In a possible playoff preview, the Atlanta Braves begin a four-game series against the Milwaukee Brewers Thursday night in Milwaukee. Thursday’s game will be the first meeting between the two teams this season.
Despite losing to the Yankees the past two nights, the Braves remain atop the NL East, 1.5 games ahead of the Phillies. The team has slowed down a little after a fast start, going 13-11 during the month of June. But the Braves have certainly shown enough this season to make people think they have staying power and are good enough to hang onto their lead in the division.
The Brewers, meanwhile, have the best record in the National League at 51-35. They are fresh off a three-game sweep of the Twins, which has helped them to maintain a slim one-game lead over the Cubs, who have won six in a row. Much like the Braves, the Brew Crew may find itself in a dogfight all season to retain its spot at the top of the division. Both the Brewers and the Braves are -110 on Thursday.
So Now You’re Good
Starting for the Brewers on Thursday will be veteran Jhoulys Chacin. He signed a minor league contract with the Braves in 2016, posting a 5.40 ERA in five starts before being traded to the Angels. Of course, since leaving the Braves, he’s been quite effective. In 18 starts this year, Chacin is 6-3 with a 3.71 ERA, becoming one of Milwaukee’s most reliable starters.
However, Chacin has not had much success in limited experience facing some of Atlanta’s hitters. Freddie Freeman is 5 for 11 with two home runs against Chacin, while Nick Markakis is 4 for 7 with a pair of doubles. Tyler Flowers also has four hits in five at-bats against Chacin. Thursday will also be Chacin’s first time seeing Ozzie Albies, who is starting to heat up again, hitting .357 in his last six games. The same goes for Ronald Acuna, who is swinging a good bat in his first week back from the DL.
Finding the Groove
Starting for the Braves on Thursday will be rookie Max Fried. The young lefty was called up to make a start last week and ended up tossing 6.2 scoreless innings and striking out 11 against the Cardinals. Needless to say, Atlanta is excited to see what he does in his next outing. Fried has also pitched well out of the bullpen, but he’s been even better as a starter, including four starts late last season in which he posted a 3.44 ERA.
Fried faces a tough test Thursday when he goes against Milwaukee’s lineup. However, he won’t have to face Lorenzo Cain, meaning the best hitters the Brewers will throw at him bat left-handed, most notably Christian Yelich, Eric Thames, and Travis Shaw. That’s not to say it’ll be easy, but Fried will be set up for a good night if he can keep Milwaukee’s left-handed hitters under wraps.
This is a tough game to call, but the slight edge goes to the Braves. Lefties are hitting under .200 against Fried this season, so he should have a good night. It’s also tough to ignore Chacin’s poor numbers against Freeman and Markakis, especially with Albies and Acuna in the mix. Take the Atlanta Braves -110 over the Milwaukee Brewers on Thursday.