The Cardinals return home from a suspenseful, yet successful road trip to face the Atlanta Braves for a four game tilt starting Thursday night. A matchup between two teams basically working on their best postseason alignment at this point, as well as a showdown between the two leading hitters in the National League, Yadier Molina and Chris Johnson, both carrying .332 averages on the season into the series.
There are also other underlying themes as well however. The recent history between the two teams has been a checklist of baseball extremes. The Braves have won three of the last four games head up versus the Cardinals, sweeping their first encounter of 2013 in Atlanta from July 26-28th. However, the sole St. Louis victory was a huge one, where they beat the Braves, and a then undeniable Kris Medlen, in the one game Wild Card Playoff game back in October. Highlighted by the immediately infamous “infield fly” rule call, the Cardinals started their need run back to the World Series in Atlanta, and also started what’s become a mild rivalry between the two teams.
Here’s the current story of the two teams that will meet through this weekend in St. Louis:
Cardinals coming in: The Cardinals are coming with a record of 73-53, second place in the NL Central and winners of their previous three series, all against NL Central foes in the Pirates, Cubs and Brewers. They are winners of seven of their last ten contests, two games ahead for the first Wild Card spot and 7 ahead of the third place position. Their 37 road wins are the most in either league, and they lead the NL in runs scored for the season, with 606.
The team is 5-1 in games started by Molina since he returned from the disabled list last Thursday….Jon Jay leads the team in hits (24), RBI (17) and total bases (41) in August….After going hitless in his first eight at-bats, Kolten Wong has hit .500 (5 for 10) with two runs scored and three stolen bases in his last two games….Matt Carpenter has nine doubles in August, raising his NL-best total to 41. He is on pace for 53 on the season, which would be the best Cardinal season since Albert Pujols’ 51 in 2003 & 2004….Across a combined 32.1 August innings, Seth Maness, Kevin Siegrist and Edward Mujica have not surrendered a run.
Braves coming in: Atlanta enters with the best record in baseball, at 77-49 and is 15.5 games ahead in the NL East. The three wins they landed against St. Louis in late July propelled them to a 14-game winning streak, their second run of at least 10 consecutive wins on the year. They have had some health challenges, with Dan Uggla, Jason Heyward and Taylor Pastornicky all going to the disabled list in the past week, which brings the current total of Braves on the DL up to 10. Despite this, they are second only to the Cardinals in runs scored this season, with 559 and have earned at least a split in their last 10 series.
Heyward, who was placed on the DL with a broken jaw yesterday, was hitting .359 in August, with a team-best 23 hits….after a mid-season dry spell, Justin Upton has hit seven home runs this month, raising his total to 23….first baseman Freddie Freeman is scorching currently, entering the series with multi-hit games in last four contests, good for a .450 average (9 for 20)….as a staff, Braves pitchers have a 2.50 ERA in August
Thursday (7:15)—Joe Kelly (4-3) vs. Paul Maholm (9-9): Maholm is making a return start after a stint on the DL battling a wrist injury. A long-time Pirate, the lefty is 4-7 with a 4.06 ERA in 18 career starts versus the Cardinals. Kelly enters as the hottest arm in the St. Louis mix, with a 3-0 record on the month and since returning to the rotation, allowing 1 or less runs in six of nine outings.
Friday (7:15)—Adam Wainwright (14-7) vs. Kris Medlen (10-11): Wainwright broke a five game winless streak on Sunday in Chicago, allowing one run in seven innings, while reaching double digits in strikeouts for the first time since June 1. Medlen will make his first start in 10 days, after being forced to throw three relief innings in 15 inning loss to the Nationals on Saturday.
Saturday (6:15)—Shelby Miller (11-8) vs. Julio Teheran (10-6): The matchup of two of the best young arms in baseball will take place on Saturday. Teheran has been Atlanta’s best arm over the last few weeks, going 3-1 and striking out 26 in his last 23 innings. Miller has been sharper in his second outing back from the line drive that ended his August 7th start vs. the Dodgers. In Milwaukee on Monday, he struck out 8 in five innings, while surrendering five hits over 5.1 innings. He has received a win since August 2nd.
Sunday (1:15)—Lance Lynn (13-7) vs. Brandon Beachy (2-1): Lynn looks to rebound from a laborious start saw him surrender six runs (four earned) in taking the loss on Wednesday night. His August ERA is 4.50, his highest of any month this year. Beachy will be making his fifth start of the year after his July return from Tommy John surgery. Lifetime, the 26-year-old righty is 1-0 vs. the Cardinals, with a 2.08 ERA in two starts.
Injury Impact—St. Louis, 60 Day DL: Jason Motte (elbow), Chris Carpenter (shoulder), Rafael Furcal (elbow), Jaime Garcia (shoulder), John Gast (Shoulder). 15 Day DL: Tony Cruz (forearm). Atlanta, 60 Day DL: Jonny Venters (elbow), Eric O’Flaherty (elbow), Tim Hudson (ankle), Cristhian Martinez (Shoulder). 15 Day DL: Jason Heyward (Jaw), Dan Uggla (eye), Tyler Pastornicky (ACL), Ramiro Pena (shoulder), Reed Johnson (Achilles).
– It’s Fredbird’s Birthday Bash Weekend at Busch. Giveaways include a Cardinals Canvas Print on Friday, Fredbird kid’s cap (15 and younger) on Saturday and a stuffed Fredbird from Build-A-Bear Workshop on Sunday (15 and younger)
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