Every game between NL East opponents takes on greater importance now that we’ve gotten past the All-Star Break. Every game was important to begin with, but now we have a New York Mets team without Jacob deGrom and Francisco Lindor that looks vulnerable in the division race.
That means we have effectively a two-game swing tonight between the Atlanta Braves and the Philadelphia Phillies. It will be Charlie Morton for the visiting Braves and Matt Moore for the host Phillies with Thursday’s game at Citizens Bank Park. We see a total of 9 at Bookmaker Sportsbook with the Braves priced as a -135 favorite.
Atlanta is in a tough spot here. The Braves trailed 5-4 when Wednesday’s game was suspended due to rain. That meant a late night at the ballpark before flying to Philadelphia and that was even Game 2 of a doubleheader. They had to have gotten into Philly quite late while trying to wait out the rain.
The Braves have been a buyer with regards to the Trade Deadline so far, adding Joc Pederson and Stephen Vogt, but could just as easily become a seller over the next nine days. Freddie Freeman, Charlie Morton, and some relievers, including Chris Martin, could all be sought-after trade pieces by contending teams. These head-to-head meetings against fellow NL East foes are going to be of the utmost importance in that span, beginning with this one.
The Braves offense took a big hit right before the All-Star Break with the season-ending injury to Ronald Acuna Jr. This has been an underwhelming unit that has squandered a lot of talent this season as it is, but the Braves, who enter play on Thursday 12th in wOBA, don’t have the best offensive projection for the rest of the season.
Charlie Morton gets the start here, in what could be one of his last with the Braves if they decide to become sellers. Morton has a solid 3.69 ERA with a 3.48 FIP in his 105 innings of work. All of his peripherals look solid, including well over a K per inning pace. His 14.1% HR/FB% is close to his 2018 numbers and his LOB% sits at 68.4%, so there are some signs of improvement left in his profile.
The Braves rely heavily on their starters because the bullpen has struggled with a 4.58 ERA and a 4.23 FIP. The Braves rank in the middle of the pack in FIP, but sequencing luck has not really been on their side with a 70.2% LOB%. The bullpen had been a strength in previous years, but is a borderline detriment this season.
The Phillies welcomed back a couple of key players during their series against the Yankees, as Alec Bohm and Aaron Nola returned from the COVID-19 IL. A few teams have had some issues with the pesky virus lately and the Phillies were one of them. With that in the rearview mirror, they can focus on their quest to win the NL East.
Every time a team gets close to the Mets, New York picks up a little bit of steam. It’s almost like getting just close enough to have a chance to catch them and they hit the gas pedal a little bit harder. It doesn’t help that .500 seems like a good record in the NL East right now, but when you look at the Phillies, you see a team that should basically be about .500.
Philadelphia ranks in the middle of the pack in wOBA, but with a park adjustment, has a wRC+ well below league average at 94. The Phillies have been inconsistent offensively with peaks and valleys throughout the course of the season. They strike out a little too much and don’t really hit for enough power, but are a good baserunning team and have really upgraded defensively this season relative to previous years.
The Phillies will turn to Matt Moore on Thursday in place of the injured Zach Eflin. Eflin is dealing with some knee soreness, so Moore, who was supposed to start Wednesday, now gets the ball on Thursday. Moore has a 5.25 ERA with a 5.37 FIP in 36 innings of work. The betting markets have been against him in each of his last four starts, but he has only allowed six runs on 17 hits in his 17.2 innings of work.
Moore went to the minor leagues for a while and allowed 10 runs on 20 hits in 19.1 innings before being recalled for a June 25 start. He’s faced the Mets, Cubs, Red Sox, and Marlins in his last four outings, so even without Acuna, this is a bit of a step up.
Braves vs. Phillies Free Pick
Moore is certainly a below average lefty, so that could enhance the projection for Atlanta, as the Braves are in the middle of the pack against southpaws. That being said Ronald Acuna Jr. was easily the best hitter for the Braves in that split. The Phillies were originally getting southpaw Max Fried here, but the switch to Morton means a righty and the lesser split for Philadelphia.
The Braves aren’t really playing well enough to be favored by this magnitude on the road, especially given their home/road splits. Atlanta is a top-10 offense in wOBA at home, but ranks just 17th on the road. With the Phillies no longer facing a lefty, it looks like runs could be at a premium in this one.