Atlanta vs. NY Mets, 05/03/2018 13:10 EDT, Score: 11 - 0

Total: -127/+8½ Over

Sportsbook: PinnacleSports

Result: Win

The set-up: The NY Mets opened 2018 at 11-1 and have spent most of the season's opening five weeks atop the National League East. However, after dropping the first two of a three-game home series against the Atlanta Braves, they are now 'looking up' at the surprising 18-11 Braves in the division. Surprising actually understates what the Braves have done early on in 2018, as the team's current record puts them on pace to win 100 games this year, after averaging 71.5 wins per season the last four! The Braves have won the first two games, including Wednesday night, when Jason deGrom suffered a hyperextended right elbow while batting in the bottom of the third inning and left after tossing four scoreless innings in Atlanta's 7-0 victory. The Mets will likely learn Thursday just how seriously ace right-handed pitcher Jacob deGrom is hurt (more on that later). Getting back to the Braves, last night's win was the team's fourth in a row, moving them into first place in the NL East, a half-game ahead of the Mets.

The pitching matchup: Mets lefty Jason Vargas (0-1, 22.09 ERA) is scheduled to face the Braves' Julio Teheran (1-1, 4.50 ERA) in the finale of this three-game series this afternoon at Citi Field. Vargas won a career-best 18 games and was an All-Star for the first time last season with Kansas City. He cashed in by signing a two-year, $16 million deal over the winter and figures to eventually be the No. 3 starter behind Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom. The veteran underwent surgery on his hand back on March 20 (he suffered a broken right hand on March 16) and returned to the mound in his season debut Saturday, when he gave up nine runs over 3 2/3 innings as the Mets fell to the San Diego Padres 12-2. Vargas is 0-0 with a 3.00 ERA in two career appearances (one start) against the Braves but has not faced them since 2006. Teheran didn't factor into the decision last Friday, when he gave up three runs over three innings as the Braves lost to the Philadelphia Phillies 7-3. He left because of tightness in his right upper trapezius but felt fine while throwing this week. Teheran is 8-5 with a 2.44 ERA in 21 games (20 starts) against the Mets in his career.

The pick: The Mets are 9-5 in games started by deGrom and Noah Syndergaard, who have combined to post a 2.46 ERA. However, New York is a more modest 8-6 when anyone else starts with the quartet of Vargas, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler combining to post a 5.93 ERA. Vargas will be facing an Atlanta lineup which leads all of MLB with a .273 team BA, while ranking third in both runs scored (5.55 per) and OPS (.787). The news has been pretty good lately for the Braves, who are in first place for the first time since April 14, 2015. Atlanta has gotten off to a hot start despite facing eight ace-caliber starters -- deGrom, Syndergaard, Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Yu Darvish. Jose Quintana and Aaron Nola -- 12 times in the first 29 games. Make the Over an 8* play.

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