The league-leading Atlanta Braves look to make it three of four against the Pittsburgh Pirates in the finale of what’s been a surprisingly competitive series thus far. First pitch on Thursday afternoon is set for 12:35 p.m. ET. Rookie Bryce Elder (8-3, 3.43 ERA) will get the ball for Atlanta, while the Pirates turn to the recently acquired Bailey Falter (0-7, 5.13) for his second start with the team.
After dropping the opener on Monday night, the Braves have taken each of the last two in a series in which every game has been decided by two or fewer runs. Atlanta is now at an MLB-best 72-40, 5.5 games up on the Dodgers for the top seed in the NL, as they get set to head east for a renewal of their rivalry with the New York Mets. The Pirates are 3-5 since the trade deadline and well out of the NL Wild Card picture as they look to get their young talent playing time down the stretch. They’ll wrap up their homestand this weekend with three against the Cincinnati Reds.
Atlanta enters as heavy -205 favorites on the moneyline at DraftKings Sportsbook, with the Pirates at +170. The run total is set at 10.
Braves-Pirates picks: Thursday, August 10
OF Sam Hilliard (right heel contusion), RP Dylan Lee (left shoulder inflammation)
RP Dauri Moreta (lower back inflammation), INF/OF Ji Hwan Bae (left ankle sprain), SS Oneil Cruz (fractured left fibula)
Bryce Elder vs. Bailey Falter
Elder got off to a tremendous start, but he’s hit something of a rookie wall in recent weeks. (Granted, a lot of that is just some very friendly batted-ball luck coming back to Earth for a guy who gives up plenty of hard contact.) His ERA sat at 2.44 at the end of June, but he’s allowed seven runs in three of his six starts since, including a disastrous outing last weekend against the Cubs that featured seven hits and three walks in just 4.1 innings of work.
Acquired at the trade deadline in the deal that sent infielder Rodolfo Castro to the Phillies, Falter is still looking for his first win in his eighth start of 2023. The lefty made his Pittsburgh debut last weekend, holding the Brewers to one run on six hits in four innings while striking out just two. He’s the epitome of the soft-tossing southpaw, with a fastball that hovers around 90 mph and a K rate that ranks in the bottom 10 percent of the league.
I’ll be honest: Given Falter’s track record, Atlanta might be able to clear this total all by themselves. The Braves have scored at least six runs in six of their last seven games, so that feels like the floor for them on Thursday afternoon. If they do indeed reach or clear that mark again, it’s hard not to see this over hitting given Elder’s recent struggles.
Pick: Over 10
Given the steep odds here, I’d love to come up with some sort of contrarian take for backing the Pirates. But alas, this is the best lineup in the Majors against a pitcher whose ERA begins with a 5; even if Elder stumbles, Atlanta’s offense should be more than capable of backing him up.