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    Mets vs. Braves Thursday MLB probable pitchers, odds: Justin Verlander biggest underdog since Tigers days, MLB home run leader Pete Alonso in doubt

    It's a terrific pitching matchup Thursday between Justin Verlander and Spencer Strider.
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    On Aug. 30, 2017, Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander was a short underdog in a game at Colorado. Verlander was traded literally hours later to the Houston, where he was a key part of the team's dominance through 2022 and added Cy Young Awards Nos. 2 and 3 and his first World Series ring. Verlander and the Astros were so dominant in that stretch that he was a regular-season underdog just once. The future Hall of Famer is an underdog (+150 at Caesars Sportsbook) for the first time with the Mets tonight as they close their series in Atlanta, opposed by Cy Young contender Spencer Strider.

    On June 24, 2022, Verlander and the Astros were +112 at the Yankees and won 3-1. That was the only previous time he was a regular-season underdog since leaving Detroit. The 40-year-old has been disappointing so far for the Mets at 2-3 with a 4.25 ERA. Of late, he has alternated between good and poor starts:

    • May 10 at Cincinnati – Allowed one run and two hits over seven innings in a victory.
    • May 16 vs. Tampa Bay – Allowed six runs and eight hits in five innings in a loss.
    • May 21 vs. Cleveland – Allowed one run and three hits over eight innings in a win.
    • May 27 at Colorado – Allowed six runs and nine hits over five innings in a no-decision (Mets lost).
    • June 2 vs. Toronto – Allowed one run and five hits over six innings in a loss.

    Note that Verlander threw 117 pitches against the Jays, the most by a starting pitcher this season, and some pitchers can be hit hard the start after throwing all those pitches. It was his highest pitch count since he threw 120 pitches in his third career no-hitter on Sept. 1, 2019 at Toronto.

    Thursday will be a bit different for Verlander because he has never pitched at Truist Park in Atlanta, which opened for the 2017 season. It will mark the 34th venue Verlander has started in, joining Zack Greinke, Johnny Cueto, Rich Hill, Gerrit Cole, Charlie Morton, Jordan Lyles and Robbie Ray as the only other active pitchers to have made at least one start in 34 or more ballparks.

    Verlander is 2-1 with a 2.57 ERA in three career starts against the Braves, all at the old Turner Field. He hasn't faced them since the end of the 2016 season with Detroit. Thus, he has never faced Braves star outfielder and NL MVP betting favorite Ronald Acuña Jr. (+110 at Caesars Sportsbook) in a regular-season game.

    Atlanta could have an MVP/NL Cy Young duo with Strider a +200 co-favorite for the Cy Young alongside Arizona's Zac Gallen. The 24-year-old Strider, the 2022 NL Rookie of the Year runner-up, is 6-2 with a 2.97 ERA and MLB-best 113 strikeouts (tied with Toronto's Kevin Gausman, who has pitched about 12 more innings).

    Strider is 3-1 with a 5.03 ERA in 19.2 innings against New York with 25 strikeouts and 10 walks. He won at Citi Field on May 1 but was mediocre, allowing four runs in five innings. Two Mets have good splits off him: Francisco Lindor is 5-for-11 with a triple off Strider, and Brandon Nimmo is 5-for-12 with a triple and homer against him.

    Mets star and MLB home run leader Pete Alonso more than likely won't play tonight. He was hit on the left wrist by a fastball on Wednesday in the first inning and left. X-rays were negative. He's hitting .234 with 22 homers and 49 RBI and is +1300 to win NL MVP.

    Tommy Pham came on as a pinch runner and moved to left field as Mark Canha replaced Alonso at first base. In a class move, Atlanta pitcher Charlie Morton reached out to Alonso after the game and apologized for hitting him, saying it was not intentional.

    "It's super encouraging but then also at the same time, just want to see how the swelling plays," Alonso said late Wednesday. "Hopefully it goes down sooner rather than later and [I can] get right back on the horse."

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