Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Braves' playoff drive will continue with two more wins against Florida

To the shock of many sportsbook fans, the Atlanta Braves have quietly crept within two games of the National League Wild Card race. Thanks to an incredible hot streak (winning 15 of 17) the Braves suddenly have their eyes set on the postseason. With two winnable games against Florida on tap, they just might pull it off.

Tuesday, Sept. 29 @ 7:00 p.m. ET

Josh Johnson (15-5, 3.12) vs Tim Hudson (2-1, 3.56)

After sitting out nearly the entire season with an injury, Atlanta's Tim Hudson has made an impressive return to the bigs. The righty is coming off a six-inning, two-run effort against the Mets and he shows almost no signs of rust. Seeing the Marlins on the schedule must have been a welcome sight, too. In 14 career starts against Florida, Hudson is 8-2 with a 2.86 ERA. Hudson one of the reasons Atlanta will be a frightening opponent if it makes the postseason.

Josh Johnson is no slouch himself, however, as the young righty has positioned himself among the National League's best pitchers. He had an up-and-down effort against Philly in his last outing, striking out 10 while allowing seven hits and four runs in five innings. Given Johnson's mixed results against Atlanta this season (1-1, 4.36 ERA), the Braves' MLB playoff odds should get a little better with Hudson on the hill. Bet on the Braves.

Wednesday, Sept. 30 @ 7:00 p.m. ET

Ricky Nolasco (12-9, 5.28) vs. Javier Vazquez (15-9, 2.83)

It's easier to bet horses than figure out what Nolasco will bring to the table. He's impressed the Marlins at times, as largely because of his 179 strikeouts in 177.1 innings, but he's inconsistent and prone to being blown out. The Braves found a way to get to him, as Nolasco owns a 4.67 ERA in three games against Atlanta this season.

After pitching for the White Sox over the past three seasons, Vazquez has excelled in his first year with the Braves. His strikeout total is his best in six years, while his ERA and WHIP are at all-time lows. Most importantly, he's delivering just when Atlanta needs him most; he's won his past four starts and allowed just three runs over his last 32 innings. If anyone can stop him, though, it's the Marlins; Vazquez is 0-2 with a 5.68 ERA in four starts against Florida this year.

Obviously, neither Nolasco or Vazquez have fared well against their Wednesday-night opponents, but Vazquez has a better body of work to go along with a lineup of teammates that have been on fire, winning seven straight and 15 of 17. Look for Vazquez and the Braves to get it done for your MLB picks.

THE PICK: Atlanta wins Tuesday and Wednesday

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