July 26 MLB Preview — Atlanta Braves (60-43) at Philadelphia Phillies (54-48)

(Jake Arrieta photo courtesy Eric Hartline/USA TODAY Sports)

This is the full preview(s) as seen on the Winners and Whiners and Stat Salt websites. The confidence rating for all picks on a scale from 1 to 5 is in parentheses.

Note: The 5/5 does NOT represent the best overall pick of the day’s games when there are multiple games, simply the best pick(s) from each individual game.

When and Where: Friday, July 26, Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia, Pa., 7:05 p.m. EDT.

His lengthy winning streak finally snapped, rookie Mike Soroka looks to get back on track Friday night when the NL East-leading Atlanta Braves begin a critical three-game series in Philadelphia versus the Phillies.

Is Soroka hitting the wall?

Soroka (10-2, 2.46 ERA) is pitching on five days of rest for the second consecutive start as Atlanta (60-43) continues to be cognizant of his workload. His high-water mark for innings pitched was 157 2-3 in 2017, and the right-hander was shut down after 56 1-3 innings in 2018 due to a shoulder injury.

The 21-year-old had one of his few rough outings of the season Saturday versus Washington as he crossed the 100-inning threshold, yielding four runs and nine hits in six innings of a 5-3 loss as his personal 10-game winning streak came to an end. Soroka was reached for five straight hits in a three-run fifth, including a pair of infield singles, as his ERA over the last seven starts has been a sub-par 4.38.

“That’s always going to happen,” Soroka told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about an inning that could be chalked up to bad luck. “Then you’re going to have nights where every ball is hit to everybody. It’s one thing you’re aware of as a guy who gets the ball on the ground. You just have to keep pitching.”

Soroka’s shortest outing of the season — at least one that was not cut short by injury — took place against the Phillies on the 4th of July, but it was also one Braves manager Brian Snitker thought worth praising.

The youngster shook off a four-run, six-hit first inning to toss 3 2-3 shutout frames and left one out short of a victory as the Braves picked him up in an eventual 12-6 victory. Snitker, according to The Associated Press, told Soroka “That might have been your best outing of the year” after showing resiliency.

Soroka has been a far better pitcher on the road than at home, going 6-0 with a 1.13 ERA in nine starts. He has not allowed more than two runs in any of those outings while holding opponents to a .179 batting average over 56 innings.

Atlanta has dropped six of eight overall after being swept in a two-game series by Kansas City following Wednesday’s 2-0 defeat. The Braves have lost five straight at Philadelphia dating back to last season and were swept in a season-opening three-game set in March.

Arrieta tries to help Phils inch closer in NL East

The Phillies (54-48) still have the Washington Nationals between them and the Braves and enter this set 5 1/2 games out of the NL East lead. Philadelphia has won three straight and five of six after taking both games in Detroit in an interleague set.

The Phils’ bullpen put in yeoman’s work in the two wins, recording 11 1-3 scoreless innings while scattering four hits. They put together 3 1-3 shutout frames in Wednesday’s 4-0 victory as Vince Velasquez and three relievers combined on a five-hitter.

“We feel good about the road trip,” Phillies manager Gabe Kapler told the team’s official website after moving six games over .500 for the first time since June 19. “And we feel good about going home for the Atlanta series. Pretty healthy, in good spirits and with some confidence.”

Jake Arrieta (8-7, 4.40) takes the ball for the Phillies in this series opener, looking for a third straight solid start while picking up a win for the first time in four. The veteran right-hander — battling his way through a bone spur in his throwing elbow — kept Pittsburgh in check last Friday, limiting the Pirates to one run over 5 2-3 innings before the Phillies pulled away late for a 6-1 triumph.

Arrieta opened his season with a win over Atlanta on March 31, working around six walks in six innings while allowing one run in a 5-1 victory. He improved to 5-2 with a 2.85 ERA in eight career starts versus the Braves and has held them to one run in 12 2-3 innings in winning both matchups in Citizens Bank Park since joining the Phillies last year.

The righty has had his way with Nick Markakis, limiting him to two hits in 19 at-bats.

