Bet Over 7 in Braves vs. Dodgers Series Opener

Willie Bee

Tuesday, July 29, 2014 11:42 AM GMT

Keep tuned to SBR for previews and free MLB picks this week as playoff contenders collide in Los Angeles where the Dodgers host the Atlanta Braves for a 3-game series.

Almost half of the National League is bunched at the top of the standings just 2.5 games apart. Two among that group are currently in possession of the longest win streaks in the Senior Circuit, and that should help create a playoff atmosphere for the 3-game set in Los Angeles between the Dodgers and Atlanta Braves.

In fact, the Braves and Dodgers did indeed meet in the postseason last year with a very real potential to meet again this October with two of the top 4 NL records entering this series. The MLB Network begins coverage of Game 1 at 10:10 PM (ET), veterans Aaron Harang and Josh Beckett the initial mound combatants.

Tuesday's baseball betting board began with LA -140 chalk and a 7 run line that leaned 'over'. The total still favors the high side after overnight trading, while the Dodgers have crept up to around -145 at most outlets.

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Clubs Meet Again In Hotlanta Two Weeks From Now
Atlanta (58-48, +0.7 units, 43-57-6 O/U/P) begins an 8-game swing out west with Tuesday's tango at Chavez Ravine, three games in San Diego and two in Seattle following this set. The Braves just wrapped up a 6-5 homestand to begin the second half, needing to win the last three in their series with the Padres to avoid a losing record in front of Tomahawk Chop Nation, and send Atlanta on this road trip just a half-game behind Washington in the NL East.

One might think being 12 games above .500 at this stage would have a team in the black on the MLB odds, but that's not the case for Los Angeles (59-47, -0.2 units, 49-52-5 O/U/P). Their tiny smattering of red ink to this point isn't due to losing a bunch of games as big chalk, either, as the Dodgers have triumphed in their last eight contests at -170 or higher on the moneyline. As you might imagine, seven of those occasions came with Clayton Kershaw on the mound.

We should see Kershaw in the series finale, a game that figures to be a dandy matchup to end the first meeting between the clubs in 2014 with Julio Teheran pitching for Atlanta. One of five NL rivalries in which each club has beaten the other at least 1,000 times in the regular season, this one dates to 1890 when they played in Boston and Brooklyn, and it's the Dodgers who own the all-time advantage, 1,167-1,021.  That doesn't include their two postseason battles in 1996 and last season, Atlanta holding a slim 4-3 edge in those.

The Braves won last season's series, 5-2, sweeping three in Atlanta and splitting four in LA. Three of the four regular season tilts at Dodger Stadium a year ago stayed under totals that closed in the 7-7.5 run range, while both playoff clashes on this field went past 6.5 run marks.

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Both Starters Enjoying Good Seasons; Can They Keep It Up?
Atlanta has missed a couple of golden opportunities with Harang on the bump since the all-star break, the righty taking two no-decisions vs. the Phillies and Marlins while surrendering just two runs in 13 innings. The Braves managed to lose both games thanks to scoring three runs combined, and offense has been an issue all season with Fredi Gonzalez's gang 10th in the NL plating 3.87 RPG. The well-traveled Harang hasn't faced the Dodgers since 2011 when he was with the Padres, but dominated them that season (20 IP, 1 ER, .094 AVG). He made 14 starts at Dodger Stadium the following season in LA's rotation, going 2-5 with a 3.84 ERA.

Beckett certainly didn't have his best stuff last Tuesday in Pittsburgh, serving up three homers among the six hits he allowed in 3.2 innings, his first start back from the DL because of a bum hip. This will be his first start against the Braves since his Red Sox days in 2009, but Beckett was dominant against them that year and in previous seasons when he was with the Marlins. The righty is 6-0 in his last seven assignments vs. Atlanta with a microscopic 0.38 ERA (47 IP).

Rain will not be an issue at all in this series; all three games begin at 7:10 PM local time, meaning some shadows creeping by between the pitchers and batters in the first few innings, often a disadvantage for the hitters. But it will be creeping into the low-90s in the 90012 during the afternoons, leading to temps in the mid-80s for first pitch, warm by early-evening LA standards, which could help the hitters along with a light SW breeze (out to right).

I'm really not too keen on backing Beckett given his most recent start, but instead of getting firmly behind Harang and the underdog Braves, my free pick will be on the scoreboard barrier being breached in the series opener.

MLB Pick: Braves-Dodgers Over 7 (-120)

Season: 92-91 (+0.75)