Free MLB picks are in store for a long set in
By: Willie Bee
Five more weeks are left on the schedule, plenty of time for any team to make up one losing performance or one bad series. But it's tough to ignore the importance of today's action in the National League where we find four teams beginning Sunday a game apart for the best record in the Senior Circuit.
Two of those squads collide in St. Louis where the Cardinals and Atlanta Braves complete their 4-game set at Busch Stadium. The Cardinals have won the first three contests and send Lance Lynn to the mound with their eyes on a sweep. Charged with helping Atlanta prevent being broomed, and maintain the Braves' 1-game edge at the top of the NL, is Mike Minor.
Sunday morning MLB odds list the Cardinals around -130 with a 7.5 run total (O-115).
St. Louis' 6-2 victory Saturday lifted the Redbirds into a tie for first with the Pittsburgh Pirates in the NL Central, both teams 76-53, while the loss dropped the Braves to 77-52. Also entering play today 76-53 are the Los Angeles Dodgers, and lest we forget, the Cincinnati Reds are just 3.5 games behind the Braves with a few more than 30 games remaining for all five of those teams.
Minor was originally scheduled to skip a turn through the Atlanta rotation, but Brandon Beachy's return to the DL altered those plans. Coming off his worst start of the season eight days ago vs. the surging Washington Nationals, Minor is just a month removed from his first career victory over the Cardinals. The July 26 home assignment saw the lefty toss seven 4-hit innings to outduel St. Louis' Adam Wainwright, the Cards' only run courtesy of a Yadier Molina long ball.
Lynn also looks to get back on track following a rough outing this past Tuesday in Milwaukee where he surrendered six runs (4 earned) in six frames. He split his two appearances vs. Atlanta a year ago, his only career starts against the Braves, and owns a 3.04 ERA this season at Busch, St. Louis winning 10 of the 13 assignments.
Mike Muchlinski, now in his third full season calling big league games, should be south of the dish for the finale. He began 2013 with strong OVER tendencies, but that has swung to the low side with an 8-12 O/U mark overall and six of his last seven never reaching the total.
Atlanta has scored just five runs in the first three games, also the first three games minus Jason Heyward in the lineup. If the Braves can't put up 2-3 early runs today, it's only going to add to the pressure on Minor trying to hold off the NL's top-scoring team. I'm not sure either event will happen, however, and offer my free play on St. Louis to sweep.
My pick: Cardinals -130 at William Hill
By: Willie Bee
First it was Joe Kelly, then came Adam Wainwright. Now it's Shelby Miller's turn to to try and continue the fine starting pitching for the St. Louis Cardinals in their series with the Atlanta Braves.
Up 2-0 in the 4-game set following Friday's 3-1 victory, St. Louis looks to keep the pressure on the Pittsburgh Pirates in the NL Central in Saturday night's tilt. Miller and the Cards can be found in the -130 to -140 range on SBR's live MLB odds in the matchup with Julio Teheran and the Braves, a 7.5 run total (U-120) also available on today's baseball betting card.
Wainwright tossed his NL-leading fifth complete game to help St. Louis to the two-zip series lead. The effort marked his 7th-straight outing of seven innings or more, and he even punctuated Friday's scoring with a sac fly in the seventh. With the victory, the Cardinals stayed a game behind the Pirates in the division race, pulling to within two of the Braves for the best record in the majors.
Atlanta has won five of Teheran's six starts since the all-star break, the most recent outing vs. Washington last Sunday. Teheran tossed six shutout innings in the 2-1 victory, and is 3-1 in August with a nifty 2.35 ERA to go with 26 strikeouts in 23 frames. He has been a little more reachable on the road where his ERA is about half a run higher than on the mound in Atlanta, but the results have been a 7-4 record for the Braves with a 2.5 unit return for bettors.
Teheran's one and only appearance vs. the Cardinals came on July 27 at Turner Field where he got in seven innings of work while allowing only two hits and no runs.
The Cardinals have split Miller's four August starts, but that comes with an asterisk since one of the losses came when the rookie was knocked from a game vs. the Dodgers just two pitches in after getting nailed on the elbow by a Carl Crawford liner. The 19th overall pick of the 2009 draft is coming off a win last Sunday in Milwaukee, tossing 5.1 innings and allowing two runs while striking out eight in St. Louis' 8-5 triumph. Miller faced the Braves in Atlanta on July 28, pitching into the sixth and allowing three runs (2 earned) to take the loss in the 5-2 decision.
Umpire Doug Eddings should work the dish in Game 3; his 15-12 O/U record includes four of last six have jumping the scoreboard hurdle. Weather will not be a factor with clear skies and a light SE breeze (right to left).
My SBR free picks need to be issued with a fade warning right now. After enjoying a nice spurt following the All-Star Game, the past couple of weeks have gone south with a 7-10 mark plus a couple of pushes. I'll play the chalk line for this one to set up Sunday as the rubber match in the season series between the two clubs.
My pick: Cardinals -134 at Bet 365
By: Willie Bee
Minus Jason Heyward in their lineup following a broken jaw that will cost the outfielder at least a month on the DL, the Atlanta Braves couldn't muster enough offense to beat the St. Louis Cardinals in the opener of their four game series. The Braves are now tasked with leveling the set against St. Louis' ace.
Adam Wainwright will climb the hill in St. Louis for tonight's first pitch (8:15 PM ET), and the MLB odds for Game 2 have the Cardinals at -165 to win their third straight. Kris Medlen will oppose Wainwright in the clash of playoff contenders, with scoreboard bettors facing a 7 run total priced to the OVER.