Notable Trends

The Phillies are:

  • 2-7 in their last nine games vs. starters with a sub-1.15 WHIP.
  • 4-9 in their last 13 home games vs. above-.500 teams.
  • 2-7 in their last nine games after allowing two or fewer runs in their previous game.

The Braves are:

  • 22-10 in their last 32 games vs. NL East teams.
  • 9-1 in Soroka’s last 10 starts vs. NL East teams.
  • 7-1 in Soroka’s last eight starts on five days of rest.

*****5-Star Pick*****

Braves UNDER 5 runs (-125)

Atlanta has been in a lull offensively, scoring more than four ones just once in its last 10 games, and was blanked by Kansas City on Wednesday. All told, the Braves have averaged 3.5 runs while batting .245 in that stretch.

The day off may have helped hit the reset button, but the Braves have also sputtered offensively of late in Philadelphia, scoring more than four runs twice in their last nine games at Citizens Bank Park while being shut out three times in that span.

The feel is this game will be more of pitchers’ duel with Soroka and Arrieta, and in taking the under for the game, taking the under for the Braves against a high number is the play.

****4-Star Pick****

UNDER 9.5 runs (-110)

Arrieta’s bone spur means the Phillies can expect little beyond 90 pitches while hoping for six innings. The good news for under bettors is the Phillies bullpen is fresh following its lights-out work in Detroit and should help extend the under’s run to six games for Philadelphia.

The under is also 5-2 in its last series openers and 15-5-1 in the last 21 when Philadelphia is coming off a victory. The under is also highly favorable on Atlanta’s side to begin a series, going 7-1-1 in the last nine such contests and 8-2 in the last 10 road games against above-.500 teams.

The under is also trending with Soroka, going 5-1-1 in his last seven road starts and 6-1 in his last seven against teams with winning records.

This line has ticked down from 10 runs since this preview was published, but there is still enough confidence in Soroka bouncing back and Arrieta being effective for the under to hit.

UNDER 5 runs (-121)

Though the over hit in Soroka’s start versus Philadelphia, his road form and Atlanta’s offensive struggles are the key reaons the under the play.

The five-inning under is streaking on both sides, hitting in the last five games for both teams. Additionally, the under is 10-2 with Atlanta since the All-Star break and 9-3 with Philadelphia.

The five-inning under is 7-1-1 in Soroka’s nine road starts, with that over only hitting because Atlanta put up a seven-spot in Miami in early June. The under is also 4-1-1 in Arrieta’s last six outings and 6-4-1 versus NL East teams.

***3-Star Picks***

Braves (-136)

While the teams are trending in opposite directions, and the Phillies need this game more than the Braves, there is an uneasiness in knowing Arrieta is pitching through pain that affects both pitch movement and velocity.

In the three starts before Arrieta’s effective most recent two, he was drilled for 15 runs and 28 hits in 16 1-3 innings — all by division rivals. Yes, one of the good starts came against the Nationals, but the Braves have the type of offense that can punish mistakes often.

Additionally, Soroka has been at his best on the road, and this is the type of the game the Braves need their precocious pitcher to be their staff ace. The righty does not need redemption from his previous matchup versus the Phillies based on how he left the game, but getting a win in this contest after falling one out short should be more than enough motivation.

Braves -0.5 runs first 5 innings (Even)

This is a confidence pick in Soroka’s road form, as the Braves are 6-1-2 at the midway point in his nine road starts. While Arrieta did pitch the Phillies to a five-inning start in his March outing versus Atlanta, there is more confidence in Soroka being more effective in this matchup while also recalling the Braves did lead in the rookie’s start against them last month.

Braves -0.5 runs first 3 innings (+115)

This is another confidence pick in Soroka’s road form pertaining to his first inning. Four of the eight runs the righty has given up in the opening frame came in his start versus Philadelphia, and the expectation is he will be focused in extending his run of scoreless first innings to nine consecutive road starts.

On the other side, Arrieta has a 9.00 ERA in the third inning while opponents are hitting .349 with 30 hits in 20 innings. The hedge is once the Braves get a feel for his velocity, they will be able to scratch out a run or two early to cover the half-run as they begin going through the order a second time.


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