MLB Picks: Braves at Nationals Odds and Predictions
by Alan Matthews - 8/7/2013
It is early August and yet I'm already going to use this term for a Major League Baseball team: magic number. We don't usually worry about those until mid-to-late September, but the Atlanta Braves are so ridiculously far ahead in the NL East that there are no longer even odds to win the division available at the books.
The Dodgers are getting all the publicity in the NL, but Atlanta entered Tuesday's game in Washington with an 11-game winning streak and a whopping 13.5-game lead over the second-place Nationals. Just for comparison, if you added up the division leads in the other five, it would total 14.5 games. It's the Braves' second winning streak of at least 10 games this year, a franchise first since it was in Milwaukee in 1954. No NL team had done it since the 2001 Cardinals. Atlanta could clinch the division by the end of August (doubtful) with a magic number of 37 entering Tuesday. I fully expect the Braves to start treating a few pitchers with kid gloves by the end of this month to ensure their bullpen, for example, isn't exhausted by the postseason.
Washington, meanwhile, is the clear NL underachiever this year, and Manager Davey Johnson probably would have been fired by now if he wasn't already leaving the dugout after the season. I suppose a wild-card spot isn't impossible as the Nats are seven games out of that second spot. I have a hard time believing they could catch the Reds, who currently hold down No. 2.
Braves at Nationals Betting Story Lines
Atlanta will be tough to beat in the postseason if Justin Upton is raking like he did in the first month of the season. He definitely is now as he had a game-winning homer in Monday's 3-2 series-opening victory over the Nats and is batting .452 with four homers and 10 RBI in the past seven days (all stats entering Tuesday). Upton hit 12 home runs in his first 23 games this season, but from then through the end of July added just four more. Now he's rolling again. Even brother B.J. is showing small signs of snapping out of his season-long funk since returning from the DL.
The Braves hitters on Wednesday will be facing right-hander Jordan Zimmermann (13-6, 3.06), who had been the team's most consistent pitcher. No other starter has more than seven wins entering Tuesday. Zimmermann had one of his best starts of the season last time out, blanking the Brewers on four hits over six innings (he's from Wisconsin). Prior to that, however, he had allowed 12 runs in 8.2 innings over two starts. Zimmermann dominated the Braves in Atlanta on May 1, holding them to just two hits and no runs while striking out eight in eight innings. Justin Upton is 4-for-10 career off him. The only Brave with a homer is Jason Heyward, who is 2-for-8 with three RBI against the righty. Heyward also has been hitting much better of late.
Atlanta counters with right-hander Kris Medlen (8-10, 3.85). He's not been super sharp in his past five starts, allowing at least four runs in four of them. Atlanta has won his past two. The Phillies hit three homers off him last time out, but Medlen kept them to four runs over six innings. Medlen faced the Nats on May 2 and allowed three runs and seven hits over seven innings in taking the loss. He has a 1.71 ERA in his past three starts against Washington. Ian Desmond is 4-for-12 with three doubles off Medlen. Bryce Harper is 2-for-10 with a solo homer. Jayson Werth, the NL Player of the Month for July, is 3-for-15 against Medlen. Werth was scratched from Monday's game with a groin strain, but he's likely to play Wednesday, if not Tuesday.
Braves at Nationals MLB Betting Odds and Trends
At BetOnline, the Nationals opened at -126 and the Braves at +116 with a total of 7. All trends entering Tuesday: Atlanta is 58-49-6 “over/under” (33-25-2 on the road) and 59-54 on the runline. Washington is 52-55-5 O/U (28-26-3 at home) and 46-66 on the runline.
The Braves are 4-0 in their past four Game 3s of a series. They are 8-0 in their past eight games against righty starters. Atlanta is 16-6 in Medlen's past 22 road starts. Washington is 9-1 in Zimmerman's past 10 Wednesday starts. It is 7-1 in his past eight home starts against teams with winning records. The Nats are 1-4 in his past five during Game 3 of a series. The over is 5-1 in Medlen's past six vs. the NL East. The over is 4-0 in Atlanta's past four Wednesday games. The over is 4-0 in Zimmermann's past four at home. The under is 6-2 in his past eight overall against teams with a winning record. The over is 4-1 in Zimmermann's past five against Atlanta. The Braves are 12-3 in the past 15 meetings overall.
MLB Picks: Braves at Nationals Betting Predictions
Well, if the Nats are held under three runs they are money -- for the opposition. Washington is 6-45 this year when scoring two runs or fewer. No team will have a winning record when scoring that little, but you'd expect the Nats' to be better with their good pitching staff. Just shows how lousy the offense has been this year. I like the Braves and the over here.
Read more articles by Alan Matthews
Get all of Today's MLB Picks
Get all of Today's Guaranteed Expert MLB Picks