The Atlanta Braves will look to continue their surge towards a National League East title when they host the Cincinnati Reds Friday night in the second of a four-game series. Atlanta has won five of its last seven games to increase its division lead to seven games over both the Washington Nationals and Philadelphia Phillies.
The Braves have won three straight, including a rain-shortened seven-inning 4-1 victory over the Reds in the opener of the series Thursday. The Reds aren’t completely out of the National League Central race, but they do need to get things going in a hurry, as they currently sit 7.5 games behind first-place St. Louis, with the Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers between them. Cincinnati is also 6.5 games out of the Wild Card spots in the National League.
The moneyline for this contest has the Cincinnati Reds +145 and the Atlanta Braves -155. The over/under for the game is set at 9.
Left-hander Alex Wood will be on the mound for the Reds, as he makes just his second start of the season after being sidelined with back issues until last week. Wood, who came up through the Braves organization, was acquired in the offseason from the Dodgers and is hoping his back issues are behind him. In his first start of the season against Colorado, Wood went 4 2/3 innings, allowing seven hits and two earned runs while striking out four and walking one.
The Reds dealt away Yasiel Puig at the deadline but still have plenty of dangerous bats in their lineup. Third baseman Eugenio Suarez has been the most dangerous of Cincinnati’s hitters, leading the team with 29 home runs and 71 RBI. Suarez has been a little quiet in the power department lately though, managing just two extra-base hits, both home runs, and four RBI over the last eight games.
Looking For Better
The Braves will counter with Kevin Gausman on the mound to start this contest. The right-hander is 3-6 on the season with a 5.97 ERA and has really struggled of late, dropping three of his last four decisions. His last start saw him go six innings but allow six earned runs on nine hits, three of them home runs, in a loss to Philadelphia. Gausman has faced the Reds once this season, back in April, taking the loss after lasting 5 1/3 innings and giving up five earned runs on eight hits, including two home runs.
The Braves have a lot of young talent in their lineup, but the leader of the team is first baseman Freddie Freeman, who paces Atlanta in home runs (26), RBI (85) and hits (129). Ronald Acuna Jr. is always a threat to take a pitcher deep, as he is tied with Josh Donaldson for second on the squad with 25 home runs. Unfortunately, Acuna is also apt to strike out frequently, as he is tied for third in the National League with the Reds’ Suarez with 121 strikeouts.
Braves Win Again
The Wood story is a nice one, and it would be great to see him do well after having been sidelined for so long. But Atlanta is a very dangerous offensive team and won’t make it easy on him. The Braves have started to distance themselves from the pack in the NL East, and they’ll continue to do so in this one. Take Atlanta -155 to pick up its fourth straight victory.