We were reminded yesterday that while we take this game very seriously, that in the end, it is just a game. Our bet was canceled yesterday when Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Tyler Skaggs was found dead in his hotel room. The cause of death has yet to be revealed, however, authorities are saying they don’t expect foul play or suicide.
Major league baseball did the right thing postponing the game to allow time for this Angels team to heal. This is the second time in recent memory that the Angels lost a player mid-season to an untimely death as Nick Adenhart died in a car wreck a decade ago. My thoughts go out to the Angels organization and to Skaggs’s family and friends during these trying times. As far as baseball goes, the show must go on, and today we head to Atlanta where the Braves host the Phillies.
The Philadelphia Phillies are in Atlanta Tuesday for game one of a big three-game series with the Braves. The Phillies finished June on a high note, winning five out of their last seven games. However, that has not been enough to close the gap on the first place Braves, as Philly trails by five and a half games right now for first place in the National League East Division.
For the Braves, they have the National League’s second-best record, trailing just the Los Angeles Dodgers, and are sending several players to the mid-summer classic in Cleveland next week. The Braves are clearly all in on winning now as they made the recent move to sign free agent starter Dallas Kuechel and will send him to the mound tonight in game one.
Starting for the Phillies is Aaron Nola (6-2 4.22 ERA), and for the Braves it is Dallas Kuechel (1-1 5.06 ERA). The game total over-under is set at nine and a half runs. The Braves are small -109 home favorites. First pitch is scheduled for 4:20 PM PST from SunTrust Park in Atlanta.
Aaron Nola hasn’t been nearly as sharp this season as he was last year when he nearly took home the NL Cy Young Award. He had a very slow start to the season that had him with an ERA of nearly six runs at the end of April. Since then, he has been a bit hit and miss, but mostly he has been quite good. In his eleven starts since May 1, Nola has had six starts where he has allowed one run or less and the Phillies are 8-3 in those eleven games.
In his last two starts, he has pitched a combined fifteen innings and has allowed just one earned run while striking out ten in both games. He seems to be finding his groove and getting back to the level of production we have grown accustomed to seeing out of him. It will be interesting to see how Nola finishes out the rest of the season. If the Phillies are going to find a way to catch the Braves for first place, they are going to need Nola to be at his best atop the rotation.
Dallas Keuchel gambled in free agency, and it cost him half of his season. The former Cy Young Award winner waited and waited and waited and ended up not signing a deal until just a couple of weeks ago. But that is all in the past now, as Keuchel finds himself right in the mix of a division title race for a team that has World Series aspirations.
Keuchel was just OK in his first two starts as a Brave. He pitched a total of ten and two-thirds of an inning and gave up seven runs, six of them earned. It wasn’t the start the Braves were hoping for, but he was decent, and the Braves are hoping he can round into mid-season form before the late season pennant push.
This is a very surprising number. I get it, the Braves are great, especially at home, and the Phillies have had more than their fair share of struggles on the road this season. But to see Aaron Nola as an underdog to Dallas Keuchel, who was on the couch three weeks ago, still shocks me. Keuchel has not shown me anything in his first two starts that says he is going to be able to shut down this powerful Philly offense tonight.
The haters will likely point out that Philly somehow managed to lose five out of six games to the dreadful Marlins in the last couple of weeks and that they struggled in June. And that does worry me. But I just can’t pass up on getting a guy as good as Aaron Nola, getting dog money. He has shown too many times in the past that he can completely shut a team down. Give me the Philadelphia Phillies as road underdogs tonight in game one from Atlanta!