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Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Monday, July 2, 2018 at 1:00 PM

Last week I assigned you the task of scouting the Red Sox/Yankees series that was going to get a ton of media coverage over the weekend. While you were doing that, I was watching the Atlanta/St. Louis series because I wanted to see how the Braves would perform on the road against a winning team.

I have to admit I’ve been skeptical about Atlanta in recent weeks. Even though they’ve been on top of the NL East most of the season, they weren’t exactly breathing fire of late.

*Dropped 2 of 3 to Cincinnati

*Dropped 2 of 3 to Baltimore

*Split with Toronto

You’re not championship caliber if all you can do is bully bad teams. Atlanta lost the ability to bully bad teams! How could anyone who knows what it’s doing lose two of three to Baltimore right now? The Angels didn’t look great there this past weekend, but they’ve been dealing with injuries.

So, this past weekend’s three-game series at St. Louis was a real litmus test in my mind. The Cards entered with a winning record, and hopes of gaining ground in its own divisional race. Here were the scores.

Friday: Atlanta (+125) 5, St. Louis 1

Saturday: Atlanta (+120) 11, St. Louis 4

Sunday: Atlanta (-115) 6, St. Louis 5

Atlanta passed its test with flying colors. That’s a road sweep against a winning team, with a combined scoreboard victory of 22-10. And, two of the wins came as underdogs. That tells you the market isn’t sold on the Braves right now either. If this team is for real, betting value will continue. Atlanta is currently plus 16 units in betting terms on a won-lost record of 48-34. (St. Louis fell to 42-40, now 5.5 games off the pace in the NL Central).

Atlanta’s most demanding road trip of the season continues this week…

Monday-Wednesday: Atlanta at the NY Yankees

Thursday-Sunday: Atlanta at Milwaukee

The insurance built up at the expense of the slumping Washington Nationals could really pay off this week. If Atlanta can weather this storm, it will be smoother sailing after the All-Star Break. Lucky break that the Braves miss Luis Severino. New York has been almost unbeatable with him on the mound (16-2 in his 18 starts).  

I’m not going to assign you to watch all the Braves/Yankees series. You need to get off your couch! But, I do want you to spend some time this week breaking down the strengths and weaknesses of the Atlanta Braves. What are they doing right? What still needs to be improved? Is any particular performance “over their heads” in a way that can’t continue? Remember to look at offense, the starting rotation, and the most important relievers.

This effort will work in tandem with your recent analysis of “what’s wrong with the Washington Nationals.” Those teams will likely be battling it out for the NL East crown down the stretch. You have to figure the Nats will at least start moving in the right direction soon. If we need to add the Phillies into this analytical mix, we’ll take care of that after the All-Star Break.

The Braves are in a group of “surprise” teams that caught oddsmakers napping in the first half of the 2018 season.

Seattle +21 units

Atlanta +16 units

Milwaukee +11 units

San Francisco +11 units

Arizona +9 units

Philadelphia +9 units

Oakland +8 units

I mentioned above that the market wasn’t sold on the Braves considering their pricing in St. Louis. You could probably say that about all seven of those teams on the list. They’re not being priced like true contenders.

Before the season, everyone was so caught up in the usual suspects…Yankees, Red Sox (both of whom are having profitable seasons at high prices anyway), Cleveland, Houston, the Cubs and Dodgers…that they lost track of dangerous up-and-comers. Students here in my College of Advanced Sports Betting and Handicapping must always try to stay ahead of the markets rather than chasing from behind. Congrats to any of you who anticipated the performance of a team or two on that list.

KELSO STURGEON’S BEST BETS can be purchased right here at the website with your credit card. Questions about extended service and combination packages can be answered in the Vegas Sports Masters office by calling office at 1-888-777-4155 during normal business hours. Ask about packages that take you through the full baseball season. Feel free to call with your questions about 2018 football. July has arrived (though it’s felt like July for several weeks already here in Las Vegas). Don’t you dare wait until August to start thinking about football preparation.  

Thanks for your continuing attendance and hard work. The Dean of Sports Handicapping appreciates your effort. Rest assured that I’m working just as hard to stay ahead of the game. Sports betting is evolving faster than ever. That’s true whether you’re talking about methodology, or the states that now allow you to place a bet. I’ve spent decades setting a standard I hope that all of you will maintain many decades into the future. See you again for more coursework Friday.

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