Sometimes the books just post a bad number, and for the guys that pay attention, like us, we get to enjoy some easy money. That was the case last night when the books set the game total over-under at six and a half for the Dodgers and Mets game. Yeah, there was plenty of star power on the mound with Clayton Kershaw squaring off against Jacob deGrom in a dual of former Cy Young Award winners.
But when you looked at how well both of these guys had been pitching this year, clearly the number was a bad one. Both were sporting the highest ERAs in recent memory, deGrom had his highest ever, and Kershaw his highest since his rookie year. And when you looked past the starters, both of these bullpens have been horrific this season. In my pick yesterday I said, “maybe the runs will come early if one of these great starters continues to be inconsistent, or maybe they will come late when these bullpens take over. Either way, the runs are coming.”
And it turns out the runs came from everywhere! This game was a slugfest from the start as both starters were shaky at best and allowed multiple runs. But things got way out of hand as soon as the bullpens took over. All told the game more than doubled the six and a half total, with the final score coming in at fourteen runs.
Now, I didn’t really expect that this game would be this high scoring, but a six and a half game total needs to be reserved for not only a great starting pitching matchup, but also solid bullpens, and weak hitting on both sides. This matchup barely had one out of those three, so taking the over was a no brainer, and we picked up the easy win. For today’s pick, we will head down south where the Atlanta Braves host the Washington Nationals.
The Washington Nationals are in Atlanta Tuesday for game one of a quick two-game series with their NL East rivals, the Braves. The Nats came up short in their bid to sweep the beyond dreadfully bad Miami Marlins last night but did take three out of four games against the Marlins. Washington had lost five straight games before the series against Miami.
For Atlanta, the Braves have been red-hot as they have won twelve out of their last sixteen games and have won five straight series. Atlanta is hoping to make that six straight series against the Nationals, as, despite the recent surge, they still trail the Philadelphia Phillies by a game and a half for the NL East Division lead.
Starting for the Braves is Max Fried (7-2 2.88 ERA), and for the Nationals, it is Stephen Strasburg (4-3 3.25 ERA). The Braves are small -109 home favorites. The game total over-under is set at nine runs. First pitch is scheduled for 4:20 PM PST from SunTrust Park in Atlanta.
The Atlanta Braves are quickly starting to look like the team that many people, including myself, thought they would be coming into this season. After a slow start, this team is really starting to turn things on. They can hit, they can pitch, they play solid defense, and they have a great mix of young prospects and grizzled veterans. I know the Dodgers certainly look like the class of the National League right now, but don’t be shocked if it is Atlanta, not LA, that represents the NL in the Fall Classic this year.
The legend of rookie phenom Austin Riley cooled down a bit in the Braves last series against St. Louis. After being the talk of baseball through his first two weeks in the big leagues, Riley managed just two hits in three games against the Cardinals. That being said, this kid sure is fun to watch play baseball. Through twelve games, Riley is slashing .333 with a .688 slugging percentage with seven of his sixteen hits coming as extra-base hits. The future is bright for Riley to say the least.
While the offense has been the talk of the town in Atlanta recently, tonight’s starter, Max Fried is well deserving of some spotlight as well. Fried is having some great success in this, his first season as a full-time part of the Braves rotation. Fried didn’t start the season out in the rotation, but the former first-round draft pick took full advantage when he got a shot to start, and he has been great ever since.
Fried has allowed two earned runs or fewer in ten of his twelve appearances this season and his 2.88 ERA puts him towards the top of the leaderboard in the National League. His seven wins are tied for the most in the league, and he is making a strong case to be named to his first ever All-Star team. In his last two starts, Fried has allowed just two earned runs in a combined twelve innings of work and picked up winning decisions in both games.
Stephen Strasburg started his season out on the wrong foot as through his first four starts his ERA was over five runs. He has pitched much better as of late, but it hasn’t seemed to matter much. Despite a very solid ERA of 2.62 in five May starts, the Nats have lost three out of his last four starts. It will be interesting to see how well Strasburg handles this hard-hitting Braves lineup tonight.
When people evaluate a game, I think they tend to get hung up on the starting pitching matchup just a little too much. Yes, starting pitching matters, a lot. But when this line opened with the Nationals as road favorites, it was laughable. I get it, Strasburg is a marquee name, and he is a great pitcher. But to see the Nationals, who are tied with the Miami Marlins for the fewest road wins of any team in the league, as favorites over a very good Braves team, it just didn’t make any sense.
The early morning betting sharps thought the same thing as they quickly pounced on the Braves as home dogs, and their action has shifted this number to where it stands now, with Atlanta as small favorites. I am going to follow their lead, and back Atlanta. Betting against a guy as good as Strasburg makes me a little bit leery, but the Braves have an eight-game lead over Washington. They are the much better team.
And with the way that Fried has been pitching, I am not even convinced I am getting the worse side of the starting pitching matchup, this kid has been lights out. So, I will lay just a tiny amount of wood tonight, and back the much better overall team. Give me the Atlanta Braves as small home favorites, laying -109!