Wednesday's Game Three
By: Willie Bee
There's no stopping the Atlanta Braves right now, and the MLB offices might as well order a division pennant for Fredi Gonzalez's gang.
Atlanta extended its win streak to 12 with Tuesday's 2-1 victory over the Washington Nationals. Julio Teheran and three relievers combined on a 5-hitter, Washington's only run courtesy of a Bryce Harper homer, and the Braves watched their lead balloon to 14.5 games in the NL East.
The Braves go for a lucky 13th-straight triumph -- and fourth consecutive series sweep -- on Wednesday when Kris Medlen gets the start against the Nats' Jordan Zimmermann. MLB odds for the tilt have Washington lined as $1.30 chalk with a 7.5 run total (U -120).
Medlen is coming off back-to-back wins, the latest last Friday in Philadelphia despite allowing three home runs. The 27-year-old limited the damage thanks to all of the blasts coming with no runners on, and struck out eight batters in his six frames. Medlen had previously beaten the Cardinals in late-July to stop a 3-game slide.
He faced the Nats once this year and took the 3-1 loss in that May 2 start, but topped them twice in 2012 after moving into the rotation, working a combined 14 innings and allowing just one run while whiffing 20.
Zimmermann picked up his 13th win of 2013 last Friday in Milwaukee with six shutout innings, the victory halting a three straight losses for the Wisconsin native. He also twirled eight shutout frames against the Braves in Atlanta on May 1, striking out eight and giving up just two hits in his only appearance against them this season. That win raised his career mark vs. Atlanta to 3-1 to go with a nice 2.97 ERA.
There's more rain in the DC forecast for Wednesday, with the chance rising to 60% at game time. Temps are expected to still be in the low-80s for the first pitch with a 10 mph breeze out of the west (out to right).
Sam Holbrook is expected to be behind the dish calling the pitches in Game 3, and brings a dead-even 10-10-1 (O/U/P) record for totals into the match. He recently worked a start by Teheran vs. the Reds (July 14), and that match went OVER the mark. His two plate assignments in Washington have ended with an UNDER and a push.
The key to Atlanta's success this season and during the current win streak has been the bullpen. Braves relievers lead the majors with a 2.41 ERA while holding the opposition to a paltry .211 batting average. Jordan Walden and Craig Kimbrel combined to strike out the last six Washington hitters on Tuesday to accent their dominance. I'll expect them to hold up again on Wednesday with another free play on the red-hot Braves.
My pick: Braves +120 at Bet365
Tuesday's Game Two
By: Willie Bee
Mike Minor and Stephen Strasburg didn't disappoint in their matchup on Monday. Neither did the Atlanta Braves who won their 11th straight with a 3-2 triumph at the Washington Nationals.
Washington is now tasked with leveling the series Tuesday when Gio Gonzalez will climb the hill as a slight favorite on the moneyline.Julio Teheran aims to extend the Braves' streak to an even dozen with the MLB odds sporting another 7 run total, this time priced a bit heavier to the OVER.
Justin Upton's 8th-inning homer kept Atlanta's string of dubyas alive in Game 1, and with usual closer Craig Kimbrel given the night off after saving all three games of the weekend series in Philadelphia, Jordan Walden nailed it down in the ninth. The victory grew the Braves' margin atop the NL East to 13.5 games over the Nats. The gap between first and second in the other five divisions combined is 14.5 games.
Atlanta has won Teheran's last three starts to stand 14-7 with the Colombian on the hill, good enough for a 4.9 unit return if you've been following him all campaign. He struck out 11 Rockies last Thursday in just five innings, and has allowed 11 hits while whiffing 23 in this 3-start win streak (18 IP). Washington has knocked Teheran around a bit in '13 (18 IP, 23 Hits, 9 Runs), but the Braves still managed to win two of the three outings.
Gio Gonzalez's last outing was a disaster, but let's remember it did come against a very talented Tigers lineup and in a park he was pitching for the first time. Let's also not forget it came as his season hung in limbo from the Biogenesis mess, and I fully expect his mind not to be so cluttered after being cleared in that investigation.
