Hot Braves Visit Colorado for a Four Game Set – Betting Preview

Atlanta Braves (56-39)  AT Colorado Rockies (45-50)
July 18, 2011 at 8:40 PM EST
Opening Line:  COL -115, ATL -105
Current Line:  COL -120, ATL -100
Opening Total:    9.5
Current Total: 9.5

SP: ATL- Derek Lowe; COL-Jason Hammel

Derek Lowe has 81 strikeouts in 113 IP

The name that comes up frequently for the Rockies when they think of their problems with the Braves’ hitters is Freddie Freeman.  He’s hit .273 on the season with 47 RBIs and has kept the Braves potent enough offensively to be one of the better teams in baseball this season.  However, being in a division with the Phillies doesn’t do them any favors.  Even 17 games above .500, they find themselves three games behind the 59-35 Phillies, who own the best record in baseball.

The Braves will open this 4 games series with the Rockies by sending Derek Lowe to the mound.  Lowe is 5-7 with a 4.30 ERA and hasn’t pitched since the All-Star break.  Lowe is known to have better second halfs than firsts, as he has gone 76-48 with a 3.66 ERA after the break in his career.  His ERA hasn’t been under 4.00 since 2008, when he finished with a 14-11 record and a 3.24 ERA.

Now at age 38, Lowe has slowed down a little and has to rely more on pitch setup than overpowering stuff, though at 6’6″ he can still put some decent heat behind his fastball.  But it has been his slider that has been his bread and butter and it proved to be a solid out pitch.

Last outing, Lowe threw 5 1/3rds innings while giving up 3 runs, but the Braves won by a count of 5 to 3 on July 5th.  The Rockies have dropped their last two at home, but only by one run, so they see a lot of reason for optimism:

“We’re not getting blown out, just unfortunate we’re not getting that big hit or big pitch to give us the win,” Braves first baseman Jason Giambi said following the 4-3 loss last night, a game in which Giambi homered.

The Rockies are also going to have to play much better in the field.  They can’t continue to commit three errors and expect their pitcher to bail them out once the runners get on the bags in scoring position.

The Rockies will send Jason Hammel to the mound.  Hammel is 5-8 with a 4.23 ERA this season; respectable, but hardly impressive.  He hasn’t won consecutive starts since late April and he gave up 2 runs in 6 1/3rds innings in his last outing July 8th against the Nationals.  He’s been working with Rockies’ pitching coach Bob Apodaca to improve the control he has on his fastball.  Last season, Hammel went 10-9 with a 4.81 ERA, so he has improved, and at only 28 he still has a lot of good seasons ahead of him.

He pitches much better on the road, for some strange reason, over two runs better in ERA, so he has to find a way to keep it together where it should be most easy, at home.

Hammel simply said of his bad pitching, “I needed to change something up.”  He had walked nearly as many as he had struck out and against the Braves he is 0-2 with a 9.53 ERA, over four starts.  Jason Hayward is batting 1.000 against him and Prado has homered, while going 4 of 6.

Todd Helton has always experienced success against the Braves, a team against which he hits .380 over 44 home games against the Braves.  He’s .306 with 2 HRs and 2 doubles off of Lowe.

Some betting trends:

The Atlanta Braves are 12-4 SU in their last 16 games and the total has gone OVER in 6 of their last 9 games.  The Braves are 11-5 SU in their last 16 road games and the total has gone OVER  in 4 of their last 5 against the Colorado Rockies.  The Braves are 4-1 SU in their last 5 against the Rockies and they are 1-4 SU in their last 5 road games against the Rockies.

The Colorado Rockies are 4-8 SU in their last 12 games while the total has gone UNDER in 5 of their last 7 games.  It has gone OVER In 4 of their last 6 at home and it has also gone OVER 4 of the last 5 games against the Atlanta Braves.  The Rockies are 1-4 SU in their last 5 games against Atlanta and 4-1 SU in their last 5 at home against the Braves.

The total being set at 9.5 seems about dead on for this game, so I would not advise betting on it.  With the betting line so close, it is at nearly even odds, but the Braves are clearly the superior team.

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