Braves vs. Phillies Odds, Preview, Prediction: Trust This Road Favorite? (July 22)

Todd Kirkland/Getty Images. Pictured: Charlie Morton

Braves vs. Phillies Odds

Braves Odds -135
Phillies Odds +115
Over/Under 9
Time 7:05 p.m. ET
TV NBCS-PH
Odds as of Thursday and via DraftKings

The Phillies had been building a lot of momentum through July before they dropped two-straight games to the Yankees, including a crushing defeat on Wednesday night when they came back to tie it just to lose in extras.

The Braves had the second-half of their doubleheader with the Padres suspended due to rain, after dropping the first game on Wednesday.

Atlanta sits one game behind Philadelphia in the NL East standings, but the Mets sit 3.5 clear of them both. Despite sitting third in the division, the Braves have the best run differential in the league at +25, compared to -11 for the Phillies.

This is a big four-game series for two division rivals vying for playoff position as the weakest division in baseball remains up for grabs for anybody.

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Atlanta Braves

It’s been an inconsistent season for Charlie Morton (RHP), but the 37-year-old appears to have settled in and found a groove recently. He is 8-3 this season with a 3.69 ERA and .214 batting average against in 19 starts this year. In his last six starts, Morton is 3-0 with a 2.31 ERA and opponents are batting just .159.

The strength for Morton has always been his curveball. It has been his most thrown pitch, tossing it 35.9% of the time and allowing just a .130 batting average with a 43.2% Whiff%. Morton pounds the bottom of the zone for a 49.4% Ground Ball rate, 14th in the league among qualified pitchers.

The Braves were dealt a huge blow with the loss of Ronald Acuna Jr. for the season, but management showed their commitment to this team by quickly trading for Joc Pederson.

Even without Acuna, this is still a capable offense. The Atlanta ranks ninth in the league in wOBA and 11th in runs per game. After a slow start to the year, the reigning MVP Freddie Freeman has really turned in on and hasn’t slowed down at all. He is batting .409 with a 1.167 OPS over the last 30 days, hitting .429 with a 1.361 OPS over the last two weeks, and an even better .474 average with a 1.424 OPS in the last week.


Philadelphia Phillies

It looked like the MLB career might be over for Matt Moore (LHP) after an injury ended his 2019 season after just two starts and he spent 2020 in Japan. After signing with Philadelphia in the offseason, he has dealt with COVID, back spasms and a demotion to the bullpen due to poor performance.

Moore was forced back into the rotation after injuries and has been much better than his first stint as a starter. In his first three starts this season, he had a whopping 9.82 ERA and was allowing a .354 batting average against. He was sent to the bullpen and did okay, making six appearances and posting a 3.68 ERA. After returning to the rotation on June 25, he has posted a 3.06 ERA in four starts.

Mitchell Leff/Getty Images. Pictured: Phillies pitcher Matt Moore

Since the start of July, the Phillies have scored the fifth-most runs in the league. They rank fifth in the league in wOBA, and even in their two losses to the Yankees, the Phillies scored nine runs and tallied 13 hits.

The problem recently has been timely hitting. In the last for games, Philly is just 7-for-42 (.167) with runners in scoring position and has left 38 men on base.

Philadelphia’s lineup has plenty of stars power and it has been the big names getting it done for them. Since the start of July, Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto and Rhys Hoskins are all batting over .285, and Harper and Hoskins have an OPS above .900.


Braves-Phillies Pick

I think the Phillies are going to run into some trouble late in Thursday’s game.

Moore is averaging just 4.1 innings per start this season and has yet to pitch more than five. He faced Atlanta as a starter in April and got lit up for nine hits and five runs in five innings — Ozzie Albies and Freeman each took Moore deep in that one. The Braves roster has a .386 xwOBA against Moore in his career.

If Philadelphia can’t get length from Moore, it will be forced to use an already-poor bullpen that’s been decimated by injuries and COVID as well as taxed over the last couple games.

The Phillies rank 22nd with a 4.64 ERA from their relievers and lead the league in blown saves. Bailey Falter and JD Hammer are on the COVID list, and the Phillies’ best relievers in Ranger Suarez, Archie Bradley, Connor Brogdon, and Hector Neris all were used last night. Bradley and Brogdon both went multiple innings and will almost certainly be unavailable.

Sure, the Braves’ bullpen stinks, too. But Morton has been able to average 5.5 innings per start this season and has averaged 6.5 innings per start over his last six games, pitching into the sixth inning in all of them. He’s been much better recently and is one of the rare pitchers who has been much better on the road than at home with a 2.83 ERA in seven away games compared to 4.24 at home.

Morton has faced the Phillies three times already this season, in three of his first seven starts. He has a 3.09 ERA and has allowed four earned runs in 11.1 innings (one game got weird with six unearned runs). “Ground Chuck” looks to generate ground balls and has above average strikeout stuff, and the Phillies strikeout the eighth-most while putting the ball on the ground the 10th most.

Things could get weird with two struggling bullpens, but the Phillies will likely be relying on Triple-A guys and be forced to use the pen more than the Braves will, so I will back Atlanta on Thursday.

Pick: Braves -140 or better

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