The Atlanta Braves go into Washington and try to cut the deficit in the
race for 1st place in the NL East. Washington currently leads by 3.5 games and
with a Braves sweep they would be just a half game out but they have their work
cut out for them going against Stephen Strasburg in Game 1.
Braves have seen
Strasburg twice so far this year
Advantage = Braves. I
understand Strasburg is one of the most elite pitchers in the game but any time
you have an offense that gets multiple looks at him, the advantage goes to the
hitters. Atlanta saw SS on May 26 and touched him up for four runs on six hits while
Stephen lasted just five innings. He bounced back against Atlanta in a June second
start, which he went seven shutout innings of four hit balls while striking out 9. In
his overall career Strasburg has struggled against Atlanta going just 2-4 with
an ERA of 4.26, so the Braves have certainly gotten the best of him. Freddie
Freeman and Chipper Jones are hitting .500 against him in limited ABs, Brian McCann
is hitting .400, while Dan Uggla just owns him at an .883 clip with one HR and eight RBI.
Tommy Hanson can
match Strasburg pitch for pitch if he is on his game
When Tommy Hanson is
right, he is one of the most dangerous and undervalued pitchers in the game and
that is why the odds makers setting the Braves a +130 dog. Most will see the
low price on Strasburg at home and jump all over it, expect loads of money to
pour in on Washington, which is just what the MLB books want. Back to Hanson
though, on the year Tommy owns a record of 10-4 with a 4.02 ERA. Don't let the
4.02 ERA fool you though, Hanson has struck out 98 batters on the year and owns
one of the nastiest breaking balls in the game next to the pitcher he will be
matching up with today. Hanson has struggled at home but been his best on the
road (where he will be today) with a 3.00 ERA, giving up just 52 hits in 60 IP
and staggering 56 Ks. In his career against Washington, Hanson owns a 3.38 ERA.
So what we have here is a pitcher in Stephen Strasburg who has struggled
against the Braves in his career while Hanson, who is dominating in road starts,
has held Washington in check his entire career, yet we are getting a +130 take
back on Hanson.
As we said in our
title, the Braves will be out for blood in this series as they can make a
serious dent in the division lead. Atlanta is a veteran ball club who has been
here before and done that. Now on the other hand, Washington is very young and
has never found themselves in this position before. Often when you have young
teams like this they must fail first before they learn how to really win. It's
very possibly Washington could come into this series with a case of the yips,
with extra nerves, that very well could cost them timely mistakes in ball games
in which should be tight games, and those mistakes could be deciding factors in
the ball game. Atlanta is playing their best baseball of the season right now,
winners of seven of their last 10, while the Nats just got drubbed by the Mets 9-3
yesterday, with their ace Gio Gonzalez getting tagged big time, so they
certainly can't be feeling all that great.
Atlanta is going to
prevent a very stiff challenge for Washington here and in our opinion this is
going to be a true measuring stick for the Nats. Right now they are too young
to handle this type of pressure and this series will be a learning experience
for them. Too much value here on the Braves to pass up.
Atlanta in Game 1
+130 is our play.
Saturday afternoon we
have another intriguing pitching matchup with Ben Sheets and Edwin Jackson. The
line has not been released yet on this game but if Atlanta takes the first
game, like we expect them too, we suspect Washington will be around a -140
favorite, with the book makers not being buyers just yet on Ben Sheets, but
they should be.
After two years out
of the game, Sheets made his first start and was terrific. He looked like the
Ben Sheets of old that pitched for the Brewers and made All Star teams every
year and was in contention for Cy Youngs every year. Sheets pitched 6 innings
of shutout ball while giving up just 2 hits, while striking out 5. What is even
more impressive is he had complete command of everything he was throwing,
something that is very difficult for someone who has been on the shelf for
almost 2 years. If Sheets can keep giving Atlanta these types of performances,
he will be a HUGE boost to their rotation and possibly put them over the top.
Edwin Jackson is
struggling big time
counter with Edwin Jackson, who has been getting torched lately. In his last 3
starts Jackson owns an ERA of 10.54, a 1.98 WHIP while giving up 21 hits in
just 12 innings pitched. That is devastating; especially for his psyche. Now he’s
going to be thrown to the wolves, in the middle of a division race and be asked
to shut down a team who is hunting him and his team mates down, while they are
playing their hottest baseball of the season. Jacksons head cannot be in a good
place right now. In his last 3 starts he has not made it out of the 5th inning
and got drilled by the Rockies ( who own one of the worst records in the ML),
lasting just 3 innings, rocked for 10 hits and 8 earned runs. Jackson is known
as a streaky pitcher, either red hot or ice cold and it appears he is in one of
his cold spells.
Again we give a major
edge to the Braves in Game 2 and if they are getting plus money it’s even more
of a gift that we must take advantage of. We recommend playing the Braves in
the first two Games of this series as the young Nationals will certainly be
dealing with a ton of nerves, trying to hold off the Braves from taking over first place in the NL East.