Considering that the Atlanta Braves were 52-55 after an Aug. 1 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers, it’s tough to believe that they’re 85-72 at the end of September and on the verge of clinching their fourth straight National League East crown. After taking the first two of a three-game set with the Philadelphia Phillies, the Braves just need one more win (or one more Phillies loss) to clinch the division. Both can happen on Thursday night.
The trade deadline was the clear dividing line in Atlanta’s season. Reeling from the loss of Ronald Acuña Jr. to an ACL tear — as well as a season-ending Achilles injury to Mike Soroka and Marcell Ozuna’s domestic violence suspension — the Braves needed to remake their outfield and bench on the fly. The pickups of Joc Pederson, Adam Duvall, Eddie Rosario, Jorge Soler and Richard Rodríguez have all provided dividends and helped Atlanta stave off Philadelphia and bury the New York Mets over the last two months.
Atlanta looks to secure its postseason spot behind Ian Anderson against the Phillies’ Kyle Gibson. First pitch from Atlanta is at 7:20 p.m. ET. The BetUS Sportsbook has the Braves as -148 moneyline favorites while he Phillies are +133. Current MLB lines have the over/under at 8½ runs.
Anderson a Keeper
The Braves have won nine of their last 10 games, in small part due to Anderson, who impressed in a short debut stint in the majors during 2020 and has continued pitching well this season. He missed most of July and August due to right shoulder inflammation but has looked good since coming back. He held the Arizona Diamondbacks to two hits and one run in seven innings in his last start, a 9-2 Atlanta win.
Overall, he has a 3.60 ERA in 122 innings with a strikeout per inning. Walks have been an issue for Anderson, though, with 3.7 free passes allowed per nine innings. Home runs have also hurt him in September, as he allowed six in his last four starts after giving up only nine long balls in his first 101.2 innings.
Those recent problems could be chalked up to a young pitcher still working his way back after a prolonged injury absence. Opposing batters are still hitting just .225 against him and he has been striking out more batters in his last few starts as his pitch limit has been gradually removed, a sign that he’s feeling comfortable and getting his stuff back.
If you’re betting online, you should back Anderson on Thursday. He is once again starting to look like the guy who finished seventh in NL Rookie of the Year voting last season and is going up against a Phillies team that has scored just three runs in its last three games.
Tough September for Gibson
The Phillies wish their trade deadline moves worked out as well as the Braves’ moves did. Gibson, who Philadelphia picked up with closer Ian Kennedy from the Texas Rangers, was pretty good in August and helped the Phillies hang around in both the NL East and NL Wild Card races. Unfortunately, September hasn’t been as kind.
Philadelphia Phillies is 1-4 in Gibson’s starts this month and he has a 7.16 ERA in 27.2 innings in those five outings. He has pitched into some bad luck — opposing hitters have a .351 batting average on balls in play against Gibson in September — but he hasn’t done himself any favors by walking a bunch of batters. His problem is that when he has given up baserunners, they have often scored. Sometimes that’s a pitcher’s fault and sometimes it’s because of bad defense or bad luck, yet the name of the game is run prevention and Gibson hasn’t been good at it.
The fact that the Phillies are, based on defensive runs saved, baseball’s worst defensive team certainly hasn’t helped Gibson, who is a pronounced ground-ball pitcher. Philadelphia’s -63 defensive runs saved are 18 worse than the 29th-ranked team, the Detroit Tigers. It just hasn’t been a good fit of pitcher and team so it makes sense that the Phillies are sizeable underdogs based on the MLB odds.
Phillies Look Ready for Golf
It’s always tough to tell when a team has “checked out” because game-to-game performance can vary so widely. But, considering how the Phillies have played the last few days with their season on the line, it’s reasonable to think that they just might be out of gas.
The injury to Rhys Hoskins, who hasn’t played in a month, really hurt their offensive flexibility. The recent struggles of oft-injured J.T. Realmuto and Didi Gregorius (as well as anyone who is playing third base) have sunk this team. Not even Bryce Harper, who might be the NL MVP, can do it all by himself and he looks like he might be facing the reality of the nearly impossible postseason situation facing the team.