In Tuesday’s edition of Phillies Betting Preview, I called for an old-fashioned pitcher’s duel, and that’s exactly what we got, as each starter gave up only one run. The Phillies bullpen let them down a bit, giving up three runs en route to a 4-2 series-opening defeat to the Braves.
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Braves (+105) vs Phillies (-125) O/U 8.5
On Wednesday evening, the Atlanta Braves (47-26) and the Philadelphia Phillies (38-35) are set to clash in the second game of their three-game divisional series. Taking the mound for the Braves will be right-handed pitcher AJ Smith-Shawver (1-0, 2.03 ERA), while the Phillies will rely on right-handed pitcher Aaron Nola (6-5, 4.66 ERA). With the Braves currently leading the season series 3-2 following their 4-2 victory in the series opener on Tuesday, anticipation is high for this matchup. The first pitch is set for 6:40 p.m.
Making just his 3rd start in the majors, Smith-Shawver has shown so far why the Braves organization was so high on him. He showcased his prowess in his last outing, expertly containing the Rockies by yielding a mere three runs on six hits over 5.2 innings. This remarkable performance earned him his inaugural triumph at the major league level. The young rookie has been nothing short of exceptional since his debut, conceding a mere three earned runs across 13.1 innings of pitching this season. His dominance is evident in his astonishing 1.09 ERA and a commendable 0.94 WHIP that he maintained throughout his time in the minor leagues. Wednesday will mark his first start on the road.
Smith-Shawver can find reassurance in the presence of one of the most explosive offenses in the majors should he encounter any difficulties. The Atlanta Braves lead the league with an impressive 128 home runs, averaging a remarkable 1.8 per game, showcasing their ability to deliver powerful hits. They are the epitome of a slugging team, boasting a league-leading .480 slugging percentage and holding the second-best batting average in the league at .269. The Braves offensive prowess extends beyond pure hitting, as they rank third in baseball with 399 total runs scored, averaging 5.5 runs per game. They can score so many runs per game because of their on-base percentage of .339, the second-best in the league. This stat highlights their ability to reach base and maintain offensive pressure consistently.
In his recent outing against the Diamondbacks, Nola encountered some challenges, surrendering four runs over 6.2 innings; however, he managed to secure the victory. This exemplifies the inconsistent season that the Phillies’ seasoned ace is currently experiencing. Unfortunately, Nola has conceded a minimum of four runs in four out of his last five starts, contributing to his less-than-ideal 4.66 ERA and 1.10 WHIP. Alongside a 6-5 record across 94.2 innings pitched, his performance has not lived up to his normal expectations.
It is worth noting that Nola struggled in his previous encounter with the Braves last month, allowing five runs across six innings. Despite holding a respectable 3.51 ERA and a 15-10 record in 31 career meetings against the Braves, his most recent five matchups present a contrasting narrative. This includes the aforementioned disappointing performance, where he has given up four or more runs in four out of the five games. While Nola holds a 2-2 record, his ERA sits at 5.06 against the Braves in those outings.
I made the promise in my early editions of PBP to present a dispassionate and unbiased view as much as possible. While I want to back the Phillies, I objectively feel that the play is to take Atlanta. They’re a more consistent offensive squad, and Nola has looked like anything but an ace in his recent history against the arch-nemesis Braves. Throw in the fact that you’re getting plus money because a rookie is starting on the road, and I begrudgingly lean toward the visiting squad.
Bets and Season Record
Pick: Braves +105 2 units
Up 23.5 units (+$2350)