Videos by OutKick
Braves vs. Cubs, 2:20 ET
Sometimes you are lucky and get a game, or in this case a series, that allows you something of a measuring stick. An opportunity to see if you are just lucky or how you can stack up with real contenders. The Cubs are taking on the Braves in a battle that showcases two of the hottest teams since the All-Star break, and we get a good pitching matchup too.
The Braves have been outstanding all year. There really aren’t too many holes on this team. There are so few holes, in fact, that they didn’t really need to do much adjustment on the squad at the trade deadline. They have what they need and have been playing well together all season. Sometimes you don’t want to tinker with that and throw off the comraderie or anything else. Perhaps the biggest addition that the Braves made around now is activating today’s starter, Max Fried, off of the injured list. Fried is one of those guys that I think is awesome and still somehow flies under the radar. You’ll never hear him mentioned as being among the best pitchers in baseball, but the guy deals and is the best pitcher on the best team in baseball. Sure, you can make an argument for Spencer Strider, but I’d take Fried for any game any time. Today he returns for his first game since May 5th. The Braves have no reason to push Fried. They essentially have the division locked up and it would be foolish to use him extensively. So, expect him to throw somewhere in the three to five inning range and then they turn it over to the bullpen.
Run differential is talked about quite a bit, as if it is a key mark in how good a team is. I’ve seen numerous articles discussing how the Cubs are the best team in the NL Central because they have the best run differential. The Brewers and Reds are both ahead of the Cubs and have negative run differentials. So, if the season ended today, the run differential would mean diddly. The Cubs do lead the Majors in run differential since the All-Star break, but keep in mind, they also scored 36 runs over two games, so once again, that stat can be skewed. More important to me is they are playing great baseball right now. Their team is hitting collectively and aside from their Ace (who has looked anything but an Ace) Marcus Stroman, their pitching is performing very well, too. They are positioning themselves for a shot at the playoffs and I think this team might actually be able to make an impact in the playoffs if they get there. Today they have Kyle Hendricks, their long-time rotation mainstay taking the ball. He’s been good recently for the Cubs, posting three straight quality starts, and four in his last six games. He used to be unhittable at home but that has flipped a bit in recent years and he has a higher ERA at home than on the road now. Braves hitters have a great track record against Hendricks too, so it could be a long day for him.
I think the best angle to take here is to take the Braves for the full game, but that price is too high for me to justify giving out. Their offense is so good, they’ve been great on the road, and they have been able to batter Hendricks before. I do have a bit of concern that the pitching will be bullpen-heavy, so there is a good indication for the over as well, and that is the way that I’ll play it.
For more sports betting information and plays, follow David on Twitter: @futureprez2024