Cardinals vs. Braves Odds, Preview, Prediction: How To Back St. Louis & Carlos Martínez (Friday, June 18)

Cardinals vs. Braves Odds, Preview, Prediction: How To Back St. Louis & Carlos Martínez (Friday, June 18) article feature image
Credit:

Norm Hall/Getty Images. Pictured: Carlos Martínez.

  • Carlos Martínez starts on Friday night against the Braves, who turn to left-hander Max Fried.
  • Neither pitcher has been very consistent this season, but there's reason to believe Martínez is the starter to back.
  • Michael Arinze breaks down which side he's backing and how bettors can find value.

Cardinals vs. Braves Odds

Cardinals Odds +128
Braves Odds -152
Over/Under 9.5
Time Friday, 7:20 p.m. ET
TV MLB Network
Odds as of Friday and via FanDuel

The Braves will resume their four-game series with the Cardinals on Friday night. Atlanta defeated St. Louis 4-0 in the series opener behind a stellar pitching performance by Charlie Morton, who took a no-hitter into the seventh inning.

While the victory snapped a three-game winning streak for the Cardinals, the truth is that neither team in this matchup has been playing all that well. St. Louis has been shut out twice in its last six games and is averaging just 1.5 runs per game during that span.

As for Atlanta, it has managed just two wins in its last eight games. The Braves will now try to win back-to-back games for the first time in over a week. Max Fried will get the start in the second game, and Carlos Martínez will oppose him for the Cardinals.

Unfortunately, the performance of both pitchers this season has somewhat mirrored that of their teams in terms of inconsistency. And while it’s not necessarily straightforward regarding the preferred side in this matchup, I’ve identified some interesting trends that could help tip the scale in one direction.

I’ll touch on that and much more to get you set for this matchup.

Martínez’s Numbers Marred By a Few Poor Outings

There was a time when Martínez looked like a legitimate ace in the Cardinals rotation. However, injuries have impeded his progression as he hasn’t been able to find the form that led to him being a two-time All-Star earlier in his career.

This season, Martínez is 3-7 with a 5.54 ERA. He also holds a 1.23 WHIP, which suggests that he’s likely had a few starts that could be characterized as anomalies compared to the others. His 4.00 FIP, which is lower than his ERA, supports that assertion, thus indicating positive regression is coming. We saw a bit of that in Martínez’s last start, when he pitched seven innings and allowed two runs but still ended up with the loss.

In April, Martínez had an ERA as high as 7.80, but he brought it down to 3.72 in May. It spiked back up in June after allowing 10 earned runs in the first inning against the Dodgers.

Success for Martínez Off a Quality Start

I went back and looked at Martínez’s game log this season and when he’s been able to follow a poor outing with a quality start, his next outing would also result in a quality start. In fact, in each instance, the Cardinals lost the game in the first outing but won his next start.

That trend is actually active for Friday’s game against the Braves.

While it’s a small sample size, when you combine that with the positive regression we already identified, you can start to build a case for Martínez in this spot.


Fried Struggles To Match Success Earlier In Career

Fried is in his fifth year in the majors and like Martínez, he made a meteoric jump after his second season. After two wins in nine starts in his first two seasons, the Braves left-hander won 17 games in his third year and finished fifth in the NL Cy Young voting. He followed that up with a perfect 7-0 record, a 2.25 ERA, and a 1.09 WHIP during the pandemic-shortened season of 2020.

This season, he’s struggled to find that same level of success as he’s 3-4 with a 4.62 ERA and 1.44 WHIP. However, his 4.13 FIP also points to some positive regression by about a half-run.

A Tale of Two Offenses

Fried will need to be mindful of a Cardinals offense that has enjoyed taking their hacks against southpaws. St. Louis has a .222/.293/.369 line against righties, but when facing a lefty, those numbers improve to a .256/.333/.434 line. This bodes well when you consider their current lineup has 37 at-bats against Fried with a .378/.478/.514 line.

As for Atlanta’s offense, it can be hit or miss at times, given that the Braves are heavily reliant on the home run ball. The Braves are ranked fourth in the majors with 96 home runs. They may need to find other ways to score runs against Martínez, considering that he’s allowing just 0.55 home runs per nine innings.

Facing the Cardinals right-hander will be a new experience for most of their hitters as their current lineup only has 11 at-bats against him—spread out among three players. That lack of familiarity tends to work to the advantage of the opposing pitcher, particularly early in the game.

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Cardinals-Braves Pick

After assessing both teams coming into this game and starting pitching, hopefully, you’ve been able to glean that these flawed teams are much closer than the current market odds suggest. To isolate the Cardinals’ success against left-handed pitchers, I think it makes sense to back them in the first five innings.

In my research, I uncovered that Fried is 3-3 on the run line at home through the first five innings this season. In fact, he’s alternated wins and losses in each of his six starts at home this year, and he’s coming off a win in his last outing. Whereas the Cardinals are 9-5 on the run line for the first five innings when facing a starting left-hander, but they’re 6-1 for 4.16 units when they’re on the road in this spot.

FanDuel lists the Cardinals as a +138 underdog for the first five innings, and they’re available at -105 on the +10.5 run line.

I’ll look to split my action between both of those options as I think that gives me the best opportunity to cash at least one of the tickets.

Pick: Cardinals F5 +138 (.5 unit) and Cardinals F5 RL -105 (.5 unit)

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