Braves at Phillies Picks and MLB Betting Odds
by Alan Matthews - 7/5/2013
Is this the series that convinces Philadelphia Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. to waive the white flag and start trading his valuable pieces? It well could be. We are now past the halfway point of the 162-game schedule. The Phillies could find themselves double digits out of both the NL East and wild-card lead if they don't fare well in this three-game set with Atlanta that starts Friday. Really, there's no chance the Phils will catch the East-leading Braves in the division. And does anyone think Philadelphia is better than Washington, Colorado or the L.A. Dodgers? Those are the three teams immediately ahead of the Phils and that trio is still well behind wild-card No. 2 Cincinnati.
Amaro has long said he's not trading the likes of Chase Utley and Cliff Lee, but obviously he's just trying to drive up the price. Utley is a free agent after this year and the Phillies need to get younger. Yes, he's a homegrown talent and fan favorite, but it's time to flip him for prospects. The Dodgers are rumored to be very interested. Lee would bring back a very strong haul even though he's got two years and about $50 million left after this season, plus a possible $27.5 vested option in 2016. But Lee is a difference-maker and would turn a Boston or Texas into the American League favorite. It's also not clear that it's not good to spend tons of money on a closer as they can be found on trees. Jonathan Papelbon has two years and $26 million left after this season, which is way too much, but he'd be a potential savior in that Detroit bullpen.
The Braves have the biggest division lead in baseball and a 94.3 percent chance of making the playoffs. So it's all about small moves for Atlanta, which would like to fortify its bullpen after losing very successful Eric O'Flaherty and Jonny Venters earlier this season. Cubs closer Kevin Gregg has been mentioned as a target to help set up Braves closer Craig Kimbrel. The Yankees' Joba Chamberlain also has been mentioned.
Braves at Phillies Betting Story Lines
I always like to use July 4 as a barometer of which teams will win their divisions. Last year, there were the division leaders: Yankees, White Sox, Rangers, Nationals, Pirates and Dodgers. None of them had a lead as big as Atlanta has now. Only the Yankees and Nationals won their division. None of those six previous division leaders played in the World Series. Detroit and San Francisco, which would win their divisions, of course did. Atlanta is -400 on Sportsbook.ag to win the NL East.
Lee (9-2, 2.59) is on the mound for Friday's opener. The Phils have lost his past two starts. Last time out he allowed three runs -- all in the first inning -- and struck out 10 Dodgers in seven innings, allowing just four hits. The start before that, he took a 3-0 lead into the ninth at San Diego that Papelbon blew (Lee did allow the first two batters to reach before leaving). Lee is 3-1 with a 3.53 ERA at home and the Phillies haven't lost one of his starts there since April 25. Lee opened his season April 4 in Atlanta and dominated, blanking the Braves on two hits over eight innings, striking out eight. He is 5-4 with a 2.74 ERA in his career against Atlanta.
Look for Atlanta reserve outfielder Reed Johnson to get a start Friday. He's been the best Brave in his career against Lee, hitting .368 with a homer in 19 at-bats. Dan Uggla has a homer and three RBI in 25 at-bats, but in typical Uggla fashion also has struck out 11 times. Justin Upton is at .364 in 11 at-bats. Massively struggling B.J. Upton is batting a solid .259 but has 11 strikeouts in 27 at-bats.
The Braves go with veteran right-hander Tim Hudson (4-7, 4.22). He had been terrific for five straight starts, but allowed four runs and five hits while walking three last time out against Arizona. He personally hasn't won a game since May 5 and the Braves have lost his last eight road starts. Hudson is 1-7 with a 5.71 road ERA this year compared to 3-0 with a 2.68 ERA at home. He pitched at Turner Field on Opening Day against Philadelphia and allowed three runs and six hits in 4.1 innings. Utley went yard off him.
Ryan Howard, who is battling a minor injury, has a .328 average, seven homers and 17 RBI in 67 at-bats off Hudson. So clearly Howard will play. Utley has two homers and 11 RBI off Hudson. Jimmy Rollins is hitting .222 with three homers in 81 career at-bats. Phillies outfielder Domonic Brown is warming up again after a ridiculous May. He hasn't homered in seven at-bats off Hudson.
Braves at Phillies Betting Odds and Trends
At BetOnline, the Phillies opened at -138 and the Braves at +128 with a total of 7. All trends entering Thursday: Atlanta is 42-38-4 over/under (23-19-1 on road) and 43-41 on the runline. Philadelphia is 46-38-1 O/U (23-13-1 at home) and 45-40 on the runline.
Atlanta is 4-1 in its past five series openers. The Braves are 1-4 in their past five against lefty starters and in their past five Friday games overall. Atlanta is 1-4 in Hudson's past five starts against a team with a losing record. The Phillies are 6-2 in their past eight home games against right-handed starters. The Phillies are 7-3 in Lee's past 10 home starts. Philly is 3-9 in Lee's past 12 Friday starts. The under is 4-0 in Atlanta's past four against a lefty starter. The under is 5-1 in Hudson's past six starts. The under is 10-1 in Lee's past 11 starts against the NL East. The under is 4-0 in Lee's past four starts against Atlanta. The Braves are 5-1 in Hudson's past six against Philadelphia.
Braves at Phillies Betting Prediction
Hard to believe these division rivals haven't played since a season-opening series in which Atlanta took two of three at home. Needless to say, they will play a ton after the break, including a season-concluding four-game set in Atlanta. The Braves fared well in the City of Brotherly Love in 2012, going 7-2. The question is whether Hudson can hold the Phils to three runs or less. Entering Thursday, the Phillies are 10-35 when scoring three runs or less this season. Problem is that I am not sure the Braves will hit three against Lee. Plus Hudson's road splits worry me. Take Philadelphia and the under.
Read more articles by Alan Matthews
Get all of Today's Free MLB Picks
Get all of Today's Expert MLB Picks