0.75U Charlie Morton (ATL) over 4.5 hits allowed (-143) available at Caesars sportsbook at time of publishing. Playable to -150 odds.
The Atlanta Braves' bullpen is extremely taxed following their weekend series against the Seattle Mariners. On both Friday and Sunday Atlanta used all 3 of Raisel Iglesias, Collin McHugh, and Nick Anderson. An appearance tonight for any of them would be their 3rd within 4 days. On Saturday Atlanta started Jesse Chavez who threw 42 pitches (2 IP) before handing the ball to Michael Tonkin for 50 pitches (2.1 IP.) Kirby Yates (30 pitches), Joe Jimenez (23), Lucas Luetge (12), and A.J. Minter (11) were also used in that Saturday game. While they have available arms tonight, each bullpen arm was used this weekend. With a game every day until the end of the month, the Braves would love to get a longer outing today from veteran Charlie Morton. Morton is fully built up in terms of his pitch count, topping the 100-pitch plateau in each of his last 2 starts (100, and 106.) He has pitched into the 6th inning in 7 of 8 starts this season, finishing the 6th 5 times and entering the 7th inning twice.
Morton has been productive for the Braves, allowing 2 or fewer earned runs in 6 of his last 7 outings, but is still allowing his fair share of baserunners. Despite a bit of a walk issue, allowing 2 or more in 7 of 8 starts, Morton has also allowed 5 or more hits in 7 of 8 starts this season. His 2.85 ERA is shadowed by a more worrisome xERA of 4.40 while his 81.4% LOB% is by far the highest of his career and 10.3% higher than his career average. The veteran right-hander is struggling to locate his pitches, especially early in counts. His first pitch strike rate is only 57.3%, and when behind in counts his fastball usage rises while the numbers against that pitch worsen. Morton has an 84.3% zone contact rate this season which is the highest mark since his 2015 campaign, and his xBA is the highest since his 2016 season.
Morton is relying on his curveball more this year than ever before, utilizing that pitch 45.9% of the time. While it is his best pitch, and it makes sense for pitchers to use their best pitch as much as possible, today's opponent crushes the curveball, ranking 1st in run value/100 against that pitch this season. Los Angeles ranks 1st in that same metric against the changeup (8.9% usage from Morton), while sitting 13th and 15th respectively against the 4-seam fastball and sinker (the rest of his pitch arsenal.) Overall, the Dodgers crush right-handed pitching as they rank 4th in wOBA, 2nd in ISO, and have a wRC+ of 114. Los Angeles batters also have a great history against Morton. In 182 combined PA, active Dodger bats have a .293 AVG (.289 xBA), .349 xwOBA, and .448 xSLG. Mookie Betts (11/34), J.D. Martinez (10/33), Freddie Freeman (8/15), and David Peralta (7/13) have the largest samples of individual success against him and are all expected to be in today's lineup. Max Muncy has improved his .202 batting average against RHP from last season to .245 this season, partly due to the removal of the shift, and partly due to just overall better performance. His .602 SLG with 11 home runs against right-handed pitching exemplifies his raw power.
Each of the top 7 batters in the projected lineup have a well above average wOBA against RHP this season, while Peralta and Miguel Vargas are the other 2 projected bats (34 AB of experience vs Morton.) The Dodgers had recorded 5 or more base hits against 6 consecutive right-handed starting pitchers before yesterday's game against the wild Jack Flaherty. Flaherty allowed 4 walks in that game, running up his pitch count, but still surrendered 4 hits. Even quality pitchers such as Joe Musgrove, Pablo Lopez, and Sonny Gray were hit around by the potent Dodger offense in this recent stretch. 13 of the last 19 right-handed starting pitchers to face Los Angeles have allowed 5 or more hits, and with Morton's expected leash, I love getting this number at a playable price.