Two of the NL’s division leaders collide as the Atlanta Braves (62-33) hit the road for a weekend set against the Milwaukee Brewers (54-43). First pitch of Friday’s opener is set for 8:05 p.m. ET from American Family Field in Milwaukee. The Braves will send Michael Soroka (1-1, 5.40 ERA) to the mound, while the Brewers counter with hard-throwing righty Freddy Peralta (6-7, 4.41).
The Braves staged a late rally to avoid a three-game sweep at the hands of the Arizona Diamondbacks on Thursday afternoon; Atlanta has lost four of six so far to start the second half, but they still hold a commanding 11.5-game lead in the NL East and the best record in the Majors.
Milwaukee has made a big statement over the last couple of weeks, taking five of six against the Cincinnati Reds on either side of the All-Star break before taking two of three from the Phillies in Philadelphia earlier this week. The Brew Crew is now a season-best 11 games above .500, with a 2.5-game lead over Cincy in the NL Central.
Atlanta enters as the narrow -120 favorites on the moneyline at DraftKings Sportsbook, with the Brewers at +100. The run total is set at 9.
Braves-Brewers picks: Friday, July 21
Out: OF Sam Hilliard (heel), RP A.J. Minter (shoulder), RP Jesse Chavez (shin), SP Max Fried (forearm), SP/RP Kolby Allard (shoulder), RP Nick Anderson (shoulder), RP Dylan Lee (shoulder), SP Kyle Wright (shoulder)
Out: SP Wade Miley (elbow), 3B/OF Brian Anderson (back), SP Brandon Woodruff (shoulder), 1B Rowdy Tellez (forearm/finger), 1B/DH Darin Ruf (knee), RP Justin Wilson (elbow)
Michael Soroka vs. Freddy Peralta
Kolby Allard’s shoulder injury has thrust Soroka into the Braves rotation for the foreseeable future. The righty looked like a future building block for Atlanta in 2019, but consecutive torn Achilles’ tendons wiped out basically three full years. He understandably struggled a bit in his return to the Majors earlier this season, getting sent back down to Triple-A after tow starts. Atlanta is running out of healthy arms, though, so Soroka will get another chance. His most recent appearance came in relief after Allard’s injury, in which he gave up two runs on three hits in three innings against the Chicago White Sox. The righty won’t rack up a ton of strikeouts, but when he’s on, his sinker/slider combo induces tons of ground balls.
Peralta has settled in a bit recently, with a 3.58 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and whopping 35% strikeout rate over his last five starts. The righty’s erratic command leaves him susceptible to giving up the long ball, but he also has among the most potent swing-and-miss stuff in the Majors, especially his slider (48.2% whiff rate). Granted, we’ve seen his feel come and go before, but he seems locked in right now.
The Braves have hit or cleared this total in six of their last seven games, as Atlanta’s lineup remains as deep and potent as any in baseball. Milwaukee has actually held their own at the plate of late, too, and with a shaky starter in Soroka on the other side, they should be able to do enough to help this over hit in a hitter-friendly ballpark.
Pick: Over 9
I believe in Peralta’s recent form — he certainly has the goods to conquer Atlanta’s fearsome offense — and with Soroka and the Braves bullpen a pretty major question mark right now, I’ll back the streaking Brewers as home underdogs. They have the advantage on the mound, they have multiple lockdown relievers, and they’ve won eight of their last 10.