- After dropping the opener Thursday, the Atlanta Braves are 1.5-run favorites on Saturday against Philadelphia
- The pitching matchup features Philadelphia starter Zack Wheeler against Atlanta’s Charlie Morton
- Read below for analysis and a pick on the game.
The Philadelphia Phillies and Atlanta Braves gave baseball one of its best games on Opening Day, as the Phillies were able to shake off a late two-run homer by Pablo Sandoval to win 3-2 in 10 innings.
After a day off, the two teams return to action on Saturday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park, where Zack Wheeler looks to lead the Phillies to another win against their NL East rival. Probable Atlanta starting pitcher Charlie Morton hasn’t enjoyed a great deal of success in Philly, but oddsmakers expect him to do enough to favor the Braves by 1.5 runs.
Atlanta vs Philadelphia Odds
|Team||Runline at FanDuel||Moneyline||Total|
|Braves||-1.5 (+160)||-108||O 8.5 (+100)|
|Phillies||+1.5 (+194)||-108||U 8.5 (-122)|
*Odds as of April 2
Going back to last season, Philadelphia is 5-5 against Atlanta in their last 10 meetings, including Thursday’s win. In Morton’s only start against the Phils in 2020, he struck out eight, but gave up four runs in five innings pitched for a no decision. Wheeler finished with a 2.13 ERA against Atlanta in two starts last season, but also took no decisions in both appearances.
Which Wheeler to Expect
Between the two starting pitchers, Wheeler looks to be the steadier hand, but after a shaky spring, he takes the mound still in search of consistency.
Wheeler led all Phillies in innings pitched during Spring Training with 19.2, but finished with a 5.03 ERA after he allowed 13 runs on 20 hits in six starts. After he only allowed three home runs in 11 starts last season, he gave up two during the spring. Wheeler finished strong in a three-inning outing against the New York Yankees on March 28, where he struck out four batters and allowed just one hit.
Looking good, Zack Wheeler. pic.twitter.com/xYtYWE4IUW
— MLB (@MLB) March 10, 2020
Throughout his career, Wheeler has actually been better on the road than at home, and he has a 6-5 career record against Atlanta in 16 starts. Freddie Freeman has had the most success against Wheeler among current Braves, but he’s also struck out a quarter of the times the two have faced off. Freeman was 0-4 with a walk in Thursday’s loss and might still be looking for answers at the plate after batting just .184 in the spring.
Braves Career Stats vs Wheeler
|Ronald Acuna Jr.||19||6||2||3||5||.316|
Boom or Bust Potential for Harper, Morton
Philadelphia right fielder Bryce Harper was the team’s best hitter in the spring, but was tied for second amongst the team’s starters in strikeouts. He scored the winning run in Thursday’s game on Jean Segura’s walk-off single, and might have had a chance to score in the third inning had it not been for a questionable put out at third base on a JT Realmuto single.
Bryce Harper with a massive home run to close out Grapefruit League play.
— The Liberty Line (@LibertyLinePHL) March 29, 2021
Harper has been money in his opportunities against Morton, who finished with nine strikeouts and no earned runs allowed in three starts during spring training. Morton was much better against left-handed batters last season than right, but Harper is an elite hitter and clearly bucks that trend against him.
Atlanta manager Brian Snitker should want to see Morton pitch deeper Saturday’s game than his Opening Day Starter, Max Fried, who was pulled after five innings. Last season, Morton’s strikeout-to-walk ratio in innings 4-6 was 5.33 — higher than Wheeler’s 4.0 — and when his pitch count was between 51-75, that number exploded to 10.0. The Braves have a big bullpen, but if Morton is as efficient as he was in the spring, they won’t have to dip into it as they did on Thursday.
Phillies Career Stats vs Morton
Just take the Braves
Wheeler might provide more sizzle in this pitching matchup, but three solid innings in his last trip to the mound doesn’t erase the stink from his previous Spring Training appearances. Many of Philadelphia’s scoring opportunities came from hitters finding gaps away from defensive shifts that shouldn’t be there the next time out. Most of Philadelphia’s lineup has limited experience against Morton, where Atlanta’s lineup has had much more exposure to Wheeler going back to his years with the New York Mets.
This one could prove to be a pitchers’ duel if Wheeler continues his form from the end of March, and taking the under at -122 is a safe option. However, Atlanta is one of the National League’s top hitting teams, and will try and jump on Wheeler early before he settles in. The best value among all available wagers is taking the Braves on the moneyline, as they look to draw even in their second game of the season.
The Pick: Atlanta Moneyline (-108)
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