Sunday's Game Two
By: Willie Bee
Word on the street a few days ago was the Atlanta Braves would not face Cliff Lee in their series at the Philadelphia Phillies. A sore neck that had kept Lee from his two previous rounds in the Phils rotation was still bothering him when the clubs opened their set on Friday, and all signs pointed to him not being ready until next week.
That was good news for the Braves since Lee has been something of a pain in the neck for Atlanta this season, but the veteran lefty has been cleared to pitch and will take the mound for the finale in an ESPN Sunday Night Baseball clash (8 PM ET). He'll be opposed by fellow southpaw Alex Wood for the Braves who are aiming for their 10th straight win and third consecutive series sweep following Saturday's 5-4 decision that needed 12 innings to complete.
Stay up-to-date with the betting odds for Sunday by checking out Steven Suarez' Lines and Odds Report.
Wood picked up his first MLB win last Tuesday at home in an 11-3 Braves rout of the Rockies. The former Georgia Bulldog struck out seven would-be Colorado hitters and allowed three runs in his seven frames, just his third starting assignment after spending most of the past two months working from the Atlanta bullpen. He saw the Phils twice when the clubs clashed in Philly back in early July, surrendering a run in 1.2 IP of relief.
Lee was last on the bump July 21 in Flushing, NY where the Mets handed him his second straight loss behind Matt Harvey's performance in a 5-0 final. Lee allowed all five New York runs, his third consecutive start in which he surrendered at least four runs and the Phillies' fourth loss in five outings.
The lone win in the recent stretch came against the Braves in Philadelphia on July 5 (6.1 IP, 4 ER), and Lee also beat them with eight shutout innings in Atlanta on April 4. Lee is 5-1 with a 1.42 ERA in his last six appearances vs. the Braves.
Weather should not be a factor in the finale; clear skies, temps in the low-70s and a 10-14 mph NNW wind (in from left-center) are forecast for the first pitch. Umpire Kerwin Danley could be a factor, however. The veteran arbiter has a 4-13-2 O/U/P record this season, and all but one of his last six plate assignments stayed below the total.
The MLB odds were first sent out with Philly priced around -120 on the moneyline and a 7.5 run total. Some shops have seen the moneyline move up a few cents while it has dropped a few pennies at other baseball betting outlets. The total originally started out evenly priced high/low, but is favoring the UNDER on Sunday morning at most outlets.
Sloppy defense by both clubs helped to spoil our UNDER play in Game 2, and the eventual push on the scoreboard snapped a 4-game OVER run between the clubs. The high side of the total and the Phillies as small chalk will be my free picks in the finale.
Saturday Game Two
By: Willie Bee
One big inning was all the Atlanta Braves needed on Friday to extend their current win streak to eight. A pair of homers in a 5-run fifth paced the offense while the bullpen shut the Philadelphia Phillies down with three perfect innings for a 6-4 triumph.
Atlanta will now try and extend the streak to nine in Saturday's matinee that is part of the FOX broadcast lineup (4 PM ET). Brandon Beachy gets the call for Fredi Gonzalez's gang while Charlie Manuel sends John Lannan to the mound on short rest for the Phillies. Lannan was moved up a day when Philadelphia's scheduled starter, Jonathan Pettibone, was scratched due to tightness in his right arm.
The shift on the mound for Philadelphia delayed the MLB odds release, with the initial offerings making Atlanta $1.45 chalk and a 9 run total taxed to the high side.
Beachy is making just his second start since coming off the DL following Tommy John surgery last year, and it would be hard for Saturday's outing to be any worse than his season debut this past Monday. The Rockies scorched him for seven runs in less than four innings, including a pair of homers, though the Braves did managed to rally for a 9-8 victory.
He saw the Phillies once in 2012 before requiring elbow surgery, taking a no-decision in a 4-2 Philly win with seven innings of 2-run baseball. Beachy made four starts against the Phils in 2011, all Atlanta defeats though he was charged with the loss in only one of the assignments.
