Cardinals vs. Braves Betting Picks, Odds & Predictions: Trust Jack Flaherty as a Favorite?

Cardinals vs. Braves Betting Picks, Odds & Predictions: Trust Jack Flaherty as a Favorite? article feature image

Jeff Curry, USA Today Sports. Pictured: Jack Flaherty

  • Cardinals pitcher Jack Flaherty will face off against the Braves on Friday afternoon (4:37 p.m. ET first pitch) as a betting favorite to take a 2-0 series lead. St. Louis has -130 odds on the moneyline, compared to +110 for the Braves.
  • The over/under for the game is 8, and that's where our MLB expert Sean Zerillo is focusing his attention for his Cardinals-Braves Game 2 pick.

Cardinals vs. Braves Game 2 Betting Picks, Odds & Predictions

Probable starters: Jack Flaherty (11-8, 2.75 ERA) vs. Mike Foltynewicz (8-6, 4.54 ERA)

  • Cardinals odds: -130
  • Braves odds: +110
  • Over/Under:  8.5
  • First pitch:  4:37 p.m. ET on TBS

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

The turning point in Game 1 of this series occurred during a warm-up session before the top of the eighth inning. With a 3-1 lead, the Braves brought on Chris Martin, who headed to the clubhouse with an oblique injury before throwing a pitch in the game.

Former closer Luke Jackson was summoned as his emergency replacement, and after a lengthy delay, Jackson promptly surrendered a long home run to Paul Goldschmidt. The momentum of the game immediately flipped.

After a couple of outs and a couple of singles, the Cardinals pinch-hit with lefty Matt Carpenter for the right-handed Harrison Bader. The Braves countered by bringing in their best remaining reliever, Mark Melancon.

Carpenter hit a bloop double down the left-field line to tie the game, but a slowed-by-injury Kolten Wong was hamstrung at the plate, trying to score the go-ahead run from first base with two outs.

Melancon came back on for the 9th  inning and allowed four runs of his own before the Braves fell a run short in the game after hitting two home runs in the bottom of the ninth inning off of Cardinals closer Carlos Martinez; who came on in the 8th but seemed erratic after waiting around while his team grabbed the lead.

The Cardinals prevailed 7-6; an unfortunate outcome for under bettors who saw a 3-1 game through 7 innings.

Are more runs in the forecast for Friday?

The Starters 

This is a matchup between two young hurlers who have come into form during the second half of the season, though Flaherty is a deserving favorite in this matchup.

The Cardinals’ righty has a 0.91 ERA in 15 starts since the All-Star break (0.77 ERA since August 1), including seven shutout innings against the Cubs in Game 162 to clinch the NL Central for the Redbirds.

Foltynewicz was a 2018 All-Star, but he couldn’t find his command early in the year (6.37 ERA, 16 HR allowed through 11 starts) before spending time finding his game in the minors.

Since returning in early August, Folty has a 6-1 record over 10 starts with a 2.65 ERA (3.77 FIP, 4.19 xFIP)

What have these young starters done to improve their performance in the second half?

Foltynewicz, now 27-years-old, has lost 1.5 mph on his four-seam fastball over 2018, and has responded by increasing his sinker usage and decreasing his four-seam fastball usage since returning from the minors.

As you can see, this overall change began to occur in the middle of the 2018 season, which also coincided with an increase in slider usage; but Folty is not currently the strikeout-per-inning arm that he was in 2018.

But he is still something close to that, provided that he can maintain his command. Take a look at Folty’s slider locations in the first half of the season:

As compared to his final 10 starts:

It’s one of the better sliders in baseball, though all four of his pitches have returned positive value down the stretch:

In addition to that sparkling 0.91 second-half ERA, Flaherty ranks fourth in FIP (2.22) and 9th in xFIP (3.19)

In contrast to Foltynewicz, the 23-year-old Flaherty’s velocity is on the rise:

This factor only helps his dominant fastball/slider combination, which he plays off of both his two-seam fastball:

Jack Flaherty, 85mph Slider and 93mph Two Seamer, Overlay.

— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 23, 2019

And also the four-seam fastball:

Jack Flaherty, 95mph Fastball and 85mph Slider, Overlay.

— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) September 8, 2019

Flaherty is a young pitcher whose fastball velocity and command are both improving, and he could be the X factor that helps the Cardinals make a deep run in the playoffs.

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.

The teams used 14 combined pitchers (not including Chris Martin) in Game 1, mostly proving that the managers don’t have much faith in any of these arms. That’s a big reason why I like the over once again on Friday.

Closers Carlos Martinez (29 pitches) and Mark Melancon (28 pitches) were both lit up and were also the only arms that were truly taxed.

Josh Tomlin seems likely to enter Friday’s contest for the Braves after warming up but failing to enter Thursday’s game.

He’s a prime live over target for bettors, with a 3.74 ERA that is undermined by a 4.49 FIP and 4.95 xFIP – while striking out fewer than six batters per nine innings.

Tomlin might be the least effective pitcher on any of these playoff rosters, and the Braves bullpen quality takes a bit hit with Martin’s injury.

We could continue to see these offenses trade blows in the late innings.

Projected Lineups

Data per FantasyLabs

Umpire Weather Report

Data per Sports Insights

Alan Porter, who was the first base umpire in Game 1, should be the plate umpire in Game 2.

He is a trend-neutral umpire, with a 134-130-7 (50.8%) record to the under, and a 140-134 moneyline record (51.1%) for home teams.

Trends to Know

Jack Flaherty is 29-19-14 (60.4%) on the first five innings (F5) moneyline over the past two seasons, while Mike Foltynewicz is 25-19-12 (56.8%).

The Braves are 29-31 as an underdog this season, but just 5-6 at home. The Cardinals are 20-16 as a road favorite.

If you blindly bet $100 on the under in every Jack Flaherty start, you would be 38-26-3 (59.4%), suitable for a profit of $1,038 and a 15.5% ROI.

Employing the same strategy for Foltynewicz, you would be 48-61-12 (44%), and down over $1,500.

Model Projected Odds

Favorite Bet

I projected the Cardinals as a -125 favorite in this game, and I set the total at a hair under 9.0 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; before it came up to 8.5 in some spots. 

Despite the presence of Flaherty, and Foltynewicz’s second-half resurgence, these two bullpens are in shambles and an early hiccup from either starter could cause this game to unravel.

I would still consider betting the over with the total listed at 8.5 but would be equally willing to bet on Flaherty in the F5 portion of the game; at what I consider to be a price in line with my fair odds.

Flaherty has both a  higher upside and a higher floor than Foltynewicz, and this game could mark the beginning of the end for the 2019 Braves.

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