The Atlanta Braves were the first team this season to clinch a playoff birth and can become the first to also clinch a division title if they win in Philadelphia Wednesday (magic number is 2) behind former NL Cy Young favorite Spencer Strider. Atlanta is -170 on the SportsLine consensus. In addition, Braves slugger Matt Olson is +380 at DraftKings to homer for a third straight game, and his next longball would be No. 52 on the season, a team record. Atlanta's 281 bombs overall are an NL record.
The Braves have played 145 games with their MLB-best 95-50 record and should clinch the division – even if not tonight – before game No. 150 for the first time in a full season since 2002, when it wrapped up the title in its 142nd game. Last year, Atlanta didn't clinch the division until the penultimate game of the season.
This will be the sixth straight year the Braves have won the East, the longest division title streak in MLB. They will get a bye right into the NLDS, have a 6.5-game lead over the Dodgers for the NL's No. 1 seed (Braves are -20000 favorites to get it) and a 3.5-game lead over the Orioles for the No. 1 overall seed.
Strider (16-5, 3.83 ERA) might win a Cy Young someday, but it won't be in 2023 as he's now a +7500 longshot thanks to some perplexingly bad outings. He leads the majors by a mile in strikeouts with 250; only 69 times previously has a pitcher struck out 300 in a season. That last happened in 2019 when Gerrit Cole had 326 Ks and Justin Verlander had 300, both with Houston.
For whatever reason, Strider struggles against bad teams and thrives against good ones. In 17 starts vs. teams with a winning record this year, he's 10-2 with a 2.63 ERA, 0.887 WHIP and 168 strikeouts in 106 innings. In 11 starts vs. teams with a losing record, Strider is 6-3 with a 6.11 ERA and 1.482 WHIP. He is 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA in two starts this year vs. the Phillies.
As for Olson, he hit homer No. 51 in Tuesday's extra-inning win in Philly to tie Andruw Jones (2005) for the franchise record. Olson is one of just 15 players since 2000 to hit 50 homers in a season, and the first player in the NL to do so since Pete Alonso in 2019. He is the first left-handed hitter in the NL with a 50-homer season since Prince Fielder in 2007. Olson is going to win the MLB HR crown because of Shohei Ohtani's injury, as Ohtani and Pete Alonso are tied for second with 44 homers. Olson is also going to win the MLB RBI title -- he leads by a mile with 128.
Including the postseason, Olson has 12 home runs in 20 career games at Citizens Bank Park and is homering roughly once every 6.10 at-bats in that stadium. Philadelphia starts lefty Cristopher Sanchez (2-3, 3.26 ERA) Wednesday. He has surrendered 13 homers in 80 innings this year. Sanchez hasn't faced Atlanta this year or Olson at all in his career. The Atlanta slugger has nine HRs in 139 at-bats in 2023 vs. lefties compared to 42 in 409 vs. right-handers.
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