Game: Cincinnati Reds @ Atlanta Braves
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
Odds: Reds +155, Braves -185
They will raise the World Series banner in Atlanta tonight as the Braves begin their quest to defend their championship from a year ago. Max Fried will get his second consecutive Opening Day start. Fried finished last season with the 10th-best ERA in baseball (3.04) and a very respectable 14-7 record. He was also the winning pitcher in the deciding game of last year’s World Series.
While Cincinnati will have a retooled lineup, Fried has had great success against the Reds in his career. Cincinnati has hit just .162 against Fried and the Reds have a 20 percent strikeout rate against the Braves’ lefty. Facing left-handers was something the Reds were not very good at last season. Cincy was first in the majors in OPS against right-handers. They were 13th against lefthanders and much of that is because the Reds’ lineup was full of left-handed hitters. Tonight, Cincinnati is expected to have four lefties and three of them will bat No. 2, 3, and 5.
The Reds will put Tyler Mahle on the mound. It will be the righthander’s first Opening Day start in his career. Mahle went 13-6 and finished 12th in the majors in strikeouts with 210. Mahle will face a pretty good Braves lineup that will feature Matt Olson for the first time. Atlanta signed Olson in the offseason and let former NL MVP Freddie Freeman go to the Dodgers in free agency.
Atlanta won’t have Ronald Acuna Jr. back just yet from his knee injury that cut the 2021 season short, but the Braves will have Marcell Ozuna. From No. 1 to No. 9 in the batting order, the Braves are solid. Remember, it was the Braves that finished second in home runs to Toronto last season.
Cincinnati will not have Jesse Winker or Nick Castellanos this season. Both went elsewhere in free agency. The Reds do have the reigning NL Rookie of the Year, Jonathan India, and Tyler Stephenson to build around. Don’t forget about Joey Votto either. He hit 36 home runs to lead the Reds last season and he is capable of repeating that in 2022.
The Braves were very good against right-handed pitching last year. They were eighth in batting average and sixth in OPS when facing right-handers last season. The Braves were also second in home runs off of righties. Mahle had a 3.75 ERA last season in 180 innings of work. He will have his work cut out for him tonight.
Mahle is a big flyball pitcher. Last season, only 44 percent of balls in play against Mahle were on the ground. That could be an issue tonight in Atlanta. At the start of the game, the winds will be blowing out toward the outfield at approximately 13 miles per hour. That wind will die down as the game goes on, but it could have a dramatic impact in the early innings.
Don’t forget, Atlanta shored up its bullpen with the acquisition of former Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen. He joins Collin McHugh, A.J. Minter, Tyler Matzek, and Will Smith.