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Here's what's on tap for a massive day of baseball Saturday:
Desperate to avoid a Game 7, the Braves give the ball to Max Fried. There’s no one that manager Brian Snitker would rather put on the mound to start with Atlanta nearing its first World Series berth since 1999. And there are few hurlers the Dodgers want to see less than the 26-year-old who's put together a sensational breakout season.
Fried was spectacular in Game 1, limiting the Dodgers to one run on four hits scattered across six innings with nine strikeouts. The outing was in line with the lefty's solid regular season. He allowed the lowest hard-hit percentage among starters this season (minimum 100 plate appearances against), and Fried was second in average exit velocity against. He simply doesn’t allow good contact, which was reflected in his 0.32 HR/9 rate that ranked third in MLB.
The Dodgers counter with Walker Buehler, who was expected to produce a season on par with Fried's campaign. It didn’t go as planned for the 26-year-old, with his numbers paling in comparison to his opponent on Saturday - .396 to .289 xSLG, 36.6 to 23.8 hard-hit rate, 6.5 to 3.3 barrel percentage.
Buehler’s struggles have carried into the postseason, when he’s uncharacteristically walked 7.62 batters per nine innings. He issued five free passes to Braves hitters over five innings in Game 1. Don’t expect that rate to suddenly drop now, as just two teams walked more than Atlanta during the regular season.
This is the Braves' moment, and the stage is set for them to extend their stay in Arlington.
Pick: Braves (+130)
There’s nothing quite like the pageantry of a Game 7, and we'll get a pitching matchup worthy of the occasion tonight at Petco. The Game 2 clash between Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers Jr. was an absolute pleasure, with both pitchers showcasing some of their best stuff.
Morton won after allowing just five hits over five scoreless innings, though McCullers recovered well from a difficult first inning to strike out 11 batters across seven frames while giving up four runs (one earned). The pitchers did benefit from the early start time, with shadows creeping in and making life difficult for hitters. That won't be the case tonight with the late first pitch.
Both teams will be feeling confident in their pitchers tonight, and while McCullers has been throwing better lately, Morton’s veteran savvy is invaluable for the Rays. With him on the mound, and both Nick Anderson and Pete Fairbanks getting yesterday off, the Rays' pitching formula is in place to get the 27 outs they need.
But the momentum in this series has swung in a rare way, and Rays manager Kevin Cash can't be pleased with how his lineup is seeing the ball right now. Randy Arozarena and Manuel Margot have been the lone bright spots for Tampa this postseason, and the only regular starters batting over .250. In contrast, five Astros starters are sitting above .280, and four are over .310.
While I don’t love fading the Rays' likely pitching approach, I can’t justify backing their reeling lineup at this price, as tragic as that outcome will be for my abundance of Tampa futures. I begrudgingly feel much more comfortable taking plus money with an Astros lineup in a real groove at the plate.
Pick: Astros (+100)
(Odds source: theScore Bet)
Alex Moretto is a sports betting writer for theScore. A journalism graduate from Guelph-Humber University, he has worked in sports media for over a decade. He will bet on anything from the Super Bowl to amateur soccer, is too impatient for futures, and will never trust a kicker. Find him on Twitter @alexjmoretto.