The Daily Sweat: Max Scherzer and Mets start key NL East series against Braves

The Atlanta Braves are coming on fast. The Philadelphia Phillies are making strides too, but one problem at a time for the New York Mets.

The Mets' once-commanding lead in the NL East is down to 1.5 games as they head to Atlanta for a key three-game series. The Braves are a -135 favorite for Monday's opener at BetMGM.

That line is a bit surprising because the Mets have Max Scherzer on the mound. Scherzer is one of the greatest pitchers on the planet, though he is still working back after missing almost two months due to an oblique injury. Scherzer was great in his first game back though. On July 5 he threw six scoreless innings against the Cincinnati Reds, allowing two hits while striking out 11. He did throw just 79 pitches.

The Braves are favored because they're at home, they've been one of the hottest teams in baseball and their starter, Max Fried, is having a great season. He's 9-2 with a 2.52 ERA. It's a tough matchup for the Mets.

The Braves were 10.5 games behind the Mets on June 1. A little more than a month later they have shaved nine games off that lead. Atlanta, coming off a World Series title, started the season 23-27. Since then they're 29-8. The Mets had to feel great about their start to the season, and a bit nervous now since the Braves never seem to lose.

The three-game series in Atlanta will set a tone heading into next week's all-star break. Either the Mets will feel a little better after going to Atlanta and taking the series, or their division lead will be either completely gone or close to it. And either way, late Monday night one of the two teams will feel pretty good knowing they won against a really good starting pitcher.

New York Mets' Max Scherzer makes his second start since being activated off the injured list. (AP Photo/Aaron Doster)
New York Mets' Max Scherzer makes his second start since being activated off the injured list. (AP Photo/Aaron Doster)

Here's the first look at the sports betting schedule for Monday:

Phillies-Cardinals wrap up

The Phillies have been playing better lately. They took the first two games of a series at the St. Louis Cardinals, then lost a close, hard-fought game on Sunday. The Cardinals can split the four-game series with a win on Monday.

The Phillies are -120 favorites. They have Aaron Nola on the mound and while Nola's surface stats aren't great (5-6, 3.15 ERA), he has been one of the best pitchers in baseball. It might be a decent spot to take the Cardinals as a slight underdog.

What else is going on in MLB?

As we know, it's July and our sports betting options are pretty much baseball or the off-the-radar sports you can't even find on your TV. Table tennis anyone?

There are 10 games on the MLB schedule. A Detroit Tigers-Kansas City Royals game is the only one in the afternoon. The Tigers, who have been playing better lately, are a +115 underdog. The American League worth watching at night is the Boston Red Sox at the Tampa Bay Rays. The Red Sox are coming off a dramatic Sunday night win over the New York Yankees, and they're -115 favorites at the Rays.

What's the best bet?

I always like midday action, and the Tigers getting a plus number makes sense. Tigers starter Michael Pineda has been fairly good this season. Winning with an underdog would be a nice way to start the week.