Cardinals vs. Braves Betting Odds, Picks & Predictions: Will Runs Be at a Premium in NLDS Game 1?

Cardinals vs. Braves Betting Odds, Picks & Predictions: Will Runs Be at a Premium in NLDS Game 1? article feature image

Michael McLoone-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel

  • The Atlanta Braves are betting favorites (-132 moneyline odds) against the St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday afternoon. on the mound for Thursday evening's NLDS Game 1 against the St. Louis Cardinals.
  • Dallas Keuchel will take the mound for Atlanta, while Miles Mikolas gets the nod for St. Louis. The over/under for the game is set at 9.
  • Our MLB expert Sean Zerillo breaks down his favorite picks and predictions for Cardinals-Braves Game 1.

Cardinals vs. Braves Game 1 Betting Odds, Picks & Predictions

Probable starters: Miles Mikolas (9-14, 4.16 ERA) vs. Dallas Keuchel (8-8, 3.75 ERA)

  • Cardinals odds: +122
  • Braves odds: -132
  • Over/Under:  9
  • First pitch:  5:02 p.m. ET on TBS

Odds as of Wednesday evening. Check out PointsBet, where Action Network users get an exclusive 200% deposit match (deposit $50, bet with $150).

The Atlanta Braves (97-65) and St. Louis Cardinals (91-71) will meet at SunTrust Park on Thursday, to begin a best-of-5 divisional series; the first playoff matchup between these two teams since the Cardinals won the 2012 NL Wild Card game.

St. Louis had a better-expected record (92-70) than the Braves (91-71) this season despite a lower run differential (+112 to +102) as they played a more difficult schedule – even though four NL East teams finished at .500 or better.

The Braves won the head-to-head series, 4-2, outscoring the Cardinals 29-27. Can they extend that record to 7-4 or better, and advance past the Cardinals and into the NLCS?

The Starters 

Both starters have underachieved to a degree this season, with either posting a FIP about a full run higher than their 2018 mark.

They each like to pitch to contact, and both were harmed by the power spike around the league this season — as MLB’s home run rate increased by 11% over 2018.

Keuchel allowed 16 home runs in 112 innings, a rate of 1.28 HR/9, easily the highest of his career.

Mikolas allowed 27 home runs in 184 innings (1.32 HR/9) this season, a substantial increase after allowing just 16 homers in 200 innings in 2018 (0.72 HR/9).

Keuchel is a soft-tosser, ranking in the bottom 3% amongst all pitchers in fastball velocity, averaging 89.5 mph.

As a pitcher who is predisposed to allowing hard contact, he was more vulnerable than most to the league-wide increase in hard-hit rate this season:

However, he continues to generate groundballs at an elite rate (60.1%), the best amongst all starters and retains hidden excellence at pickoffs and individual defense. There’s a reason why Keuchel won four AL gold gloves in five years.

In place of velocity, Keuchel relies on command, by painting the corners with his sinker (48.9%) or cutter (20.2%), before using his slider or changeup as an out pitch:

Dallas Keuchel, Fastball Command. 🎯

— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 4, 2019

Mikolas throws a bit harder than Keuchel (average 93.9 mph – 60th percentile), but he fits the same pitcher archetype – control artist who generates groundballs (47.4%).

Mikolas had the fourth-lowest walk rate (4.2%) amongst qualified starters, but he also ranks 49th out of those 61 pitchers in strikeout rate.

Other than seeing a significant spike in the hard-hit and home run rates for Mikolas this season, there isn’t much different about his profile – after posting a 2.85 ERA in 2018.

He owns a diverse five-pitch arsenal, using four separate pitches more than 20% of the time, but his slider has lost major effectiveness over last season.

Based on total pitch value, it ranked fourth amongst sliders in 2018 – but returned negative value this season

Miles Mikolas
Slider 89 mph#stlcards #tails

— cardinalsgifs (@cardinalsgifs) July 11, 2018

There are a few theories as to why the slider has lost effectiveness. In short, Mikolas is both getting less extension on the pitch, and he has also changed his release point. Those changes aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive.

Whatever the case, Mikolas was an above-average starter in 2018, and now he’s slightly below average – but the same could be said for the dropoff that Dallas Keuchel has experienced over the past two seasons.

The Bullpens

On the season, the Braves bullpen ranks 14th in FIP, 16th in xFIP and 17th in K-BB%. By the same metrics, the Cardinals rank 11th, 12th and 15th.

Since the trading deadline, when the Braves acquired Shane Greene, Mark Melancon and Chris Martin for prospects, they rank as a Top-10 bullpen.

The trio has been dominant for the Braves. Their combined stat line over two months in Atlanta:

  • 63.1 Innings Pitched, 67 strikeouts, eight walks, 64 hits (1.14 WHIP)

Melancon has emerged as the closer for the Braves, regaining his previous All-Star form by posting a 2.86 FIP this season.

But Martin is probably the most electric in the group, throwing over 96 mph while walking just five batters in 55 innings this year.

9️⃣ strikes on 9️⃣ pitches = An immaculate inning for Chris Martin!#ChopOn

— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) September 12, 2019

Former starter Carlos Martinez has filled in nicely as the Cardinals closer after the team lost Jordan Hicks to Tommy John Surgery. Martinez has been his typical enigmatic self, but he owns a 2.61 FIP in the closer role.

Andrew Miller was the Cardinals big offseason acquisition, but the lefty has struggled mightily (4.45 ERA, 5.19 FIP),

Former Yankee Giovanny Gallegos has arguably been the Cardinals’ best reliever. The righty struck out 93 batters in 74 innings with a 2.31 ERA (3.05 FIP) using his deadly slider:

Projected Lineups

Data per FantasyLabs

Weather Report

Data per Sports Insights

Trends to Know

Underdogs and visiting teams have an identical record (98-115) against ALDS And NLDS moneylines.

As you can imagine, underdogs have been more profitable for a consistent $100 bettor (+$1,375 vs. +$468).

The Under has been extremely profitable in ALDS games (60-47-6, +$932), but quite the opposite in NLDS games (45-50-5, -$746).

SunTrust Park has had a slight lean to the Under (52.4) in its three-year history, but that record tightens (97-94-11) when the total has closed between 8.5 and 9.5.

Miles Mikolas has a .500 record against the F5 moneyline (27-27-10) with the Cardinals.

For his career, Dallas Keuchel is 98-75-29 (56.6%) on the F5 moneyline, generating a consistent $100 bettor $1,322.

Model Projected Odds

Favorite Bet

I projected the Braves as a -120 favorite in this game, and I set the total at 9.6 runs. Therefore, I don’t see any value on the moneyline, but I did place a wager on the Over when the total was still listed at 8.5. 

I would consider betting the over with the total still listed at nine but would prefer to wait to see if the number comes down to 8.5 again again.

Rather than taking the Cardinals on the single-game moneyline, I do see value on their series moneyline bet at odds of +125 or higher.

I projected the Cardinals as a +109 underdog for the series, an implied probability of 47.8%. At +125, implied odds of 44.4%, I see an expected value gap of over three percent from my projection.

As I’m holding Cardinals NL and World Series futures, I’m not inclined to invest more in this team, but I’d certainly prefer the series moneyline price over the game moneyline.

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