The National League East-leading Atlanta Braves have reeled off a pair of wins so far in this four-game series and look to close things out Thursday night in Philly.

Atlanta Braves -120 | Julio Teheran (10-8, 3.31 ERA ) at Philadelphia Phillies +110 | Drew Smyly  (4-6, 6.20 ERA), 7:15 p.m.

The Braves will look to build momentum off last night’s 3-1 victory on a Tyler Flowers three-run shot and clinch this series. The Braves are sporting a 91-56 record straight up and 76-71 against the spread, with 19 of those wins coming in the last 23 games.

Atlanta leads the Washington Nationals by a comfortable 9 ½ games and trail first-place Los Angeles Dodgers by three games for the National League lead. They are playing for home-field advantage right now and that is a huge motivator come this time of year for any team in contention.

All this is to say that despite their vast lead and a strong likelihood of a playoff appearance, the Braves show no signs of slowing down with 15 games left in the season.

The Braves send righty Julio Teheran (10-8, 3.31 ERA) to the hill on Thursday night in the hopes he has what it takes to shut down a rather tepid Phillies lineup.  In his last time out, Teheran threw six innings of three-hit ball, giving up just one run in a 5-4 victory over the Nationals. He fanned eight and gave just one free pass. Teheran has lost his only start against the Phillies this year, but it was far from a terrible outing, especially considering it was Opening Day. Over the course of his career, Teheran is 9-7 with a 3.71 ERA in 24 appearances vs. Philadelphia.

It seems Teheran has finally got it together after two seasons of very unpredictable play.  His consistency has finally improved and he is also playing with an offense behind him which is adept at scoring.  He is allowing batters to hit just .224 on the year, helped along by the command he has on his fastball and changeup this year.

His success has brought joy to under bettors of late as he has kept runs off the board enough to cash five straight unders for backers. In fact, the under has hit in over 60% of Teheran’s starts in 2019.

Despite the loss last night, the Phillies are actually just two games outside of the second wild-card spot in the National League.  The problem being is that both the Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers are all tied up for the second National League Wild Card and the Phillies are tied with the New York Mets in the race.  So there are essentially four teams within three games of the second wild-card spot.

Drew Smyly (4-6, 6.20 ERA) draws the start for the Phillies and despite his numbers, is coming off his best start as a Philly. Smyly hurled seven shutout innings in a 5-0 shutout win over the New York Mets, a much-needed win.  His control was on point with only four hits allowed while striking out six and walking just two batters.

Smyly makes his debut against the Braves as a starter with his only appearance against Atlanta came in 2013 in a relieve outing in which he fanned both of the batters he faced.  While his peripheral numbers leave a lot to be desired, after missing two straight seasons due to Tommy John Surgery, Smyly has to be happy just being on the mound again. He started the year with Texas and pitched his way to an unsightly 8.42 ERA for the Rangers and was released pretty quickly, big surprise.

The Phillies who have been short on pitchers all season jumped at the chance to add another sub-arm to their rotation.  It seems that the change of environment was just what Smyly needed as he’s tossed his way to a 3.79 ERA in his nine starts with his new club. That’s a really big gap and one that cannot be ignored.  It’s not quite fair to look at Smyly as a different pitcher, but he is pitching strong of late and that is something that can be trusted.

Smyly has his work cut out for him though as the Braves are second in the National League in scoring at 5.4 runs per game.  They are also third in long balls and will be looking to add a few notches to their belt tonight vs Smyly. In just 100 innings, the southpaw has been taken deep 29 times already, the worst ration n the Major Leagues.  To put it into context, Smyly gives up one home run for every 10 outs he records, rough stuff to say the least. In fact, it’s amazing that Smyly has such an ERA over the last 2 months.

So what does all this mean when it comes down to picking sides in this game-four showdown? Well, the Braves are slight favorites and they are playing lights out right now, on a red-hot run to the playoffs. So who has more to lose here?  A team that is surging and looking to secure home-field advantage for the playoffs or a team who is fighting tooth and nail to make it in the postseason at all? One needs only look at these teams’ recent results to see where the winning formula is being utilized.  Take the Braves Moneyline with confidence as Atlanta adds to their 23-4 record since Aug 17th and win this series 3-1.

Best Bet: Atlanta Braves -120

Chicago Cubs -150 | Yu Darvish (5-6, 4.12 ERA ) at San Diego Padres +140 |  Dinelson Lamet (2-4, 3.95 ERA), 3:40 p.m.

The Chicago Cubs are in must-win mode until they either secure a playoff berth or are eliminated from contention.  Make no mistake about it, the Cubs are struggling and are in serious trouble of dropping out of the playoff race. They came into San Diego with the hopes of taking this four-game series from the Padres and further their hold on a Wild Card spot in the National League playoff race. Now they find themselves down 2-1 and needing a win just to break even on the series.

The 4-0 loss that the Cubs suffered on Wednesday dropped Chicago into a tie with the Milwaukee Brewers for the last National League playoff berth. As mentioned above the Mets and Phillies are nipping at their heels at two games back, and the Arizona Diamondbacks are just 2 ½ games out. This is going to be an exciting race people, but can the Cubs hold on and make it to the show? The Cubs’ easiest route to the playoffs might be to forgo the whole Wild-Card game and just overtake the St. Louis Cardinals and win the National League Central title outright.  This is do-able with the Cubs playing 7 of their final 10 games against the Cards. If they have any hope of making a run it has to be during those two series, but Chicago has only won a single game in their past six contests and is coming off back-to-back defeats.

To combat this slide the Cubs are sending Yu Darvish to the hill tonight, looking to improve on his 5-6 record and 4.12 ERA.  Darvish leads the team, making his 29th start of the season, which is troubling considering he has just 5 wins on the season.  It’s no secret Yu has been a massive disappointment since joining the Cubs.  Last time out he hurled five scoreless innings in Milwaukee in a game which the Cubs lost 3-2.  He fanned seven and walked just a single Brewers batter. Darvish is actually on an upswing, allowing just a single run over his last 13 innings of work over two starts.  He also has a sparking 2.69 ERA in 10 starts since coming back from the All-Star break, striking out 79 along the way and walking just four hitters. He is 1-1 with a 5.73 ERA at hitter-friendly Petco Park, but we’re going to focus on his recent success tonight and not his issues in San Diego.

The San Diego Padres will counter with right-hander Dinelson Lamet (2-4, 3.95 ERA).  Kamet will make his second start against the Chicago Cubs with the first coming in 2017 when he held Chicago to two runs on five hits in five innings of work with an impressive eight strikeouts. He has made 12 starts since rejoining the Padres after Tommy John surgery on July 4th.  He has seen ups and downs but currently is in a bit of a lull.  Lamet has dropped both of his previous two starts, despite giving up just three earned runs while striking out 14 in 11 innings.

So what’s the play for this showdown between a struggling team and a struggling pitcher?  Well the road has been very unkind to the Chicago Cubs in 2019 and they are certainly looking forward to heading back home after this game four in San Diego.  The Cubbies have lost five of seven on this road trip and really need this win tonight.  It really could be a crushing enough loss to mark the beginning of the end for the Chicago Cubs this year. Having said that, the Cubs NEED this win.  They have the talent both on the mound and at the plate and have to walk away with a split in this series.  Bet the Cubbies to take this one, but hang on, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Best Bet: Chicago Cubs -1 ½ (+120)