Dodgers Count On Penny

The Los Angeles Dodgers are counting on their ace to boost them back into first place in the NL West.

Brad Penny wraps up a dominating first half of the season Thursday when his Dodgers finish off a four-game series with the Atlanta Braves in Los Angeles.

The Dodgers (48-37) lost for the first time in four games Wednesday, falling 5-2 to the Braves.

Oddsmakers have made Los Angeles -135 money line favorites (MLB Odds) for todays game, the over/under has been set at 7 total runs (Matchup). Our public betting information shows that 72% of bets for this game have been placed on Los Angeles -135 (View MLB Bet Percentages).

The defeat, combined with San Diego's 1-0 win over Florida, dropped them one game behind the NL West-leading Padres.

Atlanta (44-41), meanwhile, ended a three-game losing streak and moved to within three games of the NL East-leading New York Mets.

"We had some opportunities in the game starting in about the second inning that we didn't capitalize on and that's the difference," manager Grady Little said.

Nonetheless, the Dodgers have good reason to feel confident heading into the series finale. Penny (10-1, 2.00 ERA) is tied with San Diego's Chris Young for the best ERA in baseball and with three other pitchers for the most wins in the NL. He has gone at least seven innings in each of his last five starts, allowing one run in each of those outings.

Penny matched up against San Diego ace Jake Peavy on Saturday and went seven innings, but the Dodgers lost 3-1 in 12 innings. The defeat was Los Angeles' first in his last eight starts and just their second in his nine starts at Dodger Stadium.

"It was a tough game. It was a great game. It was fun to be a part of," said Penny, who owns a 1.37 ERA at home this season.

Penny has won his last five decisions, matching his career high for a single season. He started for the NL in last season's All-Star game after going 10-2 with a 2.91 ERA in the first half, and is a candidate to start again this year.

Penny is 8-4 with a 4.77 ERA in 18 career starts against the Braves

However, Atlanta will counter with another tough starter. Tim Hudson (8-5, 3.18) won his second straight start for the first time since May 15 on Saturday, beating Florida 6-5. He has allowed one run in seven innings in both of those victories.

"They got some guys in scoring position, but I was able to make some pitches and the guys made some nice plays behind me," Hudson said Saturday.

Hudson is 5-1 with a 3.27 ERA in eight career starts against the Dodgers. However, the loss came in his only start against them this season, a 6-3 home defeat on May 5 in which he allowed three runs in eight innings.

Andruw Jones homered, Chipper Jones drove in a pair of runs and Yunel Escobar went 3-for-4 with an RBI Wednesday for the Braves, who have been streaky lately. Their three-game skid was preceded by a five-game winning streak that ended a five-game slide.

"We gained a game. That's good," manager Bobby Cox said. "(Starter Chuck James) pitched OK. Escobar had another great night. You can't talk about the game without talking about him."

The Dodgers went 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position Wednesday after scoring 20 runs in their previous three games.

by: Dave Michaels - thespread.com – Email Us

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