Chicago Cubs vs. Atlanta Braves Preview and Pick – Ryan Dempster vs. Javier Vazquez

Chicago Cubs (34-31) Ryan Dempster +138, 7.5 O/U at Atlanta
Braves (32-36) Javier Vazquez -148, 7.5 O/U, Turner Field,
Atlanta, Ga., 7:10 PM EST, Monday

by Badger of

Thanks to a rainout back on June 4th, the Chicago Cubs and Atlanta
Braves will play in an add-on game on todays MLB docket when right-
handers Ryan Dempster and Javier Vazquez duel in the rescheduled
game tonight at Turner Field.

Believe it or not, tonights makeup has become a very important game for both teams.

The Cubs have all the momentum in the world right now, winning four
straight with three of them in walk-off fashion. But the quick trip
to Atlanta tonight will add miles onto would have been a short
interleague road trip that sends them through Detroit before a
weekend battle with the White Sox at US Cellular Field. The Cubbies
have to keep their recent mojo going, and tonights game is the one
that sets the tone.

The Braves return home looking to get a break from their recent nine-
game road trip, a 3-6 road trip that ended ugly on Sunday when the
Red Sox stole the game late on a walk-off homerun by Nick Green, 6-5.
The Braves outplayed the BoSox on Sunday with nothing to show for it,
and the loss included umpire ejections for Braves reliever Eric
OFlaherty, Chipper Jones and manager Bobby Cox.

Turning things around at home is nearing the critical stage for the
Braves, who are four games under .500 and 4-and-a-half games out of
first in the NL East. Getting it started with a win against the Cubs
tonight is essential as well, because the Braves nine-game homestand
coming up includes games against the Yankees, Red Sox and Phillies.

Oddsmakers have staked the Braves and Vazquez as somewhat surprising
-148 favorites on the moneyline, considering the Cubs are usually a
big public play. That makes Dempster and the Cubs an enticing +138
underdog on the dimeline.

The over/under total is listed at 7.5 at a majority of the online sportsbooks, but there are still enough books that
also have it listed at 8, so shop around to get the extra half-point
either way if you like betting on totals.

Vazquez has pitched better than the numbers would indicate so far in
June, but he and the Braves have nothing to show for it. Vazquez has
three losses and two no-decisions in his last five starts, but the
Braves have lost all five of them because of just 1.6 runs of support
from the offense. Vazquez gave up four runs in eight innings last
time out versus Cincinnati, but the Reds still won 4-3.

Hes had his issues against the Cubs in the past as well, especially
Derrek Lee. Vazquez is 3-4 with a 5.17 ERA and .328 OBP in 16 career
starts versus the Cubs, and Lee has feasted on the righty (.400, 7
2B, 3 HR, 16 RBI) in his 50 career at-bats on Vazquez. Lee is also
fresh off of an 8-game homestand where he hit .382 (13-for-34) with 4
homers and 11 RBIs, so if you have him in fantasy leagues you might
want to makes sure hes in your lineup tonight with those numbers.

Dempster has struggled of late, although hes had run-support issues
to deal with as well. Dempster lost his last time out versus the
White Sox despite giving up just three runs in six innings in a 4-1
loss. The time before that he dealt seven innings and gave up one run
in a no-decision, and gave up three in a 4-3 loss the game before
that, so you get the picture.

Dempster is 2-10 with a 5.31 ERA in 14 career starts against the
Braves, but in his last start against them in June of last year he
threw a complete-game four-hitter in a 7-2 Cubs victory.

The two teams split the series prior to the rainout back in June, so
technically this game is a rubber match. The Braves won the first
game of that series to snap a six-game losing streak against the
Cubbies, but they are still just 1-7 in their last eight head-to-head.

The over has a good betting trend going for it too. The over is 4-1
in the last five meetings and is also 6-1-1 in the last eight games
played at Turner Field.

Badgers Pick: Both pitchers are due, overdue actually, but I cant pass up Dempster as such a big underdog. Take the Cubs +138 tonight.