Juan Soto and Josh Bell are already making their return to the nation’s capital, this time wearing a different uniform and enjoying the thrill of a postseason race.
How will it go for the San Diego Padres on the road, though? Can the Washington Nationals make it hard on their formerly beloved superstar outfielder?
Nationals vs. Padres Matchup Preview
The Padres (63-51) enter Nationals Park on the upturn of what has essentially been a rollercoaster ride since the month of August began.
San Diego won its last pair of contests — at home against the division-rival San Francisco Giants, snapping a five-game losing skid that included a sweep at the hands of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Prior to that run of tough luck, the Friars had won five straight.
In the MLB standings, they’re slipping. The losses to the perennial power Dodgers didn’t help, either, as 16 games now separate those two clubs.
Because of what looks to be too deep of a hole to climb out of, the Padres’ postseason hopes rely on them keeping a hold on a wild card spot. Going into this one, they’re only a game up on Milwaukee in that fight.
Washington (37-76) probably came to terms with the fact that they’d miss out on the playoffs long ago. They have the fewest wins in the major leagues and are looking more toward the future after dealing Soto and Bell, who were a few of the lone bright spots for fans who braved a trip to the ballpark.
Nationals vs. Padres Odds Breakdown
MLB odds understandably like the visiting crew to pull out a much-needed victory here, stretching their win streak to three. The Padres are -1.5 on the spread at -152, while Washington is +126 to cover.
On the moneyline, San Diego is -245, while the Nationals are a +200 underdog. The total is locked in at nine runs, with the over being -118 and the under -104 at the time of this writing.
Nationals vs. Padres Betting Preview
With all of their struggles, you wouldn’t really expect the Nats to have a very capable offense. But, they do, surprisingly. Their .248 collective batting average is good enough for 12th-best in the bigs.
If only they were at all selective with what offerings they go after. Only Cleveland Guardians has more strikeouts than Washington does.
The team also ranks in the bottom five as it pertains to driving runners across, homers, and total runs scored.
The absence of Soto and Bell, though, really hurts them. A member of that tandem led the team in each of the major statistical categories at the plate. Now, backstop Keibert Ruiz spearheads the effort, hitting .246.
Seasoned designated hitter Nelson Cruz has the most RBIs (52) of anyone in the order, while left fielder Lane Thomas paces the lineup with ten dingers. He’s the only member of the squad to have double-digit long balls.
Who Is Starting for the Nationals?
Cory Abbott is slated to make the start on the hill for the Nats, aiming to improve on a 5.68 ERA. He’s only made five appearances this year, two of which being starts. He has an 0-1 record.
Against Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday, he had a really rough go of it, lasting only 3.2 innings while allowing seven hits and seven earned runs.
He watched four different offerings sail over the outfield fence. He’ll want to avoid that same sort of nightmare here. On paper, it won’t be easy.
Washington’s pitching staff as a whole doesn’t have too much to be proud of. Its 5.31 ERA is the worst in MLB, and it has also seen the most runs score at the top level.
The Friars’ bats grade out three spots below their opponent’s, but their star power is much greater. Third baseman Manny Machado has been the engine that has powered the group this entire campaign.
Padres Performance Recap
He has a team-leading .294 batting average, 20 homers, 65 RBIs, a .365 on-base percentage, and 116 total knocks.
Eric Hosmer was the Robin to his Batman until he was dealt to Boston Red Sox recently. With Soto and Bell coming over, the fanbase didn’t shed many tears that he was leaving, especially being that he made the blockbuster deal harder to complete by making use of his no-trade clause.
In his eight games wearing his new threads, the right fielder Soto has posted an impressive .357 batting average in 28 plate appearances. He has four extra-base hits, including a long ball.
Along with their leader in Machado, center fielder Trent Grisham, left fielder Jurickson Profar, and second baseman Jake Cronenworth have clubbed double-digit homers.
Who Is Starting for the Padres?
Righty Mike Clevinger will be making his 13th start of the campaign, sporting a 3.60 ERA and a 1.12 ERA at this juncture. He has a 3-4 mark.
The San Diego Padres have won two of his last three outings. In both of those victories — against Detroit and Colorado — he lasted seven innings and allowed two runs or less. He ran into the Dodgers on Saturday, though, turning in 4.2 frames while giving up seven hits and five earned runs.
San Diego boasts a top-10 pitching staff. It currently has a 3.80 ERA.
Washington Nationals vs. San Diego Padres Pick and Prediction
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that San Diego should have a pretty easy time in notching a win in D.C. on Friday night.
Clevinger didn’t do too well against the Dodgers, but he should get the benefit of the doubt, being that Los Angeles is one of the best in MLB at the plate.
Against a dismal Nats lineup, he should return to form and help his crew to an important win. With a little under two months to go, San Diego needs to do all it can to hold off the Milwaukee Brewers and improve its chances to compete for a World Series title.
The front office showed a willingness to go all in with the package it gifted to Washington. Most of those players are a year or two out for the Nats, though.
They’ll be forced to watch a fan favorite do well, presumably, for his new squad. Take the Padres to cover the spread here. Below is also a Padres vs. Nationals score prediction.
Final Score Prediction: Padres 7- Nationals 1
MLB Pick: San Diego -1.5 (-152)