MLB Weekend Preview: Braves at Indians
An intriguing interleague series awaits this weekend, as the Atlanta Braves (9-9) head to Cleveland to take on the Indians (11-7). After rain postponed the opener Friday, here's what bettors should be watching for during the weekend series, with a doubleheader scheduled for Saturday.
Saturday, Game 1, 4:10 p.m. ETTouki Toussaint (1-0, 0.00 ERA) (ATL) +130 / +1.5 runs (-170) / Over 7.5 runs (-115) Corey Kluber (1-2, 6.16 ERA) (CLE) -145 / -1.5 runs (+140) / Under 7.5 runs (-105)
Corey Kluber has struggled with control in his first four starts of the season, and that spells trouble against the patient Braves hitters in the first half of Saturday's doubleheader.
Sunday's start against the Royals was Kluber's worst yet, as he lasted just 2 2/3 innings and surrendered five walks, a career high. He's on pace to allow about 80 walks this season. His previous season high was 57 in 2016.
Atlanta's on-base percentage is the second-highest in baseball at .360. The Braves’ high walk total (87, third-best in the league) has a lot to do with that. First baseman Freddie Freeman leads the Braves in walks (14), as well as hits (22), doubles (six), batting average (.324) and OBP (.446).
Touki Toussaint could not have been more impressive in relief last Saturday night, when he limited the Mets to one run (unearned) on four hits and two walks in six innings of work. He faces a Cleveland lineup that's hit just .205 at home this year, better than only one team (San Francisco).
MLB Free Play: Braves moneyline
Saturday, Game 2, TBDThe Saturday-evening tilt between the Braves and Indians could play out very similarly to their afternoon contest, as Julio Teheran (2-1, 4.71 ERA) takes the hill against Trevor Bauer (2-1, 2.05 ERA).
Teheran has fared better on the road than at home over the last three seasons, pitching to a 3.24 ERA compared to a 4.42 ERA at his own ballpark. In 49 combined at-bats against Teheran, Cleveland has just three hits (.061 average).
Bauer has flirted with danger throughout the year, with 11 walks in his first four starts. Right fielder Nick Markakis is 0-for-5 lifetime against Bauer, but Freeman and catcher Tyler Flowers are a combined 7-for-14.
Sunday, 7:08 p.m. ET, ESPNThe Easter Sunday finale is the standalone Sunday Night Baseball affair. Brilliant young starters will go head-to-head, as Atlanta sends out Max Fried (2-0, 0.92 ERA), while Cleveland counters with Shane Bieber (2-0, 1.71 ERA), so runs could be hard to come by.
Opposing hitters have an OPS of just .466 through Fried's first three starts. He has yet to pitch past six innings, however, suggesting his leash is still a little tight. The southpaw must be wary of Indians first baseman Carlos Santana, who has eight hits in his first 15 at-bats against lefties this year (1.334 OPS). The Tribe would be happy to see Braves skipper Brian Snitker tap into his 22nd-ranked bullpen (5.18 ERA) early.
Bieber has pitched into the seventh frame once so far and has exceeded 100 pitches twice. He also has a solid bullpen backing him up (third in ERA at 2.68). Bieber will have to be careful with left fielder Ronald Acuna Jr., who has 16 hits (including four home runs and 10 RBI) in his last nine games.