Phillies vs. Braves Odds & Picks: Atlanta’s Bats Should Come Alive Friday
Patrick Smith/Getty Images. Pictured: Freddie Freeman.
- Atlanta goes for its third straight win on Friday night with Charlie Morton facing the Phillies.
- The Braves' bats have struggled early on and haven't had much success vs. Zach Wheeler since the start of last season.
- MLB betting analyst Tanner McGrath breaks down why he's backing the Braves to thrive with some home cooking.
Phillies vs. Braves Odds
|Time||Friday, 7:20 p.m. ET|
|Odds as of Thursday and via DraftKings|
The Phillies and Braves face off on Friday night with the same pitching matchup as last Saturday, when Zack Wheeler thoroughly beat Charlie Morton and handled the Braves’ lineup in a 4-0 Phillies win.
Philadelphia is red-hot to start the season, sporting a 5-1 record. The Braves started their season 0-4 but are hoping to build off back-to-back wins over the Nationals.
This is the Braves’ home opener, as the Phillies play their first game away from Citizens Bank Park. Let’s dig into this matchup and see where the value lies.
Philadelphia is cooking to start the season. The Phillies opened with a sweep of the Braves and then took two of three from the Mets, including a Jacob deGrom start.
The Phils’ offense has been good so far. Philadelphia boasts above-average numbers in most metrics, but Rhys Hoskins and J.T. Realmuto have been playing exceptionally well.
However, the pitching has carried the Phillies to this start. The bullpen has been much better following a 2020 season where they finished dead last in MLB in both ERA and WHIP. But the starting rotation has been unreal through the first six games.
The Phillies’ rotation currently boasts MLB’s second-best ERA, the No. 8 FIP and No. 4 WHIP. Overall, the Phillies are allowing the second-fewest runs per game at 2.7.
A big part of Philadelphia’s pitching start is Friday’s starter: Zack Wheeler.
Starting Pitcher: Zack Wheeler
Wheeler’s 2021 debut was a dominating start against these Braves. He one-hit the Braves over seven innings while striking out 10 and with no walks. Atlanta had no answers, and that seems to be a trend when it matches up with Wheeler.
Wheeler had two starts against Atlanta last season and pitched 12 2/3 total innings. He allowed just three runs on 12 hits and one walk while striking out 11.
So, for the mathletes out there, Wheeler has allowed just three runs on 13 hits and has struck out 21 batters over his past 19 2/3 innings against the Braves. That’s an ERA of 1.37, a WHIP of 0.71 and a K:BB ratio of 21.
That’s some wildly impressive pitching. Moreover, it doesn’t seem like there was a lot of luck involved, as he posted a FIP of 2.95 and a xFIP of 2.99 in those starts. Wheeler has been just really dominant against this Braves lineup.
Against non-Atlanta opponents, Wheeler had a decent 2020 season. He posted a 2.92 ERA, a 3.22 FIP and a 1.17 WHIP while pitching 71 total innings over 11 starts. He also allowed just 67 total hits, which finished top-10 among qualified starters.
The Braves’ two wins over the Nationals were much-needed after a four-game slip to start the season. However, the vaunted Atlanta lineup that paced the Majors in OPS last season can’t muster a run this season.
Through six games, the Braves are 27th in OPS, 29th in wOBA and 29th in wRC+. The season is still young and the Braves have one of the most dangerous lineups in baseball, but their hitters need to wake up.
Luckily, the Braves are coming back to Atlanta after a six-game road trip, and their offense is much more efficient at Truist Park. In 2020, the Braves posted a .797 OPS and a 112 wRC+ on the road, and those numbers jump to .898 and 136 at home.
Hopefully, Atlanta’s home-opener revives the Braves bats.
Starting Pitcher: Charlie Morton
After All-Star campaigns in 2018 and 2019, Morton had a down year in Tampa last season.
He posted a 4.74 ERA and a 1.39 WHIP while pitching just 38 innings in nine starts for the Rays. Plus, his xERA, xFIP and xwOBA rose dramatically from the previous years, meaning there wasn’t much bad luck involved in his regression.
Morton’s had two starts against the Phillies recently, the first on Sept. 25 of last season and the second on Saturday. He pitched just fine in both starts, with two very similar stat lines, allowing three runs over five innings in both.
Given the similarity of his previous two starts, I’d imagine we’re in for more of the same today.
However, Braves fans are hoping Morton can build off three strong spring starts. Morton allowed zero runs on eight hits and four walks over 10 1/3 exhibition innings, plus he notched nine strikeouts.
Given Wheeler’s dominance over Atlanta and the starting pitching matchups, plus the wind blowing in on Friday night, I’d generally lean Phillies and the Under here.
However, I really think the Braves playing their first home game while the Phillies play their first road game is going to be the difference-maker Friday. As mentioned, Atlanta hits much better at home, and the Phillies hit a lot worse on the road.
Against right-handed pitching in 2020, the Phillies posted a 114 wRC+ at home just a 99 wRC+ on the road.
I’m banking on the Braves bats heating up while the Phillies bats cool off, and I’m also hoping that Morton channels his pitching performances from Spring Training, rather than his 2021 debut.
At the time of this writing, DraftKings has the Braves ML at -124. I’m happy to play the Braves at this number, but I’d be cautious playing them at anything higher than -130.
Pick: Braves -124 (play to -130)