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Brewers vs. Braves – MLB Pick June 23rd

We’re back after a one-day break thanks to a broken up slate on Thursday night. There wasn’t a lot of fun value to chase yesterday for the main slate, but Friday brings a ton of games worth a look. That still keeps us from a lot of obvious value, but this matchup between the Milwaukee Brewers and Atlanta Braves is pretty interesting, as Vegas is calling it dead even and we get a playable Total to work with.

It’s tough to know which side to back at first glance, as the Brewers are heating back up after a mild lull. The Brew Crew won the last two games of an intense four-game series at Miller Park against the Pittsburgh Pirates, which put the finishing touches on a sweet 7-3 run over their last 10 contests. It look like the Brewers were losing their hold on first place in the NL Central for a second there, but Milwaukee rebounded nicely and now kicks off a winnable series in Atlanta against the Braves at SunTrust Park.

Milwaukee has surprisingly been better on the road (19-13) than at home this year and will hope to continue that with their 20th road win tonight. They’re still nursing a mild lead atop their division, as the Chicago Cubs continue to push them, just 1.5 games back from first place.

Atlanta welcomes the Brewers in to defend a nice two-game run of their own, as the Braves are equally hot with their own strong 7-3 run over the last 10 games. Atlanta has continued to hang around while star masher Freddie Freeman rehabs a broken wrist and they’ve kept themselves afloat, going 34-38. The Braves don’t have realistic hopes of stealing the NL East or even a wild card spot the way things look now, but they’re a tougher out these days than people realize.

The Braves have been at their toughest at home (18-19), where a lively offense gives them a better shot in most games than Vegas seems to give them credit for. The oddsmakers certainly see them as a viable play tonight, however, as the Braves enter with an equal -110 Moneyline to the Brewers. Which hot team should we back tonight? Let’s take a closer look at this matchup to find out:

Milwaukee Brewers (-110) @ Atlanta Braves (-110) Total: 9

Jimmy Nelson (5-3, 3.28 ERA) vs. Mike Foltynewicz (4-5, 4.26 ERA)

I don’t think we’re getting anything useful from home/road splits in this matchup. Milwaukee has been competitive just about everywhere they’ve gone this year and specifically play their best ball on the road, while SunTrust Park has been a dangerous place to pitch and this is where the Braves tend to produce the most offensively. That might lean toward more of a shootout that a pitching duel if we just look at the surface.

Jimmy Nelson has proven to be an above average pitcher for the Brewers this year and it’s tough to tell if the 28-year old is turning a corner sharply or merely flashing his frustrating upside. Nelson has always been an erratic arm and that’s troubling because his worst woes tend to come on the road. His ERA is healthy on the year, but it shifts to a negative 4.67 on the road this year. We do have to respect his increased strikeout rate, as he’s really done a terrific job of making batters miss lately (10+ Ks in 3 of his last 5 starts). Then again, he’s still giving up a fair amount of contact and when he’s not making batters miss it’s quickly translating into runs.

That is concerning in this spot, as SunTrust Park has quickly risen up the ranks in terms of hits and run production. Atlanta also has some dangerous hitters even with Freddie Freeman sidelined. Nelson does get a break with masher Matt Kemp (hamstring) and Brandon Phillips both hitting the DL, but Matt Adams is on fire and crushes right-handed pitching, while the Braves also have Tyler Flowers and Ender Inciarte to deal with. Nelson’s recent form and K upside make him tough to gauge in this matchup, but I don’t hate his prospects with the Braves a little more toothless than normal.

On the other side we get Folty, who has been fantastic for the better part of his last four starts. He posted two straight shutouts before getting absolutely rocked (8 runs) against the Nationals and then managed to calm things back down (2 runs) in a nice home outing against a powerful Marlins lineup. Folty has spun his best ball at home (3-2, 3.86 ERA), but he still hasn’t exactly been elite in this park. He’s not making enough batters miss here (21 Ks in 35 innings) and a collective .295 batting average just won’t do. That may especially be the case against the Brewers, who do strikeout a ton but also sport some of the best power against righties (5th in home runs) in the majors.

We were on the wrong side of the Total the last time we targeted a Brewers game and I think it’s a dicey bet given the park and pitchers. It could truly go either way, as both of these arms have been pretty on point lately, but this park has churned out a lot of offensive production. Instead of targeting the Over/Under here, I’m interested in the Brewers. We’re getting even value either way we look at this thing and the pitching could be a wash. With the Braves down three key bats and Milwaukee sporting nastier offensive upside, they feel like the obvious choice.

Pick: Brewers (-110)

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