Braves vs. Reds Pick MLB – August 23rd

There were some interesting results and some big games last night; The Giants snapped the Nats stunning streak and maintained their wildcard position in the process, the A’s stormed back againt the Angels to thwart my upset pick and take over first place in the division, and the Mariners scored five runs in the 9th to win 5-3 against the reeling and lethargic Red Sox.

But the most head-turning result happened at Target Field where the Twins scored TWENTY runs against the Tigers. That doesn’t happen every day against any team, let alone one who is supposed to be a World Series front runner. The Tigers are now 2 ½ games behind the Royals and a half game behind Seattle for the second wildcard spot. I’ve been particularly interested in how the Tigers and A’s would fare following the trades – both teams gave up an everyday key player in order to land another starting pitcher. I wasn’t wild about the moves then, and I’m still a little skeptical…

Let’s notch a Saturday winner and get back on track.

Today’s Free Pick:

Atlanta Braves -122 at Cincinnati Reds +114 (Total: 7.5)

Ervin Santana (13-6, 3.71 ERA) vs. Mike Leake (9-11, 3.65 ERA)

To say things have imploded in Cincinnati would be an understatement. The Reds have lost eight straight games to go from fringe NL Central contenders and only three games back in the wildcard chase to being just a game better than the Mets and Padres. Um, game over – see in 2015.

Tonight they face a hot pitcher just a night after failing to get a hit off of Mike Minor until two outs in the eighth innings. Santana is 6-0 with a 2.98 ERA in his last seven starts and is averaging a strikeout an inning. He is looking for a career-long winning streak with a win tonight, and unless Mike Leake throws a complete game shutout, it looks like he will get it.

The Reds have six bullpen losses in their last seven games, and their overall ineptitude is becoming overwhelming. It feels like the season has completely slipped away and I wouldn’t be surprised to see things get even worse. Why rush Joey Votto back for this? Perhaps even some moves will be made in the next week depleting an already fragile roster. Mike Leake has given up four or more runs in both starts against the Braves this season, and I’d be surprised if he were able to win tonight; both by virtue of his struggles and the mighty struggles of the Reds offense (batting .198 during their skid).

Justin Upton hit a game winning homerun last night in the 12th inning and is now 15 of 27 against the Reds this year with a 1.027 slugging percentage. The Braves have won all five games against the Reds this year by a combined score of 21-6. That’s domination. I’ll take them at a very good value tonight, and take them happily considering all the checkmarks in their column.

Free Pick: Atlanta Braves to WIN -122