After picking up the win last night with a pitcher making his MLB debut, the Atlanta Braves will look to complete the series sweep against the Cardinals this afternoon. We’ll preview the game before going over why I’ll be targeting the underdog in this one.
The St. Louis Cardinals overcame losing the first game of the season to the Blue Jays to ultimately win that series, but they could not do that against the Braves last night. Steven Matz took the ball for the Cardinals, and, despite racking up seven strikeouts, he let up ten hits for four earned runs in 5 ⅓ innings. The Cardinals' bullpen kept the Braves scoreless the rest of the game, but those four early runs proved to be too much for the offense to overcome.
The Cardinals will return to the top of their rotation this afternoon, so Miles Mikolas will take the mound. The veteran righty got the no-decision on Opening Day, but he only lasted 3 ⅓ innings. Toronto got to Mikolas for ten hits and five runs early in the game, and the Cardinals starter will face another difficult lineup today with the Braves. Atlanta is hitting .280 as a team with an OPS of .825, which is the seventh-best in the league.
Ronald Acuna Jr. continued his torrid start to the season yesterday, picking up two more hits to increase his average to .364. The true storyline for the Braves yesterday was their pitching staff, as they rolled out Dylan Dodd for his Major League debut, and he turned in five innings with three strikeouts and only one earned run. Behind him, the Atlanta bullpen showed how dangerous they are by holding the Cardinals scoreless the rest of the game.
For this afternoon's series finale, the Braves will turn to another young pitcher in, Bryce Elder. The young right-hander didn’t make the team out of camp but joined the rotation with the Max Fried injury. Elder went 2-4 last season in the majors with a 3.17 ERA and 47 strikeouts in 54 innings.
The Atlanta Braves are currently listed as underdogs at (+115), and I’ll be backing them for my play in this one. Atlanta has gotten off to a great start to the season, and after picking up the win as underdogs yesterday, I think they can do it again today to pick up the sweep before returning to Atlanta.
Miles Mikolas was less than impressive in the Cardinals opener, and in his one start last season against the Braves, he took the loss while allowing five hits, two homeruns, and three earned runs across six innings. In his first start this season, Mikolas has a barrel percentage of 14.3% which is well above league average, and although it is a small sample size, the Braves are not a team you want to face when struggling to produce weak contact.
The Cardinals are not an easy lineup to face in your first start of the season, but Elder has shown the ability to work through big league lineups multiple times without allowing a lot of damage. The righty ended the 2022 season with four straight solid starts and did finish in the 77th percentile in hard-hit percentage, so I think he can do enough to let the Braves build a lead and then hand it over to Atlanta’s strong bullpen.
Atlanta Braves (+115)