Moneyline: Braves (-115) Reds (+105)
Starting Pitchers: Braves (Jurrjens) vs. Reds (Arroyo)
Both Atlanta and Cincinnati had some high aspirations going into 2011, but only Atlanta has lived up to the hype so far this year. The Cincinnati Reds have been up and down, but the team that won the NL Central last year is now in fourth place in that division this year. There is still time for the Reds to recover since no one has run away with the NL Central. The Braves are now 18-8 in their last 26 games. Can the Braves keep it going or will the Reds start a winning streak at home?
Jair Jurrjens will be on the mound for Atlanta in this one. Jurrjens has had one bad start all season, and that was in his last start at home against Washington. Jurrjens has a stellar 1.96 ERA on the road this year. Craig Kimbrel became the first closer to reach 30 saves yesterday, and he has really solidified the back of this Braves bullpen. You could make a strong argument that the Braves have the best bullpen in all of baseball. Chipper Jones is still out with an injury, but the offense is starting to get better production out of guys like Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward.
Bronson Arroyo starts for the Reds on Friday night. Arroyo is generally a much better pitcher in the second half, so don’t be surprised if he improves quite a bit in the next couple months. Arroyo has struggled so far this year, and he has a 5.57 ERA overall on the season. The Reds offense has been very good overall this year, but they have struggled of late. They were shutout in two consecutive games at Pittsburgh earlier this week. Joey Votto is having another tremendous season. Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce have been good for most of the year, but both of them have struggled a bit in the past week. The Reds haven’t gotten the kind of quality pitching they did last year, and that has been the difference between a division crown and a disappointing season.
It is going to be a scorcher in Cincinnati on Friday night. With the temperature near 100 degrees at first pitch, expect the ball to carry very well. Arroyo has struggled a lot and Jurrjens was off the mark in his last start. I like the over.
MLB Free Pick: Braves/Reds over 8
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