Lannan was on the mound this past Tuesday when the Phils scored a 7-3 triumph over the Giants. It was the fifth time in six starts at Citizens Bank Park this year that Philadelphia fans went home happy, his ERA at home more than three runs lower than on the road. He has yet to face the Braves in 2013, but saw them plenty in recent years while he was with the Nationals. Career numbers include a 9-5 mark with a 3.20 ERA vs. Atlanta, with Washington winning seven of his last eight assignments against the Braves.
Tune in to today's Betting Odds & Line Report from Steven Suarez~
Gary Cederstrom is in line to call the balls and strikes in Game 2. Now in his 25th season working MLB contests, Cederstrom is 10-6 O/U on the year after seven of his last nine plate assignments skipped above the total. Home favorites are just 5-9.
A 30% chance of a thunderstorm or two rolling through the City of Brotherley Love this afternoon. First pitch should find the thermometer at 80º with a 10-12 mph WSW wind (out to right-center).
I'm tempted to back the Braves as underdogs while on this streak, but will instead make play on the UNDER in Saturday's tilt.
By: Willie Bee
We all remember how the Atlanta Braves folded down the stretch in 2011 to miss the playoffs after holding a 10.5-game lead in late August for the one and only NL wild card berth that postseason. While that may not be foremost on their minds, you can bet the Braves haven't forgotten it either.
The final three losses to complete that collapse came to the Philadelphia Phillies, Atlanta's opponents on Friday to begin a 6-game road trip that will continue on to Washington following this weekend series. After winning their seventh straight on Thursday, the NL East lead is 11.5 games to start the trip; the Braves have owned or shared the NL East lead for all but one day this season, the exception being three games into the schedule on April 4 when they were a game out of first.
Atlanta will be on the good side of a very one-sided pitching matchup to get the trip started as Kris Medlen takes the hill in Game 1 opposite Philadelphia's Ethan Martin, who is making his major league debut. The mismatch is reflected in the MLB odds that find the Braves around -150 with an 8.5 run total.
Braves Have Fared Better At Citizens Bank Park Than Home
The Phillies have the overall edge in this series in recent years with a 53-43 mark going back to 2008, but they've really built that advantage by beating the Braves at Turner Field. Since Citizens Bank Park opened in 2004, it has been almost level on this diamond (43-42 Phils) while Philadelphia is 49-36 in Atlanta over that span.
This year's series is split 3-3, each team winning two of three on their own fields to get there. Five of the six hopped OVER the total, including all three played in Philadelphia. Before that July series, eight of the last 11 at Citizens Bank Park stayed UNDER the mark, along with two pushes.
Medlen Looks For First 2013 Win vs. Phils
After noting how the Braves have performed better on the road against the Phillies than at home, the same was certainly not true for Medlen when he threw from the CBP mound nearly a month ago. Philadelphia's lineup rapped out eight hits and scored seven times before chasing Medlen from the hill in the sixth, and that hasn't been a rare occurrence over the years with the small righthander owning a 5.82 career ERA vs. the Phils who also beat him 2-0 back on April 4, that same day being Atlanta's only day out of first place.
The July 7 loss started a 3-game losing skid for Medlen which was stopped last Sunday vs. the Cardinals in a 5-2 victory. The Braves are 4-6 in his 10 road assignments, Medlen's ERA at 4.28 in those affairs.
Martin is being called up while Cliff Lee continues to recover from a sore neck. Two of the Braves' three losses to the Phils this year came to Lee, so they're no doubt happy to see him held out of this series.
A 1st-round pick in 2008 by the Dodgers, Martin will be making his debut against a Braves team he cheered as a kid growing up in Georgia. Twenty-one starts at Triple-A Lehigh Valley yielded a 4.12 ERA and 11-5 record for the righty who has a 95+ mph fastball and B+ slider in his arsenal.
Friday night's forecast looks good -- upper-70s at game time with a light breeze from the WSW (out to right) -- but the weather could shift to wetter conditions on Saturday and Sunday, so stay tuned for those updates.
I hate going against a streak like Atlanta is on right now, but I'm not sold on the Braves extending that mark on the road where they've dropped four of their last seven. My free pick in Game 1 will be on the underdog Phillies.
My pick: Phillies +140 at Bet 365