Braves/Dodgers Under (8:08PM ET FOX) – Our dream run through the 2020 MLB regular season continues as we make it four straight winners and three consecutive 5* UNDER winners with the Rays and Astros playing well under the posted total. I couldn’t get involved with that matchup today because I was concerned with what we might see out of the bullpens but I’m going to get involved here in Game 1 of the NLCS when the Los Angeles Dodgers take on the Atlanta Braves at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas.
I’m shocked we are regularly seeing 8’s for the totals in games where we have top end starting pitching and elite bullpens. I understand both of these teams have lineups that can do some damage but this series represents a step up in competition for both and I simply don’t see a slugfest here. The Braves pounded the ball toward the end of the regular season but Atlanta is now 4-1 to the UNDER in the playoffs so far with an average of 5.8 runs scored per game across those five games. The Dodgers are synonymous with home runs and a big offense but this team really hadn’t scored big until the Padres completely ran out of pitching in Game 3. What I see here is, once again, a total that is way too high and I think both teams will be tight wanting that Game 1 win and I expect another one of those low scoring chess match type games here.
I’m going to start by breaking down the Los Angeles Dodgers pitching as a whole because I think the Dodgers will be prepared to use their entire bullpen if needed here. The Dodgers starter here is Walker Buehler, he had a 3.44 ERA and a 0.95 WHIP this season and has given up three runs over eight innings in the playoffs so far. Buehler is an ace in terms of how devastating his stuff is but he hasn’t pitched deep into games and I think that’s why oddsmakers have priced this total higher than it should be here. Buehler throwing 4-5 innings during the regular season might have been an issue since the Dodgers were so far ahead of every other team they could really just trot anyone out there to finish the game. That won’t be the case here, with the new playoff format winning Game 1 is massively important because it really changes the way teams manage the remainder of the series so I expect Dave Roberts to follow Buehler with one of his top arms which adds value to the UNDER here.
The Dodgers haven’t announced a Game 3 starter yet so my guess is Tony Gonsolin, Dustin May or Julio Urias could all be the guy depending on the matchups. If Buehler goes 5-6 the Dodgers could go right to their bullpen and, despite the struggles of Kenley Jansen who has likely been demoted out of high leverage situations at this point, this Dodgers bullpen is very good. The Dodgers were 2nd in the MLB in bullpen ERA during the regular season as well as 2nd in FIP, 3rd in WAR and they led the MLB in WHIP. I thought it was shocking to hear the “Dodgers bullpen is a mess” comments because that couldn’t be further from the truth, it’s one guy (Jansen) that is awful and after his performance against the Padres my guess is we won’t see him in anything other than mop up duty the remainder of the postseason.
The Braves counter with Max Fried who emerged as the best left handed pitcher in baseball this season. Fried was 7-0 with a 2.25 ERA and 1.09 WHIP during the regular season and this should be a great matchup for Fried because the Dodgers haven’t seen him all year and this lineup isn’t quite as devastating against left-handed pitching. Fried didn’t have a great outing against the Marlins but I’m willing to give him a pass there since the Marlins are a team that had seen him a ton during the regular season. Fried was nails in his first playoff start going seven shutout innings and scattering six hits while striking out five with no walks against the Reds and I think he’s more than capable of a similarly strong outing here.
The Braves don’t have the devastating numbers that the Dodgers have but this Atlanta bullpen is still one of the better units in the league. The Braves had the fourth best bullpen ERA during the regular season and fall somewhere in the top 10 in WHIP, FIP and WAR. Fried is probably going to pitch fairly deep into this game which means those numbers are elevated by the fact we will probably get all of the Braves best relievers here. The Dodgers are capable of blowing games open but they hadn’t until the Padres finally ran out of gas and I can’t see them hanging a huge number on a Braves team that will be in scrap mode in Game 1 of a series.
The only way this game sees 9 or more runs is if one of these teams gets out to a 4-0 or 5-0 lead and the other team gives up and throws their back-end relievers in an effort to save their top arms for a lengthy series. I can’t see that happening, I think Fried and Buehler will duel early with this game hitting the later innings close. It will be one of those late inning chess matches that is probably decided by one big hit and this should stay UNDER the total. Play on Under 8 (-105) for 5 units
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