking in with a +1.3 figure per game. Washington was fifth overall with a run differential of +0.9 runs per game.
Over 7.5 runs (-112)/ Under 7.5 runs (-109) at DraftKings Sportsbook
Breakdown: The Over was 48-31-4 (MLB-high 60.8 percent) in the Yankees’ road games last season. The Over was 9-10-1 (47.4 percent) in New York’s interleague games.
The Over was 45-38-6 (54.2 percent) in the Nationals’ home games last season and 15-11-1 (57.7 percent) in Washington’s interleague games.
Yankees -167/ Nationals +145 at DraftKings Sportsbook
The Yankees notched 103 regular season victories in 2019. They posted a 46-35 mark on the road. New York was 70-41 versus right-handed starting pitchers and 12-8 in interleague games.
The Nationals recorded 93 regular season wins last season. They managed a 50-31 home record. Washington was 69-52 against right-handed starting pitchers and 14-6 in interleague games.