The NL East takes center stage this weekend as the Philadelphia Phillies take on the Atlanta Braves for a three-game series, which began Friday night. Game two takes place today (7:20 PM ET Saturday). With the series up 1-0 in the Phillies’ favor, read on for our game two preview and best predictions as to what will happen next.
So that happened. The Braves were caught completely flat footed on Friday night in Game 1 when they welcomed the Phillies back to town for the second time this season. It marked the start of the third series already between these two divisional opponents.
The Phillies opened the year hosting the Braves and swept them out of Citizens Bank Park. It was the first and only sweep the team had recorded until this past week when the Phillies defeated the Milwaukee Brewers in a four-game series. Riding high after that sweep which saw the Phillies win four consecutive one run games, the team made their way back to Atlanta where the Braves had entered up 2-1 in their previous games against the Phillies at Truist Field. Friday’s outcome would not favor the Braves, who now slip to fourth place in baseball’s closest division. All teams are separated by just 2.5 games.
With Charlie Morton on the bump, the Phillies got off to a huge lead, scoring six runs in the top of the first inning. While the team would add another six runs throughout the night, as it turned out, that first inning outburst was all starter Zach Eflin needed. Once again, Eflin pitched a gem, throwing 6.2 innings of two run, five hit ball. The bullpen kept their line blemish-free as well, which was a refreshing change for the Phillies team that saw large leads nearly evaporate in each of their prior four contests. That wasn’t the case on Friday as the Phillies cruised to their largest victory of the year. It was a dominant one at that and perhaps made a statement. After an April which saw the NL East’s set of five bounce back and forth to sit in first place, the Phillies seem to be taking command of this very winnable division.
Now, one 12-2 victory doesn’t a pennant winner make, but the Phillies right now are starting to put it all together. Their starting pitcher from 1-3 is as solid and reliable as any in baseball, their pen is improving, and their offense entered tonight at its full strength with nearly every starter from opening day finally back in the lineup. Among that squad, the struggling Andrew McCutchen and Odubel Herrera seem to be heating up. The pieces are falling in place but there is a long season left to be played. The Phillies need to improve defensively and on the road to be seen as legit contenders. For now, they are playing well no doubt, and that’s an issue for the Braves, who may have just run into their rivals at the wrong time.
Game Two Pitching Probables: (ATL) Ian Anderson vs (PHI) Vince Velasquez
From the mound, game one favored the Phillies. Morton has struggled a bit this year but Eflin has been exactly what the Phillies have needed. In game two, that story shifts dramatically as it is Atlanta who has the reliable young ace on the mound against the Phillies’ No. 5.
As good as the Phillies 1-3 starters have been, their backend of the rotation has been equally bad. Failed starter turned bullpen arm turned starter again, Vince Velasquez is shaky at best. But with Matt Moore struggling before ultimately going on the Covid list, the Phillies had an opening and opted to turn to Velasquez as they sent top prospect Spencer Howard back to the alternate site to stretch him out for the role. In the interim, the job has been Velasquez’s and he has done just enough to keep it. Velasquez is coming off his best start since 2019 as he allowed just one run in six innings against the Brewers.
It was a pleasant and much-needed surprise for the Phillies. The team will no doubt hope Velasquez can match his success from his last outing, though history isn’t on his side. Velasquez hasn’t had back-to-back quality starts in quite some time. The opposite can be said for Anderson, who has been crisp for the second year in a row.
Anderson was a highlight for the Braves in 2020 as they won the NL East and reached the postseason and he has picked up where he left off. The young hurler has been huge for Atlanta. Prior to his start last Sunday, Anderson had thrown 15.2 consecutive scoreless innings. He has struck out 36 and has a 3.27 ERA on the season. The Phillies have struggled against Anderson before. Saturday will show if that pattern continues or if this team stays hot by picking up their sixth win in a row and their sixth win in eight tries against the Braves so far this year.
Our Betting Preview’s Philadelphia Phillies vs Atlanta Braves Predictions & Picks Verdict
As stated in this game 2 preview already, there is still a lot of baseball left to be played. It’s too early to draw any definitive conclusions, especially in a division that still seems to be finding its footing. The Phillies hold a tentative lead in that division right now but as April showed, the NL East was a seesaw of mediocrity. At points in time, the team leading the East even had a sub-.500 record.
Facing Anderson will be a test as will seeing Ronald Acuna, MLB’s home run king. Acuna has been one of the lone bright spots of this Braves lineup, which has struggled offensively at times. So too has the Phillies as both teams sit in the bottom half of most offensive metrics in the National League. The Phillies have reason to be optimistic about their numbers trending upward however. The team has battled with health and injury issues but on Saturday, had the full strength of their lineup. That included a pair of .300-plus hitters in Jean Segura and Bryce Harper. The Phillies managed to sweep the Brewers with a patchwork lineup so seeing these guys back definitely could rejuvenate this offense.
So this preview comes to its betting predictions and game 2 picks, which are:
- While you shouldn’t expect a repeat performance against Anderson, take the Phillies +1.5 @ best odds of -125 with Intertops to add to their winning streak. It is -135 with the other sportsbooks such as Bovada, BetOnline and Bookmaker.
- Look for the total runs to be over 8.5 @ -120 with Intertops.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.