Aug. 2 MLB Preview — Cincinnati Reds (50-57) at Atlanta Braves (65-45)

(Freddie Freeman photo courtesy Brett Davis/USA TODAY Sports)

This is the full preview(s) as seen on the Winners and Whiners and Stat Salt websites. The confidence rating for all picks on a scale from 1 to 5 is in parentheses.

Note: The 5/5 does NOT represent the best overall pick of the day’s games when there are multiple games, simply the best pick(s) from each individual game.

When and Where: Friday, Aug. 2, SunTrust Park, Atlanta, Ga., 7:20 p.m. EDT.

The Cincinnati Reds will be without their manager and potentially two relievers pending their appeals as they continue a four-game series against the NL East-leading Atlanta Braves on Friday night.

Bell, Garrett, Hughes all get suspensions following brawl versus Pirates

The three Reds at the center of Tuesday night’s wild brawl in the ninth inning versus the Pittsburgh Pirates learned the length of their suspensions Thursday when Major League Baseball announced them.

Amir Garrett, whose decision to rush off the mound and at the Pirates bench was the flash point of the brawl, received an eight-game suspension. Reliever Jared Hughes was given a three-game ban for intentionally hitting Starling Marte in the ninth inning, and manager David Bell — who had been ejected in the eighth for arguing balls and strikes — will serve a six-game ban for returning to the field following his ejection as well as previous ejections during the season.

“I didn’t have a say. I didn’t talk to anyone,” Bell said Thursday before beginning to serve his suspension. “I want to be in the dugout. We’ll be fine, but I have a responsibility to be in the dugout, so that part, I’m remorseful. It’s my job. But I can’t live with handling it any other way.”

Both Garrett and Hughes have appealed their respective bans, which makes them eligible to play until their appeals are heard by MLB.

Alex Wood (0-0, 3.86 ERA) gets the ball for his second start since missing the first four months with back injuries. The left-hander was effective in his Reds debut Sunday, working around seven hits to yield two runs in 4 2-3 innings as Cincinnati eventually won 3-2.

Wood’s lone mistake came on his 80th and final pitch, serving up a two-run homer to Yonder Alonso after the Rockies had gone 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position.

“Any time you go that long [without playing], you question yourself,” Wood told the club’s official website. “I stayed up last night thinking about everything. As soon as you step foot on the field, you start warming up, throw that first pitch off the mound, you know, everything kind of goes away, like I’ve still got it a little bit, you know what I mean?”

Wood, who came up through the Braves organization and made his major league debut with them in 2013 before being dealt to the Los Angeles Dodgers in an eight-player trade before the 2015 deadline, is 2-3 with a 4.68 ERA in five career starts versus Atlanta. Both wins have come at SunTrust Park, where he is 2-1 and held the Braves to one run in 11 2-3 innings in the last two matchups.

Freddie Freeman is 6 for 14 with a homer against the southpaw, while catcher Tyler Flowers could be in for a start since he is 7 for 11 with two doubles in their matchups.

Gausman looking for consistency in third start since return from IL

Kevin Gausman (3-6, 5.97) has had two wildly varying starts since being activated from the injured list following a month-long absence due to plantar fasciitis and split those decisions.

The right-hander served up three home runs that resulted in all six runs being scored against him in six innings of a 9-4 loss to Philadelphia on Sunday. Spanning back before the injury, Gausman is 1-3 with a 10.13 ERA in his last five starts as opponents have hit at a blistering .386 clip in those games.

“He just wasn’t hitting spots with his fastball like he did the other day,” manager Brian Snitker told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, referring to Gausman’s winning start over July 21. “I just think the fastball command wasn’t quite as sharp as it was the other day.”

Gausman also struggled with the long ball against Cincinnati earlier this year, getting taken deep twice while yielding six runs and eight hits in 5 1-3 innings of Atlanta’s 7-6 road loss April 23. The righty has been hit hard in both his career starts, giving up 14 runs and 16 hits in eight innings while losing both.

Notable Trends

The Braves are:

  • 5-2 in Gausman’s last seven starts vs. NL Central teams.
  • 8-3 in their last 11 during game 2 of a series.
  • 9-4 in their last 13 games vs. left-handed starters.

The Reds are:

  • 2-5 in their last seven Friday games.
  • 4-9 in their last 13 road games.
  • 3-8 in their last 11 road games vs. right-handed starters.

*****5-Star Pick*****

OVER 5 runs first 5 innings (-125)

The five-inning over is 6-3 in Gausman’s last nine starts, and the aforementioned run support he gets at home is enough to believe the over should hit in this contest. Thursday’s loss marked the first time in nine games Cincinnati failed to score at least two runs in the first five innings, and with Gausman sporting a 5-plus ERA in each of the first five innings but the fourth, the Reds offense should get some traction.

****4-Star Pick****

OVER 9.5 runs (-105)

Even if Gausman finds a happy medium between his two starts in this outing, the over still feels like the play as the Braves offense should find success against Wood. The over has delivered in five of Gausman’s last six starts and is on a seven-start run when he faces sub-.500 teams.

The over has also gone 5-2 in the second game of Cincinnati’s last seven series.

***3-Star Picks***

Braves -1.5 runs (+111)

Gausman’s inconsistency from start to start after coming off the injured list makes any pick beyond the money line a dicey proposition. The belief, though, is that he pitches better now that he is finally on rhythm with the rotation — the Braves are 7-0 in his last seven starts when pitching on four days of rest.

While Wood was serviceable in his Reds debut, the Braves are not as likely to let the left-hander off the hook as Colorado did. Atlanta averaged 7.83 runs on its six-game road swing heading into this contest, and despite being held to four in Thursday night’s rain-shortened victory, look for the offense to continue to deliver.

Braves’ Freeman to hit HR (+350)

After belting his 26th homer Thursday night, Freeman is worth a play here to hit homers in back-to-back games for the sixth time this season. Freeman, who has 15 of his 26 homers at SunTrust Park, has gone deep in consecutive games on three occasions at home, highlighted by a four-game run.

He has taken Wood deep once, and despite it being lefty-on-lefty, Freeman has seen the ball well in their matchups as evidenced by his 6 for 14 lifetime mark.

Braves -0.5 runs first 5 innings (-131)

The Braves have split the two games at the five-inning mark since Gausman’s return to the rotation, but the one thing they do for him at home is score. Atlanta has backed the righty with 5.71 runs per game in his eight home starts to go with being 6-3-1 at the midway point in its last 10 games overall.

The Reds are 2-5-2 in their last nine after five innings, which includes a loss in Wood’s start when he gave up the home run in the fifth. All those factors are just enough to take the Braves and lay the half-run.

Reds OVER 1 run first 3 innings (-105)

Gausman has not been a good pitcher early in games, posting a 7.46 ERA combined in the first three innings. He has been reached for two or more runs in seven of his last nine starts, and that does not include the earlier matchup this year against the Reds when the righty served up a first-inning homer to the since-departed Yasiel Puig.

The Reds have scored at least one run in the first three innings in their last nine games and scored two or more seven times in that span. With Gausman’s early inning struggles, Cincinnati should deliver in this spot.

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