The Atlanta Braves snapped a four-game losing streak in a big way last night by beating the Rangers 12-0 in the opening game of their series. We’ll preview the game before going over which side I’ll be backing in this one.
Even with their loss yesterday, the Texas Rangers are still 7-3 over their last ten games. Last night’s game was only the third time in that span that Texas had scored two or fewer runs, as they entered last night after an 11-run outburst against the A’s. Braves starter Charlie Morton was able to keep Texas off balance all night as he picked up ten strikeouts for the game, as the Rangers ultimately ended with 12 punchouts and left 22 runners on base.
Looking to avoid another insurmountable deficit, the Rangers will send Dane Dunning to the mound to make his third start of the year. The right-hander started the year as a reliever, but since converting to a starter, he has thrown 11 innings with eight strikeouts and just two earned runs allowed. In total, Dunning has thrown 31.3 innings and has pitched to a 1.72 ERA with 19 strikeouts and seven walks.
Dunning will face a Braves lineup that showed yesterday why they are one of the best in baseball. Over their four-game losing streak, the Braves scored two or fewer runs in three of those games, but they broke out of that mini-slump last night by picking up 12 hits, including five doubles and five home runs. That performance showed why they are ranked second in the league in hard-hit percentage at 45.1% and lead the league in average exit velocity at 90.8 MPH.
The one area that has been a struggle for the Braves this season is starting pitcher health, and with that, they will send Jared Shuster to the mound today to make his first start since April 7th. Shuster struggled in his first two big league starts as he threw a total of 8 ⅔ innings and had nine walks, 12 hits allowed, and five strikeouts.
The Texas Rangers are currently priced at (-103) on the moneyline, and I’ll be backing them for my play. Texas has shown they have the offensive firepower to bounce back from a loss like last night, and they are also hitting .278 against lefties and .274 at home this season. Both starters have tough matchups, but Dunning has proven he is more prepared to face a strong lineup.
The former first-round pick is in the 89th percentile in barrel percentage, 59th percentile in hard-hit percentage, and his .216 WOBA is in the top 5% of the league. Dunning has avoided the long ball this season primarily because he has a 50% groundball percentage and a 1.46 ERA at home. Once Dunning is out of the game, I trust the Rangers bullpen that has allowed the seventh lowest BAbip this season can keep or hold a lead.
Shuster does not have many advanced stats to go off at the Major League level, but his command issues remained a problem in Triple-A after he was sent down, even though his overall numbers improved. The lefty's expected ERA after two starts in the big leagues is 7.78, and although he has flashed potential, I still think Texas can jump on him tonight and take advantage of his shaky command.
Texas Rangers (-103)