The southpaw had been pitching well in his 10 starts before that trip to Motown, lowering his ERA almost a full run from 3.90 to 2.97 in that span, a string that started with a no-decision June 1 at Atlanta where he worked seven innings of 1-run ball in a 2-1 Nats loss.
Rain was being reported in the DC area as we went to press, and more is called for through the day and into the evening. Temps will remain in the low-to-mid 70s throughout Tuesday, and any decision on delaying the start of the game or postponing it outright will be up to crew chief Joe West who is slated to call balls and strikes. The 36-year veteran umpire is 7-11-2 (O/U/P) on the year with home favorites just 6-8.
I don't like betting any game with uncertain weather, but who am I to argue with a streak like the one Atlanta is on? The Braves as small underdogs will be my free pick.
My pick: Braves +108 at Bet365
By: Willie Bee
A National League Cy Young contender will be on the mound Monday night when the Atlanta Braves continue their road trip at the Washington Nationals, and it's not Stephen Strasburg.
Strasburg is scheduled to be on the hill at Nationals Park, and though he has a 1.93 ERA in three tries against the Braves this year, it's his Game 1 counterpart for Atlanta that is having the better campaign. Mike Minor ranks in the top 10 among NL hurlers in ERA, WHIP, K/BB, wins and quality starts as he faces Washington for the first time in 2013 to begin the all-important series.
The fourth get-together between the clubs finds the Nats small home chalk around -115 after opening about 20 cents higher. MLB odds also list a 7 run total that is priced -120 to -125 on the UNDER at many baseball betting outlets.
Braves Coasting At Top Of NL East
Atlanta is on fire right now with 10 consecutive wins and three straight series sweeps after brooming the Phillies on their diamond over the weekend. The Braves are closing in on the top mark in the National League as a result of their current streak, and have opened up a 12.5-game lead on the Nationals in the NL East, by far the largest advantage for any division leader.
This series has belonged to the Braves since last August when they started an 8-game run of wins against the Nationals. Washington finally broke that string when the teams met in Atlanta to end April and begin May, but the Braves still own 11 wins in the last 14 clashes.
Mid-April's set in DC ended with an Atlanta sweep, two of the three going OVER the total. The last 10 at Nationals Park are evenly split 5-5 O/U.
Minor Enjoying Major Breakout For Atlanta
The potential has always been there for Minor, the seventh overall pick in the 2009 amateur draft out of high school, and it started to show in the second half of 2012 when he pitched to a 2.20 ERA over his final 15 starts. Minor has been able to carry that into 2013 to quietly become the ace of the staff at the still-tender age of 25.
Monday will be the first time the Nats have seen him this year, and only the second time Minor has pitched at Nationals Park. His other start here was during Atlanta's September 2011 collapse, and the lefty worked into the fifth allowing just one run in the Nationals' 3-0 victory.
Strasburg has given up only three earned runs to the Braves in three 2013 starts, but doesn't have a win to show for it. Two April assignments saw Washington fall by 3-1 and 3-2 scores, and Strasburg's start in Atlanta on May 31 was a 3-2 Nats win after he was only able to pitch the first two innings before leaving the game. That cost him a short DL stay with a strained oblique, and Strasburg is coming off a 5.62 ERA in July when the Nationals cashed once in his six outings.
Mother Nature Could Be A Factor on Tuesday
All systems are go for Monday's game as far as the weather goes, the forecast calling for partly cloudy skies and temps in the upper-70s for Monday's first pitch. However, rain is supposed to move into the nation's capital overnight, with a 50% chance of precipitation expected for both Tuesday and Wednesday. The Braves do make one more trip to DC (Sept. 16-18) in case one of those games gets postponed.
With the exception of Tim Hudson (ankle), who is lost for the season, and Paul Maholm (wrist), who is expected back in their rotation by mid-August, the Braves reach Washington in pretty good health. The same is true to the Nationals, with Jayson Werth expected to be in the lineup on Monday despite having a sore right hand after being hit by a Kyle Lohse pitch in Sunday's 8-5 loss to the Brewers.
Taking Strasburg on such a short home price is very tempting, but I've been burned trying to outguess Atlanta's win streak. Instead, let's look at the total where my free pick will go against the grain with a play on the OVER.My pick: Braves-Nationals Over 7 (+105)