Easter Sunday was less than ideal for the Atlanta Braves, as they lost by eight runs at home on Sunday Night Baseball. The beauty of baseball is that Atlanta can quickly move on from that loss as they turn their attention to hosting the Cincinnati Reds. We’ll preview the first game of the series before going over why I’ll be targeting the total in this one.
The Braves have needed to rely on some young arms to start the season, and tonight will be no different as they will hand the ball to Bryce Elder for his second start of the year. The young right-hander was called up to replace an injured Max Fried, and in his first start, he managed to pick up the win as he threw six scoreless innings with six strikeouts against the Cardinals.
Elder will be looking for similar run support today, as the Braves managed to score five runs for him in his first start. Atlanta will need to forget about the last three games in order to do so, as they have lost three straight and only managed to score two runs last night. As a team, the Braves rank 9th in batting average, but they now rank 18th in average runs per game after losing the series to San Diego.
Atlanta possesses a ton of talent in their lineup, but tonight will not be an easy night to get back in the win column as they take on an impressive young starting pitcher in Graham Ashcraft. The Reds right-hander picked up a win in his only start this season as he threw seven innings against the Pirates while allowing just one run and striking out six.
Ashcraft was given little run support in the win, but with the way he was throwing, three runs were all he needed. Offensively, the Reds have not gotten off to the best start, with a .241 team batting average, but they were able to muster four runs in the last two innings yesterday to complete a comeback win over the Phillies. In the win, catcher Tyler Stephenson continued his impressive start to the year by extending his eight-game hit streak.
The total for this game is currently set at 8.5, and I’ll be taking the under for my play. The under is 6-4 in Braves games this season, and it is 4-0 in the Braves' last four home games against teams with a losing record. Cincinnati has an almost identical trend as the under is 4-1 in their previous five road games against a team with a winning record.
Both starting pitchers today got off to excellent starts to their season, so they will both come into today with momentum. Neither lineup has faced the opposing starter, so there could be an adjustment period for both sides, especially for the Braves, since Ashcraft features a tough cutter that had a 36.4% put-away percentage in his first start of the year.
Ashcraft and Elder are also heavy ground ball pitchers, which bodes well for the total staying under. Both players have a 50% or higher ground ball percentage in their careers, which is 6% higher than the league average, and reduced the possibility of the long ball tonight.