Atlanta had its chances early to put runs on the board Thursday but never could break through against St. Louis starter Joe Kelly. Jordan Schafer took over Heyward's leadoff spot for the Braves, going 0-for-5 with a pair of punch outs as the Redbirds improved to 5-0 in Kelly's August assignments.
Medlen has had five days off since pitching in relief last Saturday in the Braves' 8-7 loss to the Nationals. The contest went 16 innings with Medlen throwing the final three for Atlanta and allowing Washington's game-winning run. He had won his previous four starts before making his first relief appearance since July 2012.
The outing that began Medlen's 4-game win streak came against the Cardinals in Atlanta on July 28. Medlen worked six innings and allowed two runs, his first career start vs. St. Louis.
Wainwright has rebounded from a rough patch by helping the Cards into the winner's circle each of his last two assignments. He worked seven 5-hit innings at the Cubs last Sunday, striking out 11 to pick up his ninth road victory of the season, but first since late-June in Oakland. The Cardinals are 6-5 in his 11 St. Louis assignments, Wainwright posting a 2.18 ERA in those tilts while holding hitters to a .214 average. The Braves have beaten Wainwright the last two times they faced him, including a 4-1 decision in Atlanta just about a month ago.
There is a 30% chance of some rain during the day in the St. Louis area, but that diminishes by game time when the forecast calls for the mid-80s on the thermometer and a light breeze from the east (in from right). Paul Nauert is up next for the umpire crew to call balls and strikes, and his 11-15-2 O/U/P record includes his last six contests never reaching the total. His two plate assignments at Busch Stadium this season have split the totals, with the contest that Wainwright started for the Cards staying UNDER.
Check out today's betting lines & odds report, right here~
Thursday's 6-2 final pushed the 8 run total and snapped a string of four consecutive OVERS between the teams on this diamond. I'm banking on the hitters to return to form with a free pick on the OVER in Game 2.
Thursday Series Opener
By: Willie Bee
It was no surprise when checking the average age of current MLB rosters to find the Houston Astros as the youngest. But No. 2 on the list based on present 25-man teams? Seeing the Atlanta Braves there is a mild shock, and their opponents this weekend aren't far behind.
The St. Louis Cardinals return from a 6-game roadie to begin an important 7-game homestand against the Braves followed by the Pittsburgh Pirates. St. Louis and Atlanta are in great shape to make the postseason, especially the Braves with their 15-game lead in the National League East. The Redbirds are just behind the Pirates in the NL Central, and lead the wild card race.
Thursday's first of four games finds the Braves shuffling their rotation a bit in order to give Mike Minor some extra rest. Atlanta will activate Paul Maholm from the DL in order to skip Minor this turn through the order, and the Cardinals send Joe Kelly to the mound. The Cards are priced around -140 on SBR's live MLB odds with a unanimous 8 run total.
The teams met about a month ago in Atlanta where the Braves and the UNDER swept the 3-game set. St. Louis holds a tiny 25-24 edge in the last 49, 12-10 at the latest park bearing the Busch Stadium moniker. The last four played on this diamond went OVER, that stretch dating to Sept 11, 2011 and averaging a little more than 11 runs per clash.
Youth Being Served On Both Rosters
Some of the old farts currently on the DL don't figure into the latest stats, but a quick check of the 25-man rosters the day before the series began found the Braves (26.7) second to the Astros (25.4) with the Cardinals (27.7) seventh on the age chart. That certainly bodes well for both organizations in coming years, and is a testament to the developmental programs that have these kids not only in the majors, but winning right now.
The farm systems aren't dry either, with each club having some of the top prospects in the majors to keep pushing the youth at the big league level. Continuing in the line of excellent Braves pitchers are Lucas Sims and JR Graham, a couple of kids we could see in Atlanta next year, plus catcher Christian Bethancourt. The Cardinals have already called up several of their top minor leaguers this season, such as Michael Wacha and Kolten Wong, plus have Oscar Taveras ready to make his MLB debut in 2014.
At 31, Maholm is something of a geezer on either roster. He'll be making his first start since July 20 due to a wrist injury that sidelined him, and seeing the Cardinals for the first time in '13 and first time in a Braves uniform. Maholm faced them plenty while he was with the Pirates and owns a 4.08 ERA in more than 100 innings.
Kelly was pitching primarily in relief until July, and has been fantastic in his seven starts since joining the rotation. Atlanta is 6-1 in those outings, winning the last four, and should be a perfect 7-0 if not for the offense coming up empty when Kelly faced the Braves in Atlanta on July 27. The righty out of UC-Riverside worked 6.1 innings and didn't surrender a run.
Cardinals Setting Blistering Pace In RISP Column
These are the top two offenses in the NL, with the Cardinals plating 4.87 runs per game to Atlanta's 4.47. St. Louis is tops in the majors in putting runs on the board when the opportunity presents itself. The Cards own a sizzling .327 batting average with runners in scoring position, and are just a notch below a .300 mark in that situation with two outs.
All signs point to a warm, but dry series if the weatherman is correct. There is a slight chance of rain Thursday afternoon, but it shouldn't affect the game when temps in the mid-80s and just a slight southerly breeze (out to left) are in the mix.
Everything adds up to a great series between two evenly matched teams. Both lineups are solid, St. Louis has a slight edge in the starting rotation while Atlanta sports the best bullpen in the majors. Believe I'll get it started by backing the hitters with a free pick on the OVER.My pick: Braves-Cardinals Over 8 (-105)