NL Matchup: Atlanta Braves at Cincinnati Reds

Atlanta Braves (59-42) AT Cincinnati Reds (49-51)

July 24, 2011 at 8:05 PM EST

Opening Line:  ATL -125, CIN +105

Current Line:  ATL -124, CIN +114

Opening Total: 9

Current Total: 9

SP: ATL- Brandon Beachy, CIN- Dontrelle Willis

Votto is hitting .314 on the season

It seems like a decade ago that Dontrelle Willis came in as a Marlins youngster and won a league high 22 games.  Of course, it was half a decade ago, but Willis’ career never did quite pan out like experts predicted it would, and his awkward mechanics became simply bad mechanics in time, as they no longer confused hitters, who eventually got in rhythm with the lefty’s delivery, much to his peril.

Willis gave up 2 runs and 5 hits in 4.2 innings of work against the Pirates, but still received the loss since he received zero runs of support.  Reds’ second baseman Brandon Phillips said Willis “pitched real good (sic) today…(but) we just didn’t come through for him…couldn’t get it done, period.”
Willis is 6-5 with a 4.91 ERA in 19 career starts against the Atlanta Braves, and his last matchup came on June 10th of 2010, when he gave up 2 runs over 4 innings and picked up a loss.  He’s hoping to last longer than 4 innings tonight.

Willis and the Reds are hoping that will change tonight, on the heels of a confidence building 11-2 victory last night.  The Reds were down 2-1 with 4 innings to go, but combined for 10 runs in the final 4 innings as Todd Frazier hit a 3 run double and Edgar Rentaria drove him 3 runs as an injury replacement for starter Zack Cozart.  Cozart was called up from AAA Louisville on July 7th, and immediately made an impact, starting his career with a 7 game hitting streak.  His recovery period has yet to be established, but having a “backup” like Rentaria will certainly lesson the blow for the Reds.

Prior to last night’s game, the Reds were averaging only 1.8 runs per game over their past 6 games, while compiling a .195 BA.  They matched that output in one night last night.

The Braves will send Brandon Beachy to the mound, who is 3-2 with a 3.75 ERA on the year.  Last time out, however, Beachy struggled.  He gave up 6 runs, while walking 5 in a 12-3 loss to the Rockies on Tuesday night.  Prior to that he had put together a 2.52 ERA over 9 starts.  At age 24, Beachy still has a lot of room for improvement and wasn’t even drafted in 2008.  The Braves did see enough reason to invite the youngster to camp, and eventually he became a starter in the same season, perhaps even improbably.  His fastball gets up to 93 and while Baseball Prospectus predicted a 4.14 ERA, he has been even better than that prediction.  Sometimes prospect hunting can prove to be a crapshoot, as many diamonds in the rough like Beachy end up producing excellent results on good teams, like the Braves.

Some betting trends:

The Braves are 15-7 SU in their last 22 games and the total has gone OVER in 6 of their last 7.  It has also gone OVER in 6 of their last 7 road games, while the Braves are 5-12 SU in their last 17 road games against the Reds.

The total has gone UNDER In 5 of the Cincinnati Reds’ last 7 games and it has gone OVER in 4 of their last 6 home games.  The Reds are 4-2 SU in their last 6 at home and 12-5 SU in their last 17 at home against the Atlanta Braves.

It’s somewhat hard to believe that a pitcher like Willis can start out so promising and get to the point he has been at.  One always expects him to revert to his old form, but I guard against that expectation, and still like the underdog Reds.  Joey Votto and Phillips have been hitting well and the momentum builder last night is a good sign for Reds backers.

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