Two teams that would be in the playoffs if the season ended today face off in the second game of a four-game weekend series in Atlanta.
San Francisco Giants at Atlanta Braves
San Francisco entered this four-game series winning 21 of their last 27 games since July 4, but fell 3-2 in defeat in the opener at Turner Field. The Giants have now dropped back-to-back games for the first time since July 1-2. “We’ve won these kind of games. Look at the Dodgers series,” manager Bruce Bochy said after the game. The club has a good chance of bouncing back over the weekend, given its 6-0-2 series record in their last eight sets. San Francisco is 37-33 this season against teams with a record above .500, while going 25-14 versus losing teams. The Giants are 29-28 on the road this season (+120) and the total is 31-25 O/U in those contests. The team is 46-35 when facing right-handed starters in 2010 (+780) and a solid 166-147 in this situation over the last three seasons (+2,580). San Francisco hasn’t dropped three in a row since a season-high, seven-game skid from June 26-July 2.
Two contenders in the National League start the month of August looking to capture a series victory.
Atlanta Braves at Cincinnati Reds
Atlanta continues to lead the NL East division, but its lead has been cut due to losing five of eight games on its current road trip. The Braves did make a couple moves at the trade deadline, picking up outfielder Rick Ankiel and relief pitcher Kyle Farnsworth from Kansas City. “Ankiel’s a tremendous outfielder, a great athlete,” Chipper Jones said. “Hopefully he helps solidify things out there.” The club is still a tremendous 18-9 against the NL Central, which is their best winning percentage against any division this season. Atlanta is also 20-15 in day games this season (+380) and the total is 19-16 O/U in those contests. The team is averaging 4.0 runs per game under the sun and hitting for a combined .256 average, while opponents are scoring 3.8 and batting .236. Atlanta has gone 26-31 in August the last three years (-820).
The Nationals look to make it five straight with their heralded rookie on the mound against the division-leading Braves.
Atlanta Braves at Washington Nationals
Atlanta enters this series with the second-biggest division lead in the majors, leading the Phillies by 4.5 games, while having a 15.5 game advantage on tonight’s opponent. The Braves have alternated wins and losses over the past six games and managed to lose just its second series since May 10th in dropping two of three games against the Florida Marlins over the past weekend. The club left 11 runners on base in a 5-4 defeat on Sunday. “You led the other team off the hook that many times, eventually they’re going to cash in and beat you,” said third baseman Chipper Jones. From an offensive standpoint, catcher Brian McCann has been doing his part since being named the All-Star Game MVP, hitting three home runs and driving in 14 runs in his last 10 games. Atlanta is 7-4 when playing with a day off this year (+280) and the total is an even 4-4 O/U in those contests.
The all-star break is a very good time to evaluate what we have seen so far, and what we might expect going forward. As a bettor the thing I am most interested in is to spot pitchers who are going to have the potential to produce profits in the second half. One of the best ways I know of to do that is to look for pitchers who aren’t likely to be as productive and profitable in the second half as they were to start the season. If a pitcher has been steady and profitable to start the season then the public is going to be drawn to them. If those pitchers don’t quite measure up to their earlier levels of production then there is going to be value to be had. Here are five guys who could be poised for a downward adjustment in the second half:
The Braves look to remain red-hot and complete the interleague sweep, but the road underdog has an ace up its sleeve.
Detroit Tigers at Atlanta Braves
Detroit was in control of Saturday’s contest against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field, but one pitch in the seventh inning changed that in a hurry. Relief pitcher Joel Zumaya gave up two walks in the inning before Braves 3B Chipper Jones sent a fastball into the right-center field bleachers to give the home team a 4-3 victory. The Tigers are now 10-7 in interleague play (+280) and 1-4 on its current road trip that has sent them to New York (1-2) and Atlanta (0-2). First baseman Miguel Cabrera was the lone bright spot in the defeat, hitting a solo home run in the ninth inning to tie Toronto’s Jose Bautista for the MLB-lead (20). He came into the game hitting .356 with 11 home runs and 35 RBI on the road this season.
Stephen Strasburg has captured all of the headlines and imagination recently, and he should – his first outing was special in an incomprehensible way. He’s the poster child for the youth movement on the mound these days, but he’s far from the only young guy who is doing some damage against opposing teams. Young pitchers are really paying off at the betting window as well – eight of the 25 most profitable starters who have had at least seven starts this season are under the age of 25, and two more are 25. It seems like it used to take a few years for pitchers to find their stride and settle into the role of strong starter, but guys these days are just jumping out of the gates. Beyond the profitable pitchers there are young guys tearing it up – Tim Lincecum had two Cy Youngs by 25, and David Price is leading the AL in wins at 25.
Two of the hottest teams in Major League Baseball headline Saturday night’s betting card.
Atlanta Braves at Los Angeles Dodgers
Atlanta’s nine-game winning streak came to an end on Friday night, dropping a 5-4 decision to Los Angeles at Dodger Stadium. Over the past 25 games, the Braves have gone 19-6, tied with today’s opponent for the best mark in baseball during that span. 1B Troy Glaus has led the team offensively since May 1st, leading the National League with 33 RBI and ranking fourth with a .339 batting average during that span. This has proven important with star 3B Chipper Jones out with an injured right finger the past two games. “I still feel pain when it bends either way,” Jones said. “I’m still getting treatments and I’ll see what they say.” Atlanta batters have collected an MLB-best 247 walks, which could prove effective against its opposing hurler tonight, as Chad Billingsley has walked 16 batters in his 24.2 innings of work against the Braves. The Braves check in with a 10-12 record this season when following a loss (-320).
It was a game full of drama for the Yankees yesterday against the Mets. First, Chien-Ming Wang got the start, and he wasn’t a disaster. He allowed two runs in just over five innings. That’s not great, but it’s a heck of a lot better than he has been in a long while. Could this be a sign of progress? Later in the game, Mariano Rivera made news not once, but twice. First, he got the first RBI of his entire career when he was walked with the bases loaded in the top of the ninth. It was also his first career walk, and only his third career at-bat. One RBI every three at-bats – that’s an impressive rate. Finally, Rivera’s 18th save of the season was the 500th of his career. Only Trevor Hoffman had previously reached that milestone, so this makes him officially what he already was – the undisputed king of the American League closers.
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