The Philadelphia Phillies are just 1-6 on the road this season and will need to dig deep Sunday to avoid a three-game sweep against the Atlanta Braves.
After splitting four contests earlier this month, Atlanta stormed to an 11-2 victory on Friday before last night's walk-off, 6-5 win. The Braves scored all of their runs over the final three innings, as Philadelphia blew a 4-0 lead.
Read on for the rest of abe Insights' preview, which has, among other information, analysis for the primary betting lines, a bundle of advanced stats and the best odds available across all the major sportsbooks.
Date: Sunday, August 23
Time: 7 p.m. ET
Implied Probabilities: Phillies 50%; Braves 51%
Spread: PHI +1.5 (-185); ATL -1.5 (+180)
Moneyline: PHI -100; ATL -106
The big injury news on either side is the continued absence of precocious Braves outfielder Ronald Ocuna Jr., who's torn it up in two prior years as a pro, swatting 41 homers last season. Alas, the 22-year-old remains on the injured list with a sore wrist, along with fellow All-Star second baseman Ozzie Albies.
Sunday's prime-time pitching matchup is interesting, as Atlanta reliever Josh Tomlin (1-0, 2.35 ERA in nine appearances) faces off against struggling Phillies starter Zach Eflin (0-1, 5.14 ERA in three starts).
84.5 vs. 80.3: The latter figure is the Braves' MLB-low contact percentage on swings inside the strike zone. Philadelphia ranks 14th, which is the first number, and boasts a lineup that's recorded the fourth-lowest strikeout rate in all of baseball (20.7%).
.422 vs. .300: Phillies relievers tend to get punished when opposing batters make contact, ranking last in MLB in batting average allowed on balls in play. Atlanta ranks 10th-worst here, yet gives up only the sixth-lowest bullpen ERA, whereas Philly's (8.29) is the highest.
1.9 vs. -7.2: Even though the visitors face a deficit on the mound, their defense is far superior to that of the Braves, as revealed in this Ultimate Zone Rating per 150 games stat duel. The Phillies are eighth in MLB; Atlanta is in the bottom three league-wide.
Not only has Philadelphia lost a couple of late to the Braves, but the club is also in the midst of five consecutive defeats overall. Sending Elfin to the hill doesn't do much to inspire confidence the Phillies can overcome their drought — short of an offensive explosion, which at least they have the potential to generate.
Superstar Bryce Harper signed a contract before the 2019 campaign to play in the City of Brotherly Love. It amounted to roughly the GDP of a country, and he didn't play up to that billing. At least amid this shortened schedule, Harper is delivering on the hype, with a mind-bending slash line of .343/.478/.714.
Between Harper and power-hitting catcher J.T. Realmuto, there are two extremely explosive bats for Philly who can change the complexion of any game. Worth noting, though: seven of Realmuto's team-high eight homers have been at home, and Harper's batting average drops more than 100 points (.375 to .273) on the road in 2020.
That duo must do something special to snap the Phillies out of this horrid stretch, for they're still only three games back of Miami for second in the NL East. Catching Atlanta atop the standings is probably more of a pipe dream at this point, so it's necessary for Harper, Realmuto and Co. to focus on qualifying for the expanded, 16-team playoffs.
If the Braves continue to have such a considerable edge in bullpen performance, the hosts are likely to once again beat their division rival. That said, trotting Tomlin out first after he's yielded four earned runs in the past 5.2 innings is a bold move, as manager Brian Snitker is going to deploy a platoon of relievers to try to patch together a stellar pitching effort.
According to TeamRankings.com, both these teams trend slightly above .500 when it comes to hitting the Over run total. The series has very much gone that way thus far, so the betting public should continue pushing more of the action to that side.
The run line and moneyline are so close together, and with Pennsylvania being a bigger legal sports betting market, look for local sentiment to sway movement toward the Phillies' moneyline and spread. However, a wise hedge bettor would take the Braves' run line since it offers nearly a double-money payout.
Note: Odds current as of 11:40 a.m. ET on Sunday, August 23.
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