Braves vs Cardinals Picks and Predictions: After Ruining Lester's Cards Debut, Atlanta Look to Repeat Against Happ

The Braves punished Jon Lester in his St. Louis debut last night, and now get a chance to ruin J.A. Happ's Cardinals debut tonight. With how good Atlanta's offense has been lately — and how awful Happ has been — we like the ATL to mash its way to victory.

Posted: Aug 4, 2021 11:15 AM ET Updated: Aug 4, 2021 11:15 AM ET Est Time: 4 min
Austin Riley Atlanta Braves MLB
Photo By - USA TODAY Sports

St. Louis is looking to avoid a second straight rude welcome when it hosts the Braves in a matchup of veteran southpaws.

The Cardinals dropped the opener of this three-game series last night with newly-acquired Jon Lester on the mound, and it's their other new veteran lefty — J.A. Happ — toeing the rubber tonight. 

Unsurprisingly, St. Louis was a home MLB betting underdog last night and finds itself in the same situation this evening, although some books have it as a pick'em.

Here are our best free MLB picks and predictions for Braves vs. Cardinals on August 4, with first pitch set for 8:15 p.m. ET.

Braves vs Cardinals game info

Location: Busch Stadium, St. Louis, MO
Date: Wednesday, August 4, 2021
Time: 8:15 p.m. ET
TV: ESPN

Braves vs Cardinals odds

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Braves vs Cardinals betting preview

Starting pitchers

Drew Smyly (7-3, 4.40 ERA): After a brutal first two months, Smyly has been a serviceable arm in the Atlanta rotation as the weather warmed up. The veteran lefty is 5-0 with a 3.08 ERA in 10 starts since June 1, never giving up more than three earned runs in any start. The only knock on the 32-year-old is that he doesn't go particularly deep into games, finishing six innings just once in that span — and failing to pitch five innings in four of those starts.

J.A. Happ (5-6, 6.77 ERA): Happ was dynamite in April... then everything has gone downhill for the 38-year-old lefty. He has posted ERAs of 8.49, 6.93, and then an ungodly 9.22 in July and has allowed 16 of his 21 home runs this season over his last 10 starts (52 innings). Opponents are hitting over .300 against all three of Happ's primary pitches — but maybe a change of scenery, to the National League where he faces the opposing pitcher, will turn things around?

Weather

Be sure to monitor the gametime conditions with our MLB weather info.

Key injuries

Braves: Ronald Acuna Jr. OF (Out), Eddie Rosario OF (Out), Marcell Ozuna OF (Out), Travis d'Arnaud C (Out).
Cardinals: Jordan Hicks RP (Out).
Find our latest MLB injury reports.

Betting trend to know

The Braves are 5-0 in their last five games as a road favorite. Find more MLB betting trends for Braves vs. Cardinals.

Moneyline pick

It's a great matchup between two crafty southpaws on Wednesday Night Baseball tonight...

***Checks notes, realizes it's 2021, not 2014.***

...actually scratch that. We've got a matchup between an absolute punching bag and a guy who is less bad but doesn't go deep into games.

The Cardinals are clinging on to a faint playoff hope, trailing Milwaukee by 10 games for the NL Central Division title, but inexplicably added veterans Jon Lester and J.A. Happ, tonight's starter, at the trade deadline. Neither pitcher has been remotely close to good this year, and Lester was pounded for six runs last night  — and we see no reason why the Atlanta offense won't punish Happ tonight too.

Despite losing superstar Ronald Acuna Jr., the Braves offense has been hot as of late. Atlanta has scored 5+ runs in five of its last seven games (5.57 runs per game during that stretch) as All-Star Freddie Freeman, rising star 3B Austin Riley, plus trade acquisitions Joc Pederson and Jorge Soler, have picked up the offensive load.

Going back over the last 15 days, the Braves are second in the NL in batting average and home runs and third in runs overall, hitting .261 with 21 home runs — and few pitchers have been worse than Happ over the last two months.

Smyly isn't exactly Sandy Koufax either, but he's been respectable in giving up 2-3 runs over 4-5 innings every start. Fortunately for him, as hot as Atlanta's bats have been... St. Louis has struggled offensively. The Cards have scored the fourth-fewest runs over the last two weeks, on the backs of the seventh-fewest long balls.

Atlanta is also just 2.5 games out of the NL East lead, so they have the motivation of a tight playoff race. Add in the advantage on the mound and the hotter offense and we're going to back the road team again tonight.

PREDICTION: Braves (-105)

Over/Under pick

The total for this game is sitting at 9.0, and despite all the trends saying this should go Under... we're leaning towards this finishing above the number.

The Under is 5-1 in the last six meetings in St. Louis, 4-0 in the Cardinals' last four games against a southpaw, and went Under the 8.5 total last night. So why defy all the trends?

Because Happ has been that damn bad.

The lefty has given up fewer than four earned runs just once in his last five starts and has given up 20 earned runs over his last 16 innings. And, facing a red-hot Atlanta offense, it will be an absolute miracle if the fastball-heavy southpaw doesn't give up at least 5-6 runs tonight again one of the best fastball-hitting teams in baseball.

We mentioned the total went Under last night, but that was because the Cardinals did diddly-squat offensively against Max Fried... and Drew Smyly is not Max Fried.

Expect the Cards to put up a couple of runs tonight, pushing this game into double-digits.

PREDICTION: Over 9 (-115)

Braves vs Cardinals betting card

  • Braves (-105)
  • Over 9 (-115)

Picks made on 8/4/2021 at 12:07 p.m. ET

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