Braves Quietly Hot


It's not a team that many in the media are talking about. There's been some high profile Interleague games elsewhere on the schedule. But, the Atlanta Braves just swept the Seattle Mariners on the road this week…on the heels of a home sweep of the Toronto Blue Jays last week.

That kept them within striking distance of the Philadelphia Phillies at the top of the NL East. That kept them in relative command of the Wildcard spot in the NL playoff picture at the midway point of the season. Sure, there's a long way to go. But…St. Louis is going to be without Albert Pujols for a few more weeks. Arizona can't be trusted yet as a real contender. This Braves group has a great chance of playing in the postseason this year…so you'd better start paying attention to them!

Let's run the numbers from their win over Seattle Wednesday afternoon…and take a look at some handicapping approaches for other teams who were in action at the same time…

Total Bases + Walks: Atlanta 13, Seattle 13
Starters: Lowe 6 IP, 1 ER, F. Hernandez 7.2 IP, 5 ER
Vegas Line: Seattle -150, total of 6.5
Notebook: If you score runs on Felix Hernandez in Seattle, then you're getting the job done! Big win for the Braves in what could have been a “take the series win and catch a plane” spot on the schedule. They had already defeated Bedard and Pineda Monday and Tuesday. So, in context, this was a HUGE sweep. They faced the top pitchers in the Seattle rotation and ran the table.

Let's also note that Seattle had been on a nice run before this series. In fact, they had won seven of eight games coming in. Frankly, we have both of these teams on our radar right now when their best pitchers are on the mound. Vegas has been a bit slow to recognize what's going on in Atlanta, and very slow to recognize the improvements in Seattle this season.

The game stats show this win was more about clustering your bases effectively. Normally 13 bases will get you about 3 runs (four bases for a run in this stat over the years). Atlanta popped a five thanks to when their fortune fell (plus they scored a run on a wild pitch!). Be sure you check the number in each of the matchups today. It wouldn't hurt your handicapping to compile the numbers in each boxscore every night either. Spend more time thinking about OFFENSE!

In other Wednesday afternoon action (games presented in rotation order from this point forward)…

Total Bases + Walks: Cincinnati 12, Tampa Bay 12
Starters: Volquez 6.1 IP, 3 ER, Shields 7 IP, 4 ER
Vegas Line: Tampa Bay -180, total of 7.5
Notebook: Big series for the Reds, who win two of three on the road against a red-hot Rays team that had been 9-3 in Interleague play coming in. The big blow today was a 3-run homer from Hannigan early on. Gotta love when your #7 hitter wins a game for you. We have another dead heat in totals bases plus walks. Having people on base when Hannigan went deep helped turn what would normally have been a three-run performance into four runs and a win for the Redlegs.

Tampa Bay has to be angered that they didn't take more advantage of their edges in this series. The AL East is tight. Boston's bats (outside of the 2-3-4 spots) have fallen asleep, while the Yankees have benefitted from a home heavy schedule. This series and the upcoming battle with St. Louis could have launched Tampa Bay into a very strong position. You've to take care of business when you're a -180 favorite. Good outing for Volquez of Cincinnati until he ran out of gas late. The Reds still have time to be a factor if they can get their rotation healthy and in form. It's been a season of treading water so far. Maybe this series is the signal that things are about to get better. We'll be watching that possibility closely when the Reds host state rival Cleveland this weekend to wrap up IL play. Tampa Bay may be one of those teams that's so expensive at home that you just have to focus on their road games.

Total Bases + Walks: Dodgers 9, Minnesota 13
Starters: DeLaRosa 7 IP, 1 ER, Baker 7.1 IP, 0 ER
Vegas Line: Minnesota -155, total of 8
Notebook: The ultimate get-away game. Neither team showed up. The only run of the game scored on a groundout to the pitcher in the first inning. Rubby DeLaRosa, who had been struggling recently looks fantastic for seven innings outside of that groundout run. Scott Baker strikes out nine in 7.1 innings like he's suddenly Cliff Lee. The Dodgers struck out 11 times for the game offensively, and drew only one walk. That's a team hacking so they can catch a plane. Imagine if you bought a ticket and had to sit through this nonsense? Minnesota wins the series two games to one despite getting outscored 15-0 in the opener. The offense is still in the doldrums though, which was a big problem for them last week vs. San Francisco (after the first inning of the first game) and Milwaukee. They get a return match with the Brewers this weekend. We're still generally looking to fade the Twins unless they have a pitching advantage (then we look at the Under). The Dodgers head back to LA for their return bout with the Angels. They've been humming along at a less than .500 clip for quite some time now. The off-the-field drama with ownership can't be helping. As we mentioned in our series preview last week for the Dodgers-Halos, you can look at this team with Kershaw or Kuroda on the mound. Dicey with everyone else.

Total Bases + Walks: Kansas City 12, San Diego 10
Starters: Chen 6 IP, 0 ER, Stauffer 7 IP, 1 ER
Vegas Line: San Diego -150, total of 7.5
Notebook: Anyone who went to the restroom in the third inning missed all the scoring! This was basically a replay of the 1-0 game in Minnesota, except the Padres broke through for four unearned runs when they got some guys on base. The raw stats suggest a 3-2 win for the Royals…so it was kind of a vultured win for the hosts.

Still, there are signs the Padres have turned things around a bit. This victory finished off a sweep. And, San Diego took two of three from the red hot Braves this past weekend. At least they've upgraded from doormat.

Kansas City is the one playing like a doormat. This three-game debacle continues runs of 2-9 the last 11 games, 8-18 the last 26 games, 11-26 the last 37 games, and 13-31 the last 44 games. Have you been treating the Royals as THAT caliber of team in your handicapping? And, no hopes for turning things around with that starting rotation either. UGLY!

Total Bases + Walks: Cleveland 26, Arizona 12
Starters: Carrasco 7 IP, 2 ER, Duke 5 IP, 4 ER
Vegas Line: Cleveland -115, total of 9
Notebook: Cleveland takes two of three in the series, hoping to turn around a slide that's been going on for more than a month (Tribe still 12-19 their last 31 games). Big offensive day here, particularly for a getaway game. Given all the 12's and 13's on the card today in total bases plus walks, this feels like the wind was blowing out in Wrigley! But, it all came indoors in Arizona against a pitcher in Zach Duke who's really been struggling this year. His ERA was 5.92 once this game was in the books. It's a testament to the shortage of starting pitchers who are capable of holding their own at the back of a rotation that veterans like Duke are still run out to the mound every fifth day while everyone crosses their fingers.

We're picking our spots with Arizona because the front end of the rotation is still undervalued in our opinion. Cleveland's ebb and flow has been something that rhythm handicappers have been able to take advantage of this season.

That wraps up this look at the 10 teams who played early on Wednesday. We'll follow this format tomorrow with the 12 teams who play early Thursday. That will give us a chance to check in on San Francisco, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Boston, the NY Yankees, and a few more.

Saturday we'll begin our college football conference previews. We're planning to run those on weekends this summer when you've got more time to digest all the information being presented. We'll start with the Big 10 since that league has been making SO MUCH NEWS in the offseason as they transition to a 12-team two divisional format. We'll take one division Saturday, the other Sunday. Don't forget that you can sign up for early bird football by calling 1-800-323-4453. The earlier you sign up, the more you save!

BIG JUICY WINNERS are available every day in BASEBALL here at the website. Be sure you take care of business early Thursday because of the busy day schedule. We also have great rates on seasonal packages that offer the most bang for your buck.

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This article is part of the VSM MASTERS SERIES presented by and For more information on JIM HURLEY'S handicapping packages, call 1-800-323-4453.



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