The Washington Nationals take on the Boston Red Sox in the second game of their three-game series on Saturday night at Fenway Park.

After decimating their roster, the Boston Red Sox are paying the price and stand at 10–22 in a season that will most assuredly go down as one of the strangest in Major League Baseball history. With less than a month left, they’re out of the running and playing like it. Last night, the Nationals lit them up in a 10–3 loss.

Last season, the Nationals got off to a slow start on their way to an eventual World Series title. In a shortened season, a 12–17 start will be tough to overcome, but they enter Saturday night’s game against the Red Sox just five games out of first place in the National League East and three games out of the Wild Card.

Max Scherzer put in an overpowering performance in Friday night’s win, going six innings and striking out 11 Red Sox batters while running his record to 3–1. He’s recorded 55 strikeouts in 37 1/3 innings, something he’ll need to continue to do if the Nationals hope to have any chance at the postseason.

Betting Lines

The Washington Nationals are 1.5-run favorites in Saturday night’s contest, paying +130 for the spread bet. The Red Sox are paying -150 for the spread.

On the moneyline, the Nationals pay -121, while the Red Sox carry a +111 payout. The over/under is set at 11 runs. The uncertainty around the game probably is because the two starting pitchers bring in ERAs of over six runs per game each.

For the individual teams, they each have 5.5 as the over/under. The payout is -115 across the board, whether the bet is on the over or the under. There are a lot of interesting choices for action on this game that warrant some scrutiny.

Game Preview

Chris Mazza, Boston’s starting pitcher for Saturday night’s game, is making his second start this season for the Red Sox. In his first one, he gave up eight hits and four runs in three innings of work against the Yankees.

His ERA is 6.35, with seven strikeouts in five innings of work. He was just called up from training to start this game.

On the other side, Anibal Sanchez is making his sixth start for the Nationals. He’s 1–3 on the season with an ERA of 6.48, which isn’t particularly impressive.

But in his last outing on Aug. 23, the right-hander held the Miami Marlins to five hits and one run in seven innings of work to pick up his first win of the season.

For the season, both teams are in the middle of the pack in generating offense. The Nationals average 4.9 runs, while the Red Sox have crossed the plate an average of 4.5 times a game.

Friday night’s 10-run outburst by the Nationals could either be the breakout game they’ve been looking for, or just another isolated game.

The Red Sox have given up 6.3 runs a game, the most in baseball. So they average fewer runs a game than the Nationals and give up about a run and a half more than the Nationals’ 4.8.

They’re putting a guy on the mound that sports numbers just about the average for the team, and it all adds up to the kind of betting lines we see for the game.

In Washington, I see a team that probably still believes it can make a run at the playoffs, much like it did last season. With Scherzer healthy and dominant, the Nationals can rely on him to deliver another three or four victories.

The Red Sox have the worst record in the American League and are hopelessly out of any playoff consideration.

Judging from Friday night’s game, taking the Nationals and the over would look like a good bet. Even putting a little wager on the Nationals to better 5.5 runs is not a bad idea, either. But remember, it’s baseball, and it’s a strange season.