Braves at Tigers Picks and MLB Betting Odds
by Alan Matthews - 4/26/2013
The Braves and Tigers franchises have never met in the World Series, but as things currently stand that's the Fall Classic matchup oddsmakers favor this October. The two teams open a three-game interleague series in the Motor City on Friday night -- they haven't played since 2010, and this will only be Atlanta's second-ever visit to Detroit (2004).
An Atlanta-Detroit World Series matchup is the +1400 favorite at Sportsbook.ag. The Braves have the best record in baseball at 15-6 and already have a cushy lead in the NL East. Atlanta just took two of three in snowy Colorado against the first-place Rockies. The Braves have lost just one series so far and are +350 NL favorites, supplanting struggling Washington.
The Tigers have been a bit disappointing so far as they were expected to dominate the AL Central, and they still might -- they are +300 favorites to repeat as AL champions. Detroit thinks it solved its major problem at closer by bringing back Jose Valverde to finish games. Anyone could have had “Papa Grande” this offseason, but he went untouched after becoming a gas can at the end of last season with Detroit. The Tigers took no risk whatsoever in signing Valverde to a recent minor-league contract, and he was called up Tuesday and installed as the closer. So far, so good: He saved Wednesday's game against Kansas City without incident. He threw entirely fastballs, hitting as high as 95 mph on the gun. Joaquin Benoit will serve as Valverde's set-up man. The Tigers closed a home series against Kansas City on Thursday afternoon.
Braves at Tigers Betting Story Lines
Atlanta's biggest hole entering the season was replacing future Hall of Famer Chipper Jones at third base. It appears the Braves have found a nice platoon in Chris Johnson and Juan Francisco. Atlanta third basemen lead the National League with a .310 average to go along with six homers and 14 RBI. Johnson leads the NL in hitting at .397. He has played some first, but that won't happen much anymore with Freddie Freeman's return from the disabled list Tuesday. He was 2-for-11 with an RBI and two runs scored in three games in Colorado. With Johnson batting from the right side and Francisco (.316, four HRs, 11 RBI) from the left, Manager Fredi Gonzalez has the perfect set up at the hot corner.
Atlanta will be without outfielder Jason Heyward for a while. He had an emergency appendectomy on Monday and is on the 15-day disabled list. Heyward had been a huge disappointment, hitting .121 with two homers and five RBI. Reed Johnson and Jordan Schafer will platoon in right field until Heyward returns. Schafer, the lefty hitter, is hitting a tidy .438 with three steals in 16 at-bats. He was once considered the team's top prospect but is now 26. Johnson, the right-handed bat, is at .286.
The Braves have the majors' best ERA (2.52) by a wide margin and on Friday start lefty Paul Maholm (3-1, 1.03), who was acquired at least year’s Trade Deadline from the Cubs. He started the season with 25 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings, the longest streak by any pitcher to start a year since 1966. Maholm allowed three runs in six innings in a loss to Pittsburgh last time out. Detroit's Prince Fielder has seen Maholm by far the most of any Tiger but is hitting just .137 with 15 strikeouts and no homers in 51 at-bats.
Detroit starts right-hander Anibal Sanchez (2-1, 1.75), who was acquired last summer from the Marlins and then got a big new contract this past offseason. He was brilliant in his first three starts but hit a bit of a wall last time out, allowing three runs on 11 hits in 6.2 innings of a loss at the Angels. Sanchez did face the Braves last year once with the Marlins, allowing seven runs in 6.2 innings in a loss. Early NL MVP favorite Justin Upton (.311, 11 HRs, 16 RBI) is hitting .308 with a homer in 11 at-bats off Sanchez. Dan Uggla has two homers in 10 at-bats against him.
Braves at Tigers MLB Betting Odds and Trends
At BetOnline, Detroit opened at -137 and Atlanta at +127 with the total at 7.5. All Tigers trends entering Thursday: Detroit is 12-6-1 “over/under” (6-0-1 at home) and 10-9 on the runline. The Braves are 10-11 O/U (6-7 on road) and 12-9 on runline.
The Braves have won their past seven series openers. They are 7-2 in their past nine road games against a team with a winning record. Atlanta is 5-2 in its past seven road games against a right-handed starter. The Tigers have won 11 of their past 15 series openers. Detroit is 1-5 in its past six against a lefty starter. Detroit has lost its past four interleague games. The Tigers are 2-6 in Sanchez's past eight starts against a team with a winning record. The under is 5-0 in Maholm's past five series openers. The over is 5-1 in Detroit's past six series openers. The under is 10-4-1 in Sanchez's past 15 starts.
Braves at Tigers Picks and Betting Predictions
This is Atlanta's first series in an American League park this year, so obviously the first time the team will use a designated hitter. Against the right-hander Sanchez, Gonzalez is likely to start Francisco at third and Schafer in right, so he could use either Chris or Reed Johnson at DH or perhaps huge surprise Evan Gattis there and let Gerald Laird catch as Laird is much better defensively. Regardless, it makes the Braves lineup that much better.
Maholm did face Detroit last year while with the Cubs, allowing two runs in six innings of a no-decision. Sanchez, meanwhile, has a 5.42 ERA in 17 career starts against the Braves. This is one of those value times to take the underdog, so Atlanta and over it is.
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