We know, we know: 14 Division crowns, 5 pennants, 1995 World Series Champions. It’s been long time since the Braves have themselves relevant in October.
The St. Louis are the defending World Series Champions, after going 23-9 in the last month of the 2011 playoffs to win it all against the Texas Rangers. The Cardinals also took the World Series crown after taking the Wild Card lead from the Atlanta Braves, who went 10-20 in a collapse only covered up by a dismal showing of the Boston Red Sox.
The Braves, on the cusp of seeing Chipper Jones retire are empassioned to beat the team who took their spot last year. Excited to face the Cardinals in the inaugural Wild Card game, we preview the kick off of the 2012 playoffs.
Cardinals @ Braves
Kyle Loshe RHP (16-3, 2.86 ERA)
Kris Medlen RHP (10-1, 1.57 ERA)
- Winner will move on to face the Washington Nationals in the NLDS on October 7.
Cardinals: 88-74, second place NL Central. Winner of second wild card spot.
Braves: 94-68, second place NL East, NL Wild Card winner.
- Braves won 5 of 6 games played against the Cardinals in 2012.
In what Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez calls a “game 7″ moment, the Atlanta Braves must consider Chipper’s legacy, their disappointing ending of last year,the shine of being the first to win in this playoff format, and the desire to defeat the Cardinals to make it a true game 7 feel.
The Cardinals want to defend their title, and know their batting order being based on more power than the Braves will provide ample motivation to shut the home crowd down, effectively ending Chipper’s swan song.
Keys to the Game:
- Kris is Cruising: Braves’ Kris Medlen is the most dominant starter in baseball since July 31st. Once the Braves brought him out of the bullpen, he’s 9-0 with a 0.97 ERA. The Braves ace Tim Hudson, the Braves have not lost the last 23 games Medlen has started, an MLB record. The Cardinals’ Kyle Lohse, while chosen over Adam Wainwright to start, was roughed up in his appearance at Turner Field in 2012, after going five innings, allowing five runs on nine hits on May 31st. Lohse is also 0-4 with a 5.54 ERA with four starts in the playoffs. Despite that, Lohse has the best winning percentage in MLB with .842. Winner of the mental excitement of an anticipated playoff game will have to control lines ups where the trouble is in hitters 1-6.
- Each team has to control their hit/RBI machines: The Braves Michael Bourn and the Cardinals Matt Holiday. Holiday will be hitting third in the lineup, behind slugger Carlos Beltran, and don’t seem to miss Albert Pujols at all. A proverbial murderers row of hitters, the Cardinals have the Braves beat with power hitting and a better average with runners in scoring position.
- The Braves will have to play tough: with no significant series win since 2001, the Braves have lost the last three win or go home playoff games they’ve played in (’02-’04).
- Emotions have been running high at Turner Field for the last month, as life time Brave Chipper Jones has been on his farewell tour. Just a week after a tremendous tribute to the future Hall of Fame third baseman, Chipper said he was emotionally drained and exhausted. The emotional train won’t stop tonight, especially if the Braves aren’t victorious. Chipper may channel those emotions into hits, giving the Braves the edge in the middle of their batting order that they will need to have to stay on pace with the Cardinals.
The Braves will be victorious because of Medlen and his superior command. The Braves bullpen will also prove important. With a Cy Young candidate Craig Kimbrel still bringing the heat in the later innings, he Braves have one of the better relief group in the National League. Emotions will provide helpful for Atlanta as they extend Chipper’s career well into October.
Information used in this article from ESPN, MLB.COM, The Official Websites of the Atlanta Braves and the St. Louis Cardinals, the Atlanta Journal Constitution.