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Adam Trigger

Adam Trigger

(903) Pittsburgh Pirates at (904) Washington Nationals

(903) Pittsburgh Pirates at (904) Washington Nationals
April 1, 2024 4PM EDT
Play Rating:
4% – Washington Nationals -115 M Gonzales (LHP), M Gore (LHP) Must Start

Nationals (4:05PM ET MASN, SNPT, MLB.TV) – Played MLB sparingly over the weekend and went 1-1 with the loss being -105 so we are chasing just a fraction of a unit entering play on Monday.  I’ll be far more aggressive on the bases (MLB, KBO and AAA) going forward and I’ll kick off the new week with a Monday matinee when the Washington Nationals kick off a three-game set with the Pittsburgh Pirates in their home opener at Nationals Park in Washington D.C.

This is more of a play on MacKenzie Gore, a guy I have as a “bet on” pitcher this season, than it is a fade of Pittsburgh but I will be surprised if the Pirates win today to start the season 5-0 for the first time in over four decades.  The Pirates pulled off a four game sweep in Miami over the weekend but, while extremely impressive, it’s still a Marlins team that’s projected to be a sub-.500 team this season.  It also wasn’t without some good fortune, two of those games went to extra innings which has been a crap shoot ever since MLB introduced playground rules and started putting ghost runners out there so that 4-0 could have easily been 2-2 without some luck.  Washington ended up on the other end of that luck spectrum, the Nationals were three outs away from opening 2024 with a road series win over a very good Reds team when Will Benson and Christian Encarnacion-Strand hit back to back home runs to turn a 5-3 2 out bottom of the 9th deficit into a 6-5 walk off win.  I’m not going to go as far as to say the Nationals are the better of these two teams but I certainly have them as equals to the Pirates despite how the first weekend played out.  With the pitching matchup and the fact the Nationals are the home team I give Washington a sizeable advantage here.

I was “all-in” on MacKenzie Gore being a breakout guy last season and he scuffled to a season very similar to 2022 with a 4.42 ERA and 1.40 WHIP in 136.1 innings pitched.  I’m willing to run it back on Gore this season, he’s a former 1st rounder (3rd overall pick in 2017) and just 25 years old so I’m banking on him making the adjustments and polishing up his secondary pitches to be a front end starter in 2024.  That’s what the Nationals expected to get in return for Juan Soto as Gore was one of the main pieces in that trade so I’m certainly not the only one that sees the potential upside with Gore.  I think the books would have priced him as such here but couldn’t because the betting public has been riding the Pirates all weekend and will likely take some Pirates plus money in a day game here.  Kyle Finnegan choked the game away for the Nationals yesterday but I’m good with that as I’d rather have Hunter Harvey or a veteran like Dylan Floro closing the game.  I think a solid effort from Gore sets the Nationals up nicely for a win here.

Making this bet equally appealing is the fact we get to play against Marco Gonzales who gets the ball for the Pirates here.  I’ve had Gonzales on my “fade” list for a couple of seasons now, ever since his strikeout numbers started to decline, but his season ended with injury in May last season and I liked the Mariners as a team so I wasn’t able to find nearly as many spots to play against Gonzales as I would have liked.  The 32 year old Gonzales comes off a forearm injury, I think the Pirates were willing to bring him in as a veteran that will eat up innings when healthy but I don’t see how Gonzales is anything other than a mid-4’s/low-5’s ERA guy this year.  Gonzales was getting throttled in Seattle before ending his season at the end of May last year and I think that probably had more to do with age/plateauing skill set than it did the forearm injury.  Gonzales was traded to Atlanta first and they shipped him off to Pittsburgh probably because he would have had a tough time cracking the Braves AAA Gwinnett rotation this year.  The fact Gonzales probably wasn’t ever considered as an option in Atlanta (team is loaded with pitching at both MLB and AAA level) tells me Gonzales will likely be a decent fade as a big-league starter what still projects as a very average Pirates team.  Play on Nationals -115 for 4% (or 4 units)

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