MLB Picks for August 23rd – Reds vs Marlins, Braves vs Cubs

Does it get any easier than rolling with Cliff Lee and Justin Verlander? Both cruised last night, combining for 15 innings pitched and just one run allowed. The Rays got a lead-off homerun of Verlander to start the game. Then that was it. Door closed. Thanks for playing.

Fortunately, it’s also been pretty easy to roll with the Sports Geek lately as well, with last night’s 2-0, we are 7-1 over our last eight baseball picks. So without further adieu, let’s dig into today’s fearless picks!

Let’s get to today’s free picks…

TODAY’S MLB PICKS:

Cincinnati Reds -145 @ Florida Marlins +130 (Total: 7.5)
J. Cueto (9-5, 1.89) vs. R. Nolasco (9-9, 4.25)

How good has Cincinnati starter Johnny Cueto been since returning from his stint on the disabled list? His 1.89 ERA is tops in the majors for pitchers with enough innings to qualify. Lower than Justin Verlander and Jared Weaver. Lower than Halliday, Lee and Lincecum. In fact, Cueto is the only hurler in all of the bigs with an ERA under 2.00.

So, yeah. That good.

Tonight he tries to keep his run of brilliant outings continuing. He finally suffered a small blip in the road two weeks ago, but has thrown a quality start in 18 of 19 outings in 2011. Over his last six starts, in five of them he allowed one or zero runs. Given the Marlins offensive woes, it seems plenty plausible he delivers another gem tonight.

Florida just came home from a dreadful 1-6 road trip where they were outscored 15-1 in the first inning overall. Allow three or four in the opening frame tonight, and it very well could be all the Johnny Cueto needs to seal the deal. And the Reds have been cooking at the top of the order. They seem to have finally found a remedy for their top of the order woes, moving two-time All Star Brandon Phillips into the leadoff slot. Since the move, Phillips is 11 of 22 with six runs batted in. He should be able to help fuel the Reds offense to give Cueto some breathing room.

The Reds are 7-2 in Johnny Cueto’s last nine starts; each game they were the favorite. Lay the juice tonight and back the Reds. That’s my official play tonight.

FREE PICK: Cincinnati Reds to WIN -140

Atlanta Braves -140 @ Chicago Cubs +130 (TOTAL: 11)
M. Minor (3-2, 4.26) vs. C. Coleman (2-5, 7.43)

It’s been a while since I have seen an over/under set at a whopping 11 runs. Let’s just say when the number ebbs into double-digits, it ain’t a compliment to the respective offenses. It is indictment of both starting pitchers. Looking at the numbers these two bring to the hill, it isn’t an unfair assertion. But are these two offenses really packing enough punch to lay money that 12 or more runs will cross the plate?

Let’s take a look first at the pitching matchups. From the Atlanta standpoint, don’t let young Mike Minor’s stat line fool you. This kid is the real deal and his last outing showed it pretty clearly, when he shutdown the Giants for 6 innings in a 1-0 win. The losing pitcher that night? Tim Lincecum. That’s an impressive performance for any pitcher, let alone one as green as Mike Minor.

The Braves are 3-0 in Minor’s last three starts, and will look to make it four tonight. The Braves have won 35 of 50 games as the favorite, so laying -140 against a pitcher with a 7.43 ERA seems pretty generous.

For Casey Coleman things have been rough, and aren’t getting much better. Over his last three starts he has lasted a total of 10.1 innings and posted an ERA of 10.48. Ouch. Factor in the sizzling Braves offense in hitter-friendly Wrigley Field and you can see why tonight’s total is so high.

I still don’t know if we get into 12-run territory, but I do know I love the Atlanta Braves tonight at a pretty slim line of -140. That is my official play, the Braves to WIN, but am intrigued by the +120 on the -1.5 run line as a good play as well.

FREE PICK: Atlanta Braves to WIN -140

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Chris Scheeren / Author