The Atlanta Braves will take their first-place record with them this week as they head to San Diego for a three-game series with the Padres. The Braves are coming off a big series win against the Washington Nationals that saw them take back first place in the National League East from the Nats. They took three out of the four games against Washington and are now ahead of them by a game and a half for first place. The Padres, despite still being in last place, are playing better as of late as well. San Diego will look to win their third consecutive series and are 5-1 on this current homestand.
Starting tonight for the Padres is Clayton Richard (3-6 4.74 ERA), and for the Braves it is Julio Teheran (4-3 4.03 ERA). The Braves are slight -114 road favorites. The game total over-under is set at seven and a half runs. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 PM PST from Petco Park in San Diego.
The Atlanta Braves are continuing to find ways to win games. Despite some key injuries, the biggest of which is losing Ronald Acuna Jr. to an MCL sprain, the Braves are still pacing the National League East Division. Acuna Jr. is expected back possibly as early as this week, and his return will be a major boost to this lineup. Acuna was swinging a hot bat and hitting for power before going down with the injury. At just twenty years old the youngster is the top prospect in all of baseball. Getting him back in the lineup and letting him mature will be key to the Braves short-term and long-term success.
Tonight’s starter Julio Teheran is a bit of an enigma. The guy can be lights out one start and then be absolutely terrible the next. His inconsistency makes it hard to back him in the betting market, but it also drives the price on him way down. The Braves have lost Teheran’s last two starts after winning eight out of his first ten starts. Ironically, he has actually pitched pretty well in those last two starts that he has dropped.
In those two losses, Teheran pitched thirteen innings and allowed just five earned runs. That is a respectable stat line for sure. In the two starts before that, where the Braves won both games? He pitched eleven innings and gave up ten earned runs. It just goes to show you that this Braves lineup that fourth in the major leagues in runs scored, can pick you up and win a game even when the starter doesn’t have his best stuff. It will be curious to see how Teheran pitches tonight against a powerless and low scoring Padres team. San Diego is twenty-seventh in the majors in home runs and twenty-third in runs scored.
Starting tonight for the Padres is Clayton Richard. This guy has been pretty good most of the year. He is never going to be a guy that completely shuts a team down, but he is going to give his team a chance to compete to win ball games. He has given up three runs or fewer and pitched at least six innings in three of his last four games. Despite his solid results, the Padres are just 5-7 in his twelve starts this year.
This is a tighter game than it may appear on paper. The Braves are coming off a very emotional stretch of baseball. The had a very entertaining series against the Mets, where they had two huge comebacks that were topped off by walk-off hits late in the game. And then they had to face the Washington Nationals for four games. Washington had been on fire before that series, and the Braves stopped them dead in their tracks by winning three out of four and once against took control of the division.
So, you have to wonder what the Braves will have left in the gas tank tonight for a plucky Padres team. Even though the Padres are in last place, they are playing quite a bit better than it may seem. There are just five and a half games back of first place, and their twenty-seven wins are the most of any last place team in baseball. So, if you are looking for a bit of a silver lining to this team, it is the fact that they are probably quite a bit better than most people think.
I think the Braves find a way to get the job done tonight in game one. The long road trip might tire them down, but they don’t call this team the “baby” Braves for nothing. This roster is loaded with twenty-something guys trying to make their marks in the big leagues. I don’t think energy is going to be a major issue for this team.
On paper, we are certainly getting the best of the starting pitching matchup. Even with Teheran being so up and down, he is the only guy starting tonight that is capable of winning you a game by himself. And by backing Atlanta, we are very obviously getting the better all-around team. The Braves can’t be denied and despite some growing pains are still winning a lot of games. They might come back to earth at some point, but right now I will continue to ride them while they are hot. Give me the Atlanta Braves as small road favorites tonight in game one against San Diego!