Boston Red Sox vs. Washington Nationals Preview and Pick – John Smoltz vs. Jordan Zimmerman

Boston Red Sox (44-27) John Smoltz -116, 9 O/U at Washington
Nationals (20-49) Jordan Zimmerman +106, 9 O/U, Nationals Park,
Washington, DC, 7:05 PM EST, Thursday

by Badger of

One of the Boston Red Sox feature free agent acquisitions over the
offseason, future Hall of Fame pitcher John Smoltz, makes his eagerly
anticipated debut tonight in Nationals Park against the Washington
Nationals and young right-hander Jordan Zimmerman in the finale of
their interleague series.

Smoltz will try and push the Red Sox winning streak to five games and
complete the three-game sweep of the Nationals after last nights 6-4
victory by the Sox. David Ortiz hit a three-run jack as he continues
to get hot at the plate and helped Boston improve their MLB-best
record to 15-5 in the month of June.

The Nationals enter with the worst record in baseball and losers of
three straight. They did have a modest four-game win streak going
over the weekend, but the Sox have put those good vibes to bed.
Zimmerman, the Nationals top prospect who was only 2-years-old when
Smoltz made his major league debut, will be making just his 12th
Major League start overall.

Baseball oddsmakers are taking a cautious approach to Smoltzs debut
tonight, opening the game with him and the Red Sox as modest -116
favorites on the moneyline. Washington is listed as slim +106
underdogs on the dimeline, and the over/under total is listed at 9 at
most offshore sportsbooks on the Web.

Smoltz, who was shutdown last June 2nd and had shoulder surgery to
fix the problem, signed with the Red Sox in the offseason when the
Atlanta Braves decided not to resign the longtime ace and one-time
closer. He made six starts in the minor leagues in preparation for
tonights start, notching a 2.63 ERA in the process.

Smoltz, who has made seven starts against the Nationals in his career
going 4-3 with a 1.77 ERA, will be on a strict pitch count tonight
going just 85 to 90 pitches.

Zimmerman has pitched much better than his 2-3 record and 5.03 ERA
would indicate, but he plays for the Nationals, so he hasnt had much
help. His last start he went 5.2 innings and only allowed five hits
and one run, but he left with no-decision as the Nationals went on to
loss 2-1 to Toronto. The start before he only allowed four hits and
one run in five innings, only to leave and get no-decision in what
turned into an 8-3 loss to Tampa Bay.

Zimmerman has yet to face Boston in his career, but hopefully he can
turn things around for the Nationals as the Red Sox own a 10-1 record
against them in interleague play since 2000. The Nationals are 4-7 in
his 11 starts this season.

Some betting trends to keep an eye on tonight include the over, which
is 4-0 in the last four games played and 6-0 in the last six played
at Nationals Park.

The other trend involves home plate umpire Jeff Nelson. The Nationals
must be his favorite team, as they are 7-0 in their last seven games
with him calling balls and strikes. Hes also a great ump for
pitchers, as the under is 4-1 in his last five games overall and
9-1-1 in his last 11 games involving the Red Sox.

Badgers Pick: I expect Smoltz to get knocked around a little
tonight, but in the end I think hes crafty enough to get the win if
he can make it through the fifth. Zimmerman is a tough-luck loser
again. Take Boston, the WAY better team, at the low, low price of
-116 tonight.