In a preview of a potential National League Championship Series matchup, the Dodgers host the Braves this weekend for a 4-game series starting Thursday night. The Braves begin this series with ace pitcher Spencer Strider on the mound, while veteran Lance Lynn gets the start for the Dodgers.
The Braves are the betting favorites at -148 on the moneyline, while the over/under is set at 8.5 runs. The prediction here is that the Braves win and the over hits.
Braves vs. Dodgers Prediction
Starting pitchers: RHP Spencer Strider (15-4, 3.46 ERA) vs. RHP Lance Lynn (10-9, 5.56 ERA)
Dodger Stadium is the place to be in Los Angeles over Labor Day Weekend. There could not be a more intriguing matchup than this one between the National League’s top two teams.
The Braves have been the best team in baseball all season, while the Dodgers have been the best team over the last month with a 24-4 record in August. L.A. has the 3rd best record this season behind only Baltimore and Atlanta.
These two clubs have gotten it done both on the mound and at the plate, but their offense has been the biggest reason for their success. They are MLB’s top two teams in runs scored, home runs, OPS and wOBA – with Atlanta leading in all categories as well as wRC+, in which the Dodgers are 3rd.
The Braves may be the best offense in baseball, but in this series the pitching is going to be what differentiates the winners and the losers. Atlanta should have the edge on the mound in the first game of the series with their ace Spencer Strider on the mound.
Strider leads the majors in strikeouts and strikeouts per 9 innings as well as FIP (2.79) and xFIP (2.88). He is also tied for 10th in WHIP (1.06) and is 5th in average allowed (.204). But he is not invulnerable, as a few bad outings this season have inflated his ERA to 3.46 (29th) despite his other stellar numbers.
One of those bad outings came just a few weeks ago. On August 7 he allowed 6 earned runs in just 2-2/3 innings against the Pirates – not exactly the most formidable foe. It was the only time in his 46 career starts that he failed to strike out at least 4 batters.
Strider bounced back from what was arguably the worst start of his young career and has been completely dominant over his last 3 outings. In those three starts (7 innings each), he has allowed just 1 earned run and just 7 hits. He also has 25 strikeouts compared to just 6 walks over that span.
Strider took an L against the Dodgers earlier this season after allowing 4 runs (2 earned) over 6 innings, but he also struck out 11 batters in that game. As hot as the Dodgers have been in August, the saying goes that momentum in baseball is the next day’s starting pitcher, and Strider is fully capable of halting the Dodgers’ momentum.
The Braves don’t have quite as difficult a matchup against the Dodgers’ Lance Lynn, but Lynn has been excellent for L.A. since coming over from the White Sox at the trade deadline. He is 4-0 with a 2.03 ERA and 1.06 WHIP in 5 starts for the Dodgers (31 innings).
Lynn has good numbers against several of the Braves’ top hitters, albeit in a limited sample size. The Braves starters with at least 5 career at-bats against Lynn are Matt Olson (19 at-bats), Marcell Ozuna (19), Sean Murphy (13), Eddie Rosario (9), and Orlando Arcia (6). Those hitters are a combined 9-for-66 (.136) lifetime against Lynn.
Lynn faced the Braves back on July 15 as a member of the White Sox and allowed 4 earned runs on 6 hits over 5-1/3 innings. Both Rosario and Ronald Acuña Jr. homered off him in that game. Ironically, he also faced Strider in that game, and Lynn got the W, but that can’t exactly inform expectations too much for tonight’s game.
This pick boils down to the Braves simply being the better team with the more dominant starting pitcher on the mound. It’s tempting to take the Dodgers as a home underdog, but betting against the Braves regardless of matchup generally has not been a smart bet this season, so we’re going chalk and taking the Braves at -148 on the moneyline.
Given the power in both lineups, we also have to take the over on 8.5 runs, even with a very good pitching matchup. It would not be surprising if one of these pitchers – possibly both – ends up allowing 4 or 5 runs before their day is over, and that should be enough to push the total over 8.5.
Braves vs. Dodgers Prediction: Braves moneyline (-148), over 8.5 runs (-108)
Braves vs. Dodgers Odds
The Braves are the betting favorites in this game with -148 moneyline odds, while the Dodgers are at +124 on the moneyline.
The Braves are laying -1.5 runs on the spread at +114 odds, while the Dodgers are getting +1.5 runs at -140 odds.
The over/under in this game is set at 8.5 runs with -108 odds on the over and -112 odds on the under.
Braves vs. Dodgers Key Matchups
Here are the key matchups that could decide Braves vs. Dodgers.
Spencer Strider vs. Dodgers’ lefties
Even with Lance Lynn’s strong performance since joining the Dodgers, we still have more confidence in Spencer Strider right now, and that was the main reason we picked the Braves in our Braves vs. Dodgers prediction.
For that pick to pay off, Strider needs to take care of business against the lefties in the Dodgers’ lineup, especially Freddie Freeman and Max Muncy, who are a combined 1-for-11 against him. For the most part Strider is equally effective against both lefties and righties, with the biggest difference being his walk rate.
Strider walks nearly 11% of the lefties he faces compared to just 4% of righties, which is why with nearly identical strikeout rates he has a 9.67 K/BB ratio against righties and just a 3.43 ratio against lefties. That will be particularly important against Muncy, who is 6th in the majors in walk rate (15.7% of PAs).
If Strider can keep the Dodgers’ lefties in check, that should lead to another excellent outing and a high likelihood of a Braves victory.
Both of these clubs are among the league’s best out of the bullpen, with the Braves holding a slight edge in most metrics. Their bullpen is 2nd in ERA (3.39) and xFIP (3.89) and 3rd in FIP (3.56). The Dodgers are 10th in ERA (3.76), 6th in FIP (3.88) and 9th in xFIP (4.13).
Over the last month the Braves (2.27) and Dodgers (2.40) are 1st and 2nd, respectively, in ERA out of the ‘pen. That means it could be difficult for either team to mount a late comeback, which places even more importance on the starting pitchers exiting the game with a lead.
Braves vs. Dodgers Starting Lineups (Projected)
Braves Starting Lineup
RF Ronald Acuña Jr. (R)
2B Ozzie Albies (S)
3B Austin Riley (R)
1B Matt Olson (L)
DH Marcell Ozuna (R)
LF Eddie Rosario (L)
C Sean Murphy (R)
SS Orlando Arcia (R)
CF Michael Harris (L)
Dodgers Starting Lineup
2B Mookie Betts (R)
1B Freddie Freeman (L)
C Will Smith (R)
DH Max Muncy (L)
LF David Peralta (L)
RF Jason Heyward (L)
CF James Outman (L)
3B Kiké Hernández (R)
SS Miguel Rojas (R)