San Francisco Giants
In the only MLB playoff betting series that is heading to a new venue at one game apiece, the Atlanta Braves will play host to the San Francisco Giants in Game 3 of the NLDS on Sunday.
The hero of Game 2 for the Braves was Rick Ankiel. The last time Ankiel was in the postseason, he was seen playing against Atlanta and throwing balls to the backstop. Ankiel was never the same as a pitcher, but now that he is an outfielder, and a solid one at that, he stepped up and redeemed himself by blasting the homer in the 11th inning that broke a 5-4 deadlock and created a victory for the Braves.
This was a shocking result for a San Fran team that just was not used to blowing games. The Giants raced out of the blocks to a 4-0 lead in the first two frames, a lead that was held until a three run eighth inning that was capped by an SS Alex Gonzalez two run double. Meanwhile, it was the Atlanta bullpen that pitched seven scoreless innings and ruled the day. The bad news for the Braves came when LHP Billy Wagner strained his oblique and will be lost for at least the rest of this series.
For the first time in his career, LHP Jonathan Sanchez struck out 200+ batters. He went 13-9 on the season and ultimately had the best ERA on a staff that included RHP Matt Cain and RHP Tim Lincecum. He hasn't allowed more than two earned runs in a start since August 24th, a stretch of seven straight outings. Sanchez though, has struggled in his career against the Braves, which is why he was deemed as the third pitcher in this rotation. The southpaw is just 1-3 with a 6.00 ERA in his career against Atlanta.
Manager Bobby Cox kept his gun loaded and has left his top pitcher for the third game in this series. RHP Tim Hudson, who pitched on three days of rest twice to end the regular season just to ensure that Atlanta got into the postseason, went 17-9 with a 2.83 ERA. In other years, this would've made Hudson a legitimate Cy Young Award candidate, but after only pitching in seven games in 2009, there is no doubt that this should be the NL Comeback Player of the Year. Against the Giants, Hudson is 5-4 with a 3.56 ERA in 13 career starts.
This is a great price on the Braves, a team that won 56 games at home this year. Sanchez might be a fantastic pitcher, but Hudson won 11 games at Turner Field this year, and he just will not be beaten in this situation. As long as the bullpen doesn't implode, Atlanta is taking a 2-1 series lead on Sunday.
MLB Free Picks: Atlanta Braves -125