MLB Picks: Braves at Phillies Odds and Predictions
by Alan Matthews - 7/8/2011
Thanks to the Minnesota Twins winning their eighth straight game against the AL Central rival Chicago White Sox, we hit on our free pick Thursday with the Twins at +139 (pushed on the total). It’s rare I like to take a big favorite in Major League Baseball, so let’s stick with the underdog theme today and look toward Philadelphia. The streaking Atlanta Braves are in town for the biggest series of the weekend. In fact, a sweep would give the young Braves the lead in the NL East heading into the break.
How the Teams Enter
The Braves have had the majors’ best record since June 1 at 23-10. And they enter off a four-game sweep of the Colorado Rockies for the first time since 1993. It’s the kids who are doing it. In Thursday’s 6-3 win, rookie Freddie Freeman and second-year player Jason Heyward both homered. Freeman and Heyward were the first pair of 21-year-old teammates to homer in the same game since Ruben Sierra and Jerry Browne of the Rangers in 1987. It was Freeman's 13th home run of the season, the most by a Braves rookie before the all-star break since Chipper Jones hit 13 homers prior to the break in 1995. Freeman had four homers and seven RBI in the series. Freeman likely will have to battle teammate Craig Kimbrel for NL Rookie of the Year honors this season. Kimbrel got his 27th save Thursday, the most saves by a rookie before the all-star break since saves became official in 1969.
The Phillies had the day off Thursday. Despite having starters Roy Oswalt and Joe Blanton on the disabled list (and most of their bullpen), they have been very consistent. Since dropping a mid-June series in Seattle, Philadelphia has won five series in a row – all by 2-1 counts. They are set up perfectly for this series with their trio of All-Star pitchers in Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels all set to go.
Braves at Phillies Betting Storylines
The Braves have won 14 of their past 17 games, including nine of the past 10. On June 26 they were five games behind the Phillies in the NL East but it’s now a 2.5-game deficit. There is talk the Braves are in the market for a hitter – the White Sox’s Carlos Quentin is often mentioned – but they might get a lineup reinforcement on their own team in second baseman Dan Uggla. After being acquired from the Marlins and given a big contract this offseason, Uggla has essentially been the NL version of the White Sox’s struggling Adam Dunn. While Uggla has 14 homers, he is hitting just .183 with an on-base percentage of just .258. However, in the final three games of the Rockies series, Uggla went 5-for-9 with two doubles, two homers, three RBI, four walks and three runs scored. His back-to-back multi-hit performances Tuesday and Wednesday were just the second time he has done that all year.
As for the Phillies, they have some injury problems outside their pitching staff as well. Outfielder Shane Victorino, who grabbed the final NL all-star spot on Thursday, hasn’t played since spraining a thumb against Toronto on Sunday and probably won’t in this series or perhaps the All-Star Game. He visited with a hand specialist on Thursday. Victorino leads the Phillies in batting average (.303), on-base percentage (.376), and slugging percentage (.524). Meanwhile, third baseman Placido Polanco, who is set to be the NL all-star starter at that position, has a pinched nerve in his back. He visited with a back specialist on Thursday. He says he thinks he can play through the injury but hasn’t suited up since Monday and is 0-for-15 in his past four games. He’s very iffy for tonight, much less this series.
Braves at Phillies Pitching Probables
Needless the pitching matchup heavily favors the Phillies as they go with Halladay, who probably will start for the NL in the All-Star Game. Halladay (11-3, 2.44) leads the NL in complete games (six) and innings pitched (136 1/3), second in strikeouts (131) and WHIP (1.03) and third in ERA (2.44). He has tossed back-to-back complete games. He’s good.
Atlanta starts Brandon Beachy (3-1, 3.23). He enters off a loss vs. Baltimore, allowing three runs and striking out six in five innings. But he has allowed more than two earned runs just twice in his past eight starts, the Orioles outing and May 13 vs. the Phillies when he allowed three runs on six hits in two innings. All three of Beachy’s career losses have come vs. Philadelphia.
MLB Picks: Braves at Phillies Odds and Predictions
The Braves are at +160 on WagerWeb with the total at 7. Atlanta is 5-0 in its past five as a road dog and 8-1 in its past nine on the road vs. a right-handed starter. And Halladay allowed three earned on eight hits in eight innings against Atlanta on May 15 and was handed a loss. So he can be beaten. If Beachy can keep it close (not facing Victorino and/or Polanco should help), the Braves can get into that injury-weakened Philly bullpen and win this. Take the Braves and the ‘under,’ which is 6-0-1 in the Phillies’ past seven at home.
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