A couple of NL East teams trying to stay within shouting distance of the top of that division begin the second half of this baseball season Friday night as the New York Mets hit Atlanta for three games with the Braves at Turner Field.
Saturday's Game 2 Pick & Preview
Atlanta has won the first two games of this series, holding
off New York 7-5 Friday then rallying to win 8-7 Saturday, to extend its
winning streak to six games.
The Braves bats have been banging away recently, scoring 37
runs during their streak.
So Atlanta now trails Washington by three games in the NL
East, while the Mets now sit 5.5 games off the pace. The Braves are also just a
game off the lead in the NL Wild-Card race, with New York 3.5 games out.
Atlanta will send reclamation project Ben Sheets to the
mound Sunday against Johan Santana (6-5, 3.24) for New York.
Santana is nine-for-17 on quality starts this season,
including that no-hitter against St. Louis back in June, and the Mets are 9-8 in
games he's started. He was working on a string of three QS in a row until his
last outing, when he got bombed for seven runs on 13 hits in less than five
innings in a loss to the Cubs. On the season Santana has allowed 87 hits in 103
innings, walked 33 and struck out 99.
Santana has started twice against the Braves this season,
getting a win by holding them scoreless on two hits over five innings, then
taking a loss in giving up four ER on four hits in less than two innings.
Sheets, who turns 34 this week, hasn't pitched in the Majors
since going 4-9 for Oakland back in 2010, missing the last two years because of
an elbow injury. But he's worked his way back, and signed with Atlanta earlier
this month. Since joining the Braves organization Sheets started twice at
double-A Mississippi, giving up six ER in 10 2/3 innings, walking one and
Sheets is likely to be on a pitch count Sunday.
As of Sunday morning most baseball betting outlets are
listing Sunday's game at right around a pick 'em, with a total of 8.5.
The run line on this game is widely varied. Atlanta could be
found at +170 giving the run and a half at a couple of shops early this
morning, while New York can be played at +160 at 5Dimes giving the 1.5 runs.
Atlanta is nine games over .500 overall at 48-39, but just
13-18 when going against left-handed starting pitchers.
Free MLB Pick
As Milwaukee Brewers fans we're very happy to see Sheets get
another chance. He served the Brewers well, has worked his way back after a
nasty injury and could still have a little something to offer. We just can't
bring ourselves to back him in his first start back. So we'll go with Santana
and the Mets for Sunday.
Saturday's Game 2 Pick & Preview
Atlanta won this series opener Friday night 7-5, grabbing an
early 5-0 lead and hanging on from there. The Braves won as a -160 favorite on the MLB betting line, and the game
played 'over' its total of 8.5.
So the Braves are now four games back of first-place
Washington in the NL East, while the Mets are now 5.5 games off the pace.
Atlanta will send Tommy Hanson (10-5, 3.71) to the mound for
Saturday's game against New York's All-Star knuckleballer RA Dickey (12-1,
Hanson is only eight-for-18 on quality starts this season,
but the Braves are 12-6 in games he's started. Most recently Hanson gave up
three runs on six hits in seven innings against Philly last Saturday, and over his
last four starts he's given up 14 earned runs in 25 1/3 innings. Nothing
Hanson has one start this year against the Mets, taking a loss
back in April when he gave up four ER on five hits over seven innings.
On the other side of this pitching matchup, Dickey has been
mostly marvelous all season, memorably throwing back-to-back one-hitters back
in June. He's 12-for-17 on quality starts this year, allowed just 86 hits in
120 innings, walked 26 and struck out 123. But over his last three starts
before the break he twice gave up five runs, to the Yankees and Phillies.
The last team to beat Dickey was the Braves, who got him for
eight runs in less than five innings back on April 18. Since then Dickey is
10-0, and the Mets have won 12 of his last 14 starts.
Most online sportsbooks are listing the Braves as favorites
of right around -110 for Saturday's game, with an 'over/under' of 7.5
Atlanta can also be gotten at upwards of +190 on the run
line at various baseball betting shops.
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We were on the wrong side of Friday's game with the Mets,
but we're not afraid to hop right back up on that horse. So we'll go with
Dickey and New York Saturday.
Friday's Game 1 Pick & Preview
To set things up, New York has been one of the more
surprising teams in baseball so far this year. The Mets were not expected to
contend for a playoff spot, but instead, thanks to their starting rotation and
a quietly productive bunch of bats, they've hung right in their divisional race
all year long. New York heads into the second half of the season at 46-40 and
4.5 games back of first-place Washington in the NL East.
Atlanta, meanwhile, was fully expected to contend this
season, but has had its struggles along the way. The Braves offense has gone
cold for significant stretches, and they've suffered some key injuries. They
did win their last four games before the break, though, sweeping a weekend
series in Philadelphia, and start the second half at 46-39 and four games
behind the Nationals.
Atlanta is also tied for the lead with Cincinnati for the
top two spots in the NL Wild-Card standings, with the Mets just a half-game
back. So this weekend's series has some serious playoff implications.
Tim Hudson (7-4, 3.56) will throw for Atlanta in Friday's
series opener (7:35 pm Eastern) against Chris Young (2-2, 3.41) for the Mets.
Hudson, who will turn 37 years old Saturday, is only
six-for-13 on quality starts this season, but the Braves have won nine of his
outings. Most recently Hudson held the Phillies scoreless on four hits through
seven innings last Friday, although that did come on the heels of a bad outing
On the season Hudson has allowed 78 hits, just four of those
homers, in 86 innings.
Hudson hasn't faced the Mets yet this year; last year, he
started against New York five times, allowing 12 earned runs on 29 hits in 27
1/3 innings. Atlanta lost three of those games.
On the other side of this pitching matchup is Young, who didn't
join the team until June, is three-for-six on quality starts this year (by our
tough standards), and the Mets are 2-4 in his starts. He'd have a couple more
QS, though, if he's just gotten through the sixth inning a couple of times.
Most recently Young held Philly to three runs in seven innings, and he's yet to
give up more than three runs in any of his starts.
For the year Young has allowed 39 hits and eight walks in 37
Young hasn't pitched against the Braves since 2008.
The Mets are 49-33 on the 'over/unders' this season, for a
couple of reasons. First, they have a recent reputation of being rather poor
offensively, so oddsmakers set their totals a little on the low side. But New
York is actually averaging 4.6 runs per game, ninth-most in the Majors.
Secondly, their bullpen stinks, ranking dead last in baseball with a 4.94 ERA.
The Mets lead the season series with the Braves four games
Atlanta is below .500 at home so far this season at 20-22.
We would expect, though, for the Braves to start working at reversing that
As of Thursday morning, MLB odds for Friday's game had not yet
been posted. As far as some MLB futures betting goes Bovada is listing the
Nationals at 5/8 to win the NL East, Atlanta at 5/2 and New York at 15/2. The
Braves are also getting 7/1 to win the National League pennant and 16/1 to win
the World Series, while the Mets are getting 16/1 to win the pennant and 40/1
to win the Series.
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Hudson and the Braves are likely to be mild favorites for
Friday's game, but we like what Young has been doing, so we will add New York to our baseball picks for Friday night.