Pick Phillies -140 over Braves in Game 2

Matthew Jordan

Tuesday, April 15, 2014 11:33 AM GMT

The first place Atlanta Braves may have a chance to put some distance between themselves and the rest of the NL East over the next few weeks as the Braves play only division teams until April 25.

The Braves are +130 underdogs on MLB odds, however, for Tuesday's Game 2 in Philadelphia with a total of 7.5 runs for sports bettors. That's if the game is played: there's a good chance of rain in the City of Brotherly Love as a cold front passes through.

[gameodds]3/261926/?r-1=43-19-349/us[/gameodds]

Sweeping Success For Braves
The Braves had a great weekend, one that could help shape the NL East race. Atlanta swept three games from visiting Washington, but of bigger significance from that series was the  Nationals losing one of their best hitters, third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, for 4-6 weeks to a broken thumb suffered on Saturday. Entering that series, Washington was the -200 NL East favorite at sportsbooks with Atlanta at +210. Now it's the Nationals at -150 and Braves at +140. Atlanta is now 22-7 in its past 29 games against Washington and has won two series against the Nats already in 2014.

Braves outfielder Justin Upton is one of the streakiest players in baseball, and he's on a good run now. Upton homered Sunday in his first at-bat for his fourth dinger in his past four games. Entering Monday, he had four straight games with multiple hits and multiple runs scored, equaling the franchise's modern-era record set by Bobby Thomson (1956), Javy Lopez (2003) and Andruw Jones (2003).

The Phillies have a player just as hot in second baseman Chase Utley. He entered Monday leading the majors with a .500 average. He is the first Phillies player to have a 20-for-40 stretch at any point in a season since 1989. Utley has a 15-game hitting streak dating to last season, the third-longest of his career. He also leads the team in home runs and RBIs. Utley  led a sweep of Miami over the weekend. Philadelphia had a four-game losing streak going in.

Philadelphia would love to be able to simply tread water until Cole Hamels can make his season debut and then we should find out if this team can contend in the division. Hamels is rehabbing in Florida and could make  his Phillies debut on April 22 if all goes well in his final scheduled rehab start Thursday. The Phillies also got pretty good news on the groin injury suffered by A.J. Burnett. He was diagnosed with a hernia but will pitch Wednesday against Atlanta. That probably won't feel too comfortable.

Phils outfielder Ben Revere didn't start any of the games against the Marlins because of a rib injury. The team says he's healthy enough to start but that Manager Ryne Sandberg has been going with Tony Gwynn Jr. because he's swinging a hot bat. Gwynn had two hits on Saturday and three more Sunday.

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Probable Pitchers
Atlanta starts right-hander David Hale (0-0, 2.89). He's in the rotation because of the season-ending injuries suffered by Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy this spring. If Hale continues to pitch well he could stay there even with Mike Minor's return from injury on the horizon. Hale blanked Washington over five innings in his first start of the season but allowed four runs and five hits in 4.1 innings last time out in a no-decision against the Mets. Hale made one start against Philadelphia last season, allowing one run and seven hits over six innings of a win. He has never pitched at Citizens Bank Park. Only a few Phillies have faced Hale, with Jimmy Rollins 3-for-3 with a double.

The Phillies counter with veteran lefty Cliff Lee (2-1, 5.50), who could be trade bait come July if the Phillies aren't contending. Lee was crushed in his season debut at Texas but has been better in the past two starts, although it is concerning that Lee has allowed 29 hits in 18 innings. He remains one of the top control pitchers in the game with just one walk. Lee faced Atlanta more than any other team in 2013, going 3-2 with a 2.29 ERA in five starts. He struck out 43 and walked just two in 35.1 innings. The Braves hit only .181 off him. Justin Upton is 7-for-23 in his career off Lee. Second baseman Dan Uggla is 7-for-37 with two home runs but also 17 strikeouts. Freddie Freeman, Atlanta's leading hitter, is 8-for-33 with 12 strikeouts against Lee.


MLB free picks:
Phillies -140 and the under 7.5 runs (-115) on baseball odds. Atlanta is 1-5 in its past six games against lefty starters. The Phillies are 5-1 in Lee's past six Tuesday starts. The under is 7-1 in Lee's past eight outings against Atlanta.