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St. Louis Cardinals vs. Atlanta Braves

St. Louis Cardinals (91-71) at Atlanta Braves (97-65)

MLB: Thursday, October 3rd, 2019 at 5:02 pm ET (SunTrust Park)

Line and Odds: Atlanta Braves -140/St. Louis Cardinals +126 Over/Under: 9

Free ESPN MLB Picks Atlanta Braves vs. St. Louis Cardinals

St. Louis

The St. Louis Cardinals look to continue their long history of playoff success when they take on the Atlanta Braves in Game 1 of the National League Divisional Series. St. Louis finished 91-71, a record that was enough to clinch a playoff spot and the National League Central Division. What significantly boosted their chances to make the playoffs was a 6-game winning streak in the penultimate week of the MLB regular season. They beat the Nationals to begin the streak and the Diamondbacks to end the streak, with a 4 game road sweep of the Cubs sandwiched in between. Each of their wins over the Cubs were by 1 run. That 4-game sweep separated themselves from the Cubs, but the Brewers were still lurking. In fact, the division race came down to the last day of the regular season. With the Brewers 1 game behind St. Louis to start the day, the Cardinals beat the Cubs 9-0 to win the division and avoid a 1-game NL Central playoff.

The Cardinals’ offense has had some difficulty putting up runs. St. Louis averages 4.72 runs per game, which ranks 19th in scoring. They rank 25th in total bases per game, hitting for 13.96 per outing. Their on base plus slugging percentage of .737 ranks them 21st in OPS. They rank 13th in both offensive strikeout percentage (23.0%) and offensive walk percentage (9.1%). St. Louis ranks 23rd in batting average (.245), isolated power (.170), and slugging percentage (.415). St. Louis has been led by their strong pitching and fielding. The Cardinals give up 4.09 runs per game, ranking 5th in runs allowed. They are 1st in extra base hit percentage against, allowing opponents to hit for extra base hits on 7.5% of their plate appearances. They are 4th in on base plus slugging against with an OPS against of .711. The Cardinals are 3rd in opponents’ home run percentage, slugging percentage against, and isolated power against.

St. Louis will send Miles Mikolas to the mound as their starting pitcher for Game 1. Mikolas will be starting because their ace, Jack Flaherty, was used in Game 162 of the regular season to ensure their division title. Miles Mikolas has regressed from his all-star form of a year ago. Mikolas has pitched for 184 innings in 32 starts. He has a 4.16 ERA (down from a 2.83 ERA last season) and a 9-14 record. He has a 1.223 WHIP, 4.27 FIP, and 4.50 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He gives up 9.4 hits, 1.3 home runs, and 4.40 runs per 9 innings. Mikolas has pitched well in recent appearances, notching an ERA of 3.03 in his last 6 starts.

Atlanta

The last 30 years of Braves baseball has seen two things quite often: Atlanta making the playoffs and Atlanta getting bounced early. In the 1990s, the Braves were famous for winning a ton of division titles but winning just 1 World Series. The post-millennium Braves have followed a similar playbook. Atlanta has lost their last 9 playoff series, 1 shy of the Cubs’ record of 10 straight series losses. The Braves finished the season with a 97-65 record, which was enough to win them the NL East crown. They finished 4 games ahead of the Washington Nationals, despite having a worse run differential. Atlanta finished the season 1-5 in their last 6 games, but that may have had something to do with having very little to play for. They were firmly ahead of the Nationals in the division, but solidly behind the Dodgers in the race for home field advantage. Also, Atlanta was battling injuries. 1B Freddie Freeman had a right elbow issue and CF Ronald Acuna, Jr. was dealing with a hip injury. According to Braves management, both players are healthy and expected to be full strength.

The Atlanta Braves are above-average both offensively and defensively. Atlanta scores 5.28 runs per game, which ranks 7th in the MLB in scoring. They also rank 7th in on base plus slugging percentage, on base percentage, and total bases per game. Atlanta has a powerful lineup that ranks 9th in home run percentage, hitting homers on 4.0% of their plate appearances. Their bats are also patient, drawing walks on 9.8% of their plate appearances (3rd in the MLB). The Braves give up 4.59 runs per game, which ranks them 12th in runs allowed. Atlanta’s pitchers excel at limiting their opponents’ power. The Braves rank 3rd in opponents’ extra base hit percentage (7.7%). They are 6th in isolated power against and opponents’ home run percentage. However, Atlanta ranks 19th in batting average against and 22nd in BABIP against. Their WHIP of 1.357 ranks 18th in the MLB.

Atlanta has a seasoned veteran in Dallas Keuchel making the start for them in Game 1 of the NLDS. After wading around the free agency market for the first half of the year, Keuchel decided to sign with the Atlanta Braves. In 19 starts this season, Keuchel has gone 8-8 with a 3.75 ERA. He has pitched just 112 and 2/3 innings, so his arm should be fresh. Keuchel has a 4.72 FIP, 1.367 WHIP, and 2.33 strikeout-to-walk ratio on the year. He has allowed 9.2 hits, 1.3 home runs, and 3.99 runs per 9 innings. It should be noted that Keuchel has a strong postseason resume, going back to his time as an Astro. He has a career postseason ERA of 3.31 in 10 career postseason appearances.

Cover The Spread 365 Betting Trends

Cardinals

The total has gone OVER in 5 of St. Louis’ last 6 games.

St. Louis is 1-4 SU in their last 5 games against Atlanta.

St. Louis is 6-2 SU in their last 8 games on the road.

Braves

Atlanta is 1-5 SU in their last 6 games.

Atlanta is 16-4 SU in their last 20 games at home.

The total has gone OVER in 6 of Atlanta’s last 7 games when playing at home against St. Louis.

ESPN MLB Scores St. Louis Cardinals vs. Atlanta Braves

I’m taking the St. Louis Cardinals +126 in this matchup. I think there is a little bit of value on the Cardinals moneyline here. It’s tough to pass on a team at +126 with a bullpen as strong as the Cardinals’. St. Louis’ bullpen ranks 6th in ERA (3.88), this season. They rank 5th with an FIP of 4.06. The Cardinals’ pen gives up just 1.07 home runs per 9 innings, a HR/9 rate that ranks 2nd in the MLB. Also, I’m not sure the Braves even have the starting pitcher edge in this one. Keuchel has a better ERA than Mikolas, but Mikolas has the better FIP, WHIP, and strikeout-to-walk ratio. I would say the starters are about even in this outing. Atlanta has a stronger offense statistically, but I want to see how healthy their everyday players are. They say Freeman and Acuna, Jr. are ready to go, but I’m going to have to see it first. I get the better bullpen, the healthier team, and the team with more recent postseason success, at plus-money. I like the Cardinals on the moneyline.

St. Louis Cardinals +126
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