The wins just keep coming this week! Last night we picked up another underdog winner, this time on the Atlanta Braves (+108) against the Washington Nationals. The line just didn’t make any sense as the Braves were clearly the better overall team, and with Mike Foltynewicz starting, I felt they had the best of the starting pitching matchup as well. While Folty had struggled badly early in the season, he was sent down to the minors, figured things out and had been great ever since. So, I fired on the Braves and felt like I was in a great spot to pick up value.
Foltynewicz shined as he tossed six innings of one-run ball, on just four hits, and picked up the win. Surprisingly enough, Nationals starter Austin Voth pretty much matched Foltynewicz pitch for pitch as he pitched five and two-thirds of an inning and allowed just one run as well. But, the problem for the Nationals was the same last night as it has been all season long, the bullpen.
The Nationals bullpen has been horrifically bad this season. They have spent much of the season as the worst pen in the majors, and they certainly have the worst relief crew of any team that is still in contention. And last night they were awful. The Washington bullpen got blasted for a whopping nine runs in just over three innings of work, and when all the smoke cleared, the Braves took home a blowout 10-1 victory, despite what was a very competitive game for most of the evening.
The loss was a big one for the Nationals as they have now lost seven out of their last ten games, and the Chicago Cubs are now just a game and a half back of Washington for the first wild card in the National League. To make matters worse, the Brewers are just one game out, and the Mets and Phillies are in the mix as well. If the Nationals can’t find a way to turn things around quickly, they are going to be left out come playoff time.
For Atlanta, they locked up a playoff spot last night with the win and are days away from locking up the division title as well, with a magic number of just three. With the Braves win and loss by the Los Angeles Dodgers, Atlanta now only trails LA by three games for the best record in the league, and the top seed in the playoffs. Atlanta would love nothing more than to knock the Nats out of contention today. For today’s pick, we will stay right here in the Nation’s Capital as the Nationals host the Braves for game three.
The Atlanta Braves are looking for the sweep this morning in game three of a three-game series with the Nationals. The Braves have absolutely dominated this series thus far as they have won both games by multiple runs and hold a 15-1 cumulative run advantage. And as a surprising note, the Nationals were actually favored in both of those first two games, but that didn’t stop the Braves from blowing them out. The Braves are looking to finish off the sweep and knock the Nationals back in the the wild card conversation this afternoon.
Starting for the Braves is Max Fried (16-5 4.02 ERA), and for the Nationals it is Anibal Sanchez (8-8 4.04 ERA). The game total over-under is set at nine and a half runs. The Braves are -113 road favorites. First pitch is scheduled for 10:38 PM PST from Nationals Park in Washington DC.
Max Fried wasn’t supposed to be part of this Braves rotation this season. He started his year pitching out of the bullpen for Atlanta and was called up for one spot start in early April. But when he looked good, he earned another start, and then another. That trend continued for a couple of weeks, and eventually, Fried earned his keep and was named an official part of this Atlanta starting pitching staff.
And he has been great ever since. Fried leads the NL in wins for a left-hander and trails only Stephen Strasburg for the National League lead with sixteen wins. He lost his last start, but before that, he hadn’t lost a start since July 6th. What has probably been the most impressive thing that Fried has done this season is just win games. The Braves are 21-7 in games where Fried has started this year. He pitched against these very same Nationals two weeks ago and had one of his best starts ever as he threw seven innings and allowed just one hit and no runs while striking out nine.
Anibal Sanchez has been all over the place this season. In April he was awful with an ERA of nearly six runs in six starts. He started his season out by losing his first six decisions. Then he put together a stretch where he allowed one run or fewer in six out of nine starts and won his next eight decisions. And then here in September he has started to struggle again, with a 0-2 record and 6.75 ERA in two starts.
Sanchez has made four starts against the Braves this season with little success. In his first start, he was great, pitching six shutout innings. But in the next three starts he pitched a combined sixteen innings and got blasted for eleven runs on twenty-two hits. He last faced the Braves on July 31st and gave up a season-high ten hits and the Nationals lost.
This was a really bad number when it opened up with Washington at -115. It just made no sense at all. So, I pounced on it last night. The rest of the sharps followed suit and all that early sharp action has flipped this number to where it stands now, with the Braves as small road favorites. And while that number is a much sharper one, I still feel like there is significant value backing Atlanta.
We know that Fried is going to be good. He has been great all season long and owns the Nationals this year. And maybe Sanchez is decent, or maybe he gets blasted. But in reality, it doesn’t matter at that much because he isn’t going to be able to pitch the entire game. At some point the Nationals are going to have to turn things over to their dreadful bullpen, and when they do, you can’t expect the Braves to punish them.
The Washington bullpen has gotten hammered for eleven earned runs already in the first two games of this series, and I would expect that trend to continue today. So, maybe the Braves get to Sanchez early, or maybe they have to wait until the bullpen gets involved, but either way I see lots of runs going up on the board for Atlanta. And that makes me love a play on the Braves. Give me the Atlanta Braves as small road favorites today in game three as they complete the sweep!