Two of the hottest teams in baseball collide this weekend as the Cubs host the Braves for a 3-game series beginning Friday afternoon. The Braves are the betting favorites at -172 on the moneyline, while the Cubs’ odds are at +144. The over/under is set at 8.5 runs with -104 odds on the over and -118 on the under. The prediction here is that the Braves win and the over hits.
Braves vs. Cubs Prediction
Starting pitchers: LHP Max Fried (2-1, 2.08 ERA) vs. RHP Kyle Hendricks (4-5, 3.49 ERA)
As if they weren’t already dominating all of MLB this season, the Atlanta Braves are about to get even stronger. And it’s not because of some shiny new piece acquired at this week’s trade deadline.
No, it’s because Max Fried is back from an extended stint on the IL and making his first start since Cinco de Mayo.
"It's been a long time comin'. These guys have been playing so well, so I am just tryin to seamlessly fit in and just kinda ride the momentum that they have created."
Max Fried on returning to the big leagues this Friday⤵️ pic.twitter.com/X9W3MF1Arv
— Bally Sports: Braves (@BravesOnBally) August 2, 2023
Fried has been the ace of the Braves’ staff for the last two seasons, though Spencer Strider has arguably wrested that title away from him this season. Fried led the Braves’ staff in ERA in both 2021 (3.04) and 2022 (2.48) and was top 10 in the league that category each season.
He was off to a blistering start through his 4 outings this season (20 innings) with a 0.45 ERA and 0.90 WHIP before a forearm strain on his throwing arm derailed his season. Atlanta manager Brian Snitker will likely have Fried on a limited pitch count today as they ease him back into the rotation.
Fried will have his work cut out for him against a Cubs lineup that has been the hottest in baseball for over a month. Since July 1, the Cubs have scored 32 more runs than the next best offense (San Diego). In just their last two games, the Cubs have scored a whopping 36 (!!) runs.
Of course, Atlanta has been dominant at the plate all season. They lead the league in home runs by a wide margin (33) and based on advanced metrics like wRC+ they have been the best offense in baseball. It’s not like they have trailed off recently, as they are still 5th in runs and 4th in wRC+ since July 1. They just have not been as hot as the Cubs over that span.
Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks has had a resurgent season after back-to-back years with ERAs approaching 5.00. He has regressed a bit over the last month, however, with a 4.85 ERA over his last five starts.
It’s hard to know what to expect from Fried in his first game back, but on talent alone he certainly gets the edge in the pitching matchup. The Cubs’ hot streak has to end eventually, and it’s usually a pitcher like Fried that is capable of cooling off red-hot bats.
So we’re going with the better pitcher and the lineup that has been mashing all season and taking the Braves’ moneyline in this game, even with the juiced up -185 odds. That said, we would not blame for you taking the plus odds on the Cubs at home.
The better bet is probably the over on 8.5 runs. Even with two solid pitchers on the mound, the way both these teams are hitting, it’s hard to see the total staying under 8.5 runs.
Braves vs. Cubs Prediction: Braves’ moneyline (-185), over 8.5 runs (-104)
Note: all metrics above taken before Thursday’s games
Braves vs. Cubs Odds
The Braves are the betting favorites at -172 on the moneyline, while the Cubs’ odds are at +144.
The Braves are laying -1.5 runs on the spread at -105 odds, while the Cubs are getting +1.5 at -114 odds.
The over/under in this game is 8.5 runs with -104 odds on the over and -118 on the under.
Braves vs. Cubs Key Matchups
Here are the key matchups that could decide Braves vs. Cubs.
Max Fried vs. Cody Bellinger
We are putting some faith in Max Fried to be his usual self in his first game back when we picked the Braves in our Braves vs. Cubs prediction. The Braves have been patient with his rehab, and he has reportedly looked very strong in his rehab starts.
Fried’s biggest task will be at-bats against Cody Bellinger, who has been the Cubs’ hottest hitter during their recent power surge. Since July 1, Bellinger is slashing .400/.434/.691 with 9 home runs and 24 RBI. Despite the lefty-on-lefty matchup, he has had some success against Fried in his career, batting .385 with 1 homer in 13 career at-bats.
If Fried can get through his battles with Bellinger unscathed, then the Braves should be looking good today.
If this game is close and late, the bullpen battle could become a big storyline.
The Braves had the better bullpen for most of the season. Their relief staff is 5th in the majors with a 3.63 ERA this season, while Chicago’s ‘pen has a 3.97 ERA (5th).
However, these staffs have been much more comparable since July 1, and Chicago’s 3.75 ERA over that span has been slightly better than Atlanta’s 3.87 mark.
Atlanta probably gets a slight edge here, but it’s close enough that it should be anyone’s game if it comes down to the final outs.
Braves vs. Cubs Starting Lineups (Projected)
Braves Starting Lineup
RF Ronald Acuna (R)
2B Ozzie Albies (S)
3B Austin Riley (R)
1B Matt Olson (L)
C Sean Murphy (R)
DH Marcell Ozuna (R)
LF Eddie Rosario (L)
SS Orlando Arcia (R)
CF Michael Harris (L)
Cubs Starting Lineup
2B Nico Hoerner (R)
RF Seiya Suzuki (R)
LF Ian Happ (S)
CF Cody Bellinger (L)
3B Jeimer Candelario (S)
SS Dansby Swanson (R)
C Yan Gomes (R)
DH Christopher Morel (R)
1B Trey Mancini (R)