Pirates @ Braves May 22 Free Pick


Welcome back to the bases. I took a little holiday last week, tracking mountain gorillas in the Rwandan rain forest. If you’ve ever had a thought about going to Rwanda, act. And if the thought has never crossed your mind, I encourage you to look into it. It’s an incredibly beautiful and well looked after country full of thoughtful people influenced by history that probably happened in your lifetime, or just before.

I handicapped four matchups this morning and have three plays. I’ll write up my no. 2 this morning too, if I have the time.

Free Pick

I set the Braves’ team total at 3.0 this evening and the reasons are straightforward. Atlanta has outperformed their dead-last projection in the National League East thus far but that isn’t because the offense has been anything special. The Braves have scored 188 runs, which is toward the bottom of both the NL and the league as a whole. And that was with Freddie Freeman.

Mike Foltynewicz

Freeman was one of the league’s most productive hitters, if not the most productive, before he was hit with a pitch from Aaron Loup on his wrist late last week. Freeman was hitting .341 with 14 homers and led the league in slugging percentage before the fracture. The Braves placed him on the 10-day disabled list but he’ll be out a lot longer than that. Management even dealt a prospect to the St. Louis Cardinals just to find a replacement, acquiring Matt Adams.

Adams has some past experience against Gerrit Cole to draw upon but most of it is bad (2-for-14 with 5 strikeouts career vs. Cole). Pittsburgh’s starting pitcher is the primary reason why Atlanta very well may struggle to score this evening.

Cole has been terrific through nine starts this season, locating, overpowering and dominating like many have believed he always would have. He’s gone a clean seven innings in his last three starts and four of his last five and has gone exactly six in all of the rest, going back his last eight. No one is really touching him (.219 opponent’s batting average) and he hasn’t walked more than two in any start this season, either. He’ll turn 27 in September and has, seemingly, realized his ace potential.

I ‘capped the Pirates’ total at 4.0 because that’s about what they score per game this season and I didn’t see much more reason to stray from that expectation. Starling Marte is still out but that’s old news. Only the Padres and Giants have scored fewer runs that the Pirates in the NL. They won 1-0 against the Phillies yesterday and are only five games out in the NL Central, though in last place.

Mike Foltynewicz isn’t anyone too easy for the Bucs, either. He has middle of the road numbers this season (1.32 WHIP, 4.10 ERA) that are still quite a bit affected by his 7 earned runs allowed against the Cardinals three starts ago. Otherwise, Foltynewicz has exactly 6.0 or 7.0 in five of his last six and hasn’t allowed more than three runs in any of his other starts this season (he gave up the three once).

Those two team totals combine to make 7.0 so we’ll go under the 8.0.

Free Pick: Under 8.0 (-110)

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