The Braves (54-41) have stayed atop the NL East standings, with MLB odds makers listing the club as 1/3 ‘chalk’ to capture the division’s crown. Fredi Gonzalez’ squad has the Washington Nationals (48-47) as its biggest remaining challenge, listed at a price of plus 225, while the group’s other three rivals are distant long shots.
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Braves, Nationals – Can the Nats pick up ground?
Atlanta began the season with a 12-1 mark in its first 13 games, while Washington went 7-2 over its initial nine contests. The Nationals then struggled through the rest of April, including the Braves pulling off a three-game sweep in the nation’s capital.
Atlanta’s Mike Minor has led its pitching staff with a 9-4 mark and 3.02 ERA, while closer Craig Kimbrel has logged a sizable 26 saves. Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman has topped his club’s hitting (.308 BA), while slugger Justin Upton has picked up steam with six extra-base hits over his last five games.
Washington has logged a lowly 3.8 RPG, but has won some tight affairs thanks to its 3.58 Team ERA. Nationals mates Ian Desmond and Bryce Harper have united for 28 homers, while Ian Desmond and Ryan Zimmerman have had their moments with a combined 100 RBIs.
Phillies top trio of long shots
The Philadelphia Phillies (48-48) are just one back in the loss column from the Nationals, but will need a lot of help as 12/1 long shots. Charlie Manuel’s club joins the New York Mets (41-50) and Miami Marlins (35-58) as the division’s also-ran’s, with the remaining duo listed at 150/1 and 1000/1, respectively.
Philadelphia gained some momentum before the All-Star break, notching an 8-3 stretch in its most recent 11 contests. The span included a 5-2 run against the Nationals and Braves, with three of the five winning tickets coming as a home dog.
New York has had its share of setbacks during the season’s first half, logging three streaks of five or more losses. Mets start Matt Harvey has come through with a 7-2 record and 2.35 ERA, but expects to have his frames limited the rest of the way.
Miami has mailed it in this year on the scoreboard, putting up MLB low’s of 3.3 RPG and a .233 Team BA. Marlins hurlers Jose Fernandez (2.75 ERA) and Ricky Nolasco (3.85 ERA) have 18 starts each, combining for a 10-13 mark.
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I am adding the Nationals and Phillies to my MLB picks, feeling one of the two long shots will make a run at Atlanta’s lead.
Atlanta has not had enough fire power to back as ‘chalk’ here, despite its sizable division lead, while Washington begins its second half with lengthy 11-game home stand. The Nationals saw seven of its 10 matchups thus far with Atlanta decided by two runs or less, while six of the team’s nine remaining contests with the Braves are at home.
Philadelphia has a tougher stretch out of the second half gate with a nine-game road trip, but could find itself in position for a late move thanks to seven games in September against the Braves. The Phillies have not quit yet and are at least worth a small investment at 12/1 MLB odds.
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