Braves vs. Nationals Free MLB Picks and Odds Breakdown

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Atlanta Brave. Patrick Smith/Getty Images/AFP

Atlanta Braves at Washington Nationals

Thursday, May 6, 4:05 P.M EDT at Nationals Park

Two veteran lefties who allow copious amounts of contact face two lineups that can pound a baseball. What could possibly go wrong? Jon Lester and the Nationals are small favorites against the power-hitting Atlanta Braves. After a successful start to his season at the plate for Atlanta, Lester has a difficult task on Wednesday night. The Braves will send Drew Smyly to the mound, hoping he rights his ship against the struggling Washington order. Both lineups have the chance to make their marks in a rare midday game in the nation’s capital. 

Atlanta Braves

Atlanta continues to pound the baseball overall but has struggled to figure out lefties in 2021. The Braves are slugging .427 overall, but that drops to .323 against southpaws. What does benefit Atlanta is Lester’s poor peripherals after a start in which he allowed zero runs. In his lone start against Miami, Lester allowed 18 balls in play, eight of which were deemed hard hits and had an Expected ERA (xERA) of 5.75. That’ll play for a lineup that has a 30% Hard Hit Percentage (Hard%) against left-handed pitching.

Smyly will also have to do his best to keep the game close. (Washington is good against lefties, but more on the Nats later.) Smyly has allowed nearly 53% of baserunners to score and 16.1% of hits to be barreled, a 51.6% Hard% and 7.12 xERA. Those are all career worsts, and he has a favorable .245 BABIP. Another thing to like about the Braves here is their reliability. They're 17-12-1 on overs this year despite their middling record. We thought this team would overcome some of their pitching woes better than what they have but the hitters continue to rake. Take that into consideration when we name our picks later. 

Washington Nationals

The Nationals’ lineup will be licking its chops at the opportunity to tee off against Smyly. Washington is top 10 in line-drive and ground-ball percentage, Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+), Weighted On-Base Average (wOBA), average, slugging, OPS and strikeout percentage against left-handed pitching. These are clearly great numbers, but when has the Nationals lineup been consistent? What does bode well is the potential of Juan Soto in the lineup. He did not start on Wednesday night, which means he could be in the lineup Thursday as the Nationals ease him back into play, avoiding too many opportunities to hurt his shoulder.

I only have one concern with the lineup: a .362 BABIP against lefties. What helps take away the concern is the aforementioned ground-ball percentage. If their team BABIP and ground-ball rate were high, there is regression coming for some of their numbers.

Braves-Nationals Pick

This game is going to be fun to watch because both teams have been unpredictable through the first month of the season, but they have been getting healthier heading into May. It also appears both squads should feature competitive lineups the day after a night game due to the unique start time.

This is why I like the over 9 runs. The weather looks good and some wind could come into play as the day goes along. The Braves have also crossed five runs in 17 of 29 games heading into Wednesday night’s game. Smyly and Lester are who they are and have little upside but grave-level floors. I also expect this game’s best players — Ronald Acuña Jr., Trea Turner and Soto — to be in the lineup as both teams continue to jockey for position in the National League East.

MLB Picks: Atlanta ML (-115) and Over 9 (-103) at BetOnline