This evening the St. Louis Cardinals come to Truist Park for a four-game set against the Braves, culminating in an epic Sunday Night Baseball matchup. At 35-33, the Cardinals are barely above the coveted .500 mark, a goal thatâ€™s been as-of-yet unattainable for the Braves this season. (Is this a not-so-subtle teaser for an upcoming article? Absolutely.) The Cardinals are on a bit of a lukewarm streak right now; although theyâ€™re fresh off a 3-game sweep against the Marlins, theyâ€™re 4-6 in their last 10 games. The St. Louis offense was ice-cold in the Marlins series, putting up only 7 runs in 3 games, but they were fortunate enough to be carried by their brick wall of a defense, which allowed 3 total runs in the series. While the two-game Red Sox set ended up being largely disappointing for the Braves, one overwhelming bright spot was offensive production. The Braves scored 8 runs in each game, but were unable to win either of them.
Look out for Nolan Arenado, the Cardinalsâ€™ all-star third baseman, and Tommy Edman, a former third baseman who moved to right field to make way for Arenado. Both already have a WARâ€”wins above replacement, used to compare them to an â€œaverageâ€ playerâ€”of over 2.0. Just over a third of the way through the season, those are phenomenal numbers for demonstrating their value to the team. AcuÃ±a is the only Brave with a comparable WAR at 2.6, and heâ€™s having a potentially MVP-caliber season. And of course, there’s Yadier Molina.
Braves reliever Luke Jackson has been the one bright spot of an otherwise unimpressive bullpen, and his season ERA has now dropped to 1.08. Freddie Freeman and Ronald Acuna Jr.also performed phenomenally against both the Marlins and Red Sox, combining for 8 hits and 7 RBI in the two games against Boston. I have hope that this recent hot streak will lift both Freddieâ€™s spirits and his OPS.
The biggest concern plaguing the Braves right now is the bullpenâ€™s inability to maintain a lead coupled with the offenseâ€™s lack of production late in games. If that trend continues, this coming series could be rough. The Cardinals carry an ace closer, Alex Reyes, who has posted an ERA of 0.82 in 31 appearances this season. He also has 17 saves, currently 3rd in the MLB. On the other end, the Braves are currently ranked #28 in scoring during the 9th inning, averaging 0.19 9th-inning runs per game. Reyes will certainly complicate things late in the game, so the Bravesâ€™ best chance is to get an early lead and try to hold it. However, with the bullpen struggles and the Cardinalsâ€™ startersâ€™ recent dominance, that will only be able to happen if AcuÃ±a, Freeman, and even Austin Riley can stay hot.
John Gant will take the mound for St. Louis tonight, and Charlie Morton for the Braves. Gant is not a strikeout pitcher, averaging 3.5 strikeouts per outing, but he’s holding a 3.36 ERA through 12 starts. He might be problematic for the Braves, but since he’s not a strikeout pitcher, he relies on the ball being put into play in order to record outs. This year we’ve seen both AcuÃ±a and Dansby Swanson outrun routine ground balls in the infield, so this style of pitching could work to our advantage. Also, as many have pointed out on this site, we haven’t seen these pitchers yet in the new “enforcement” era. Not that I’m accusing anyone of using the sticky stuff, nor am I accusing Gant specifically, but it’s worth noting that many pitcher’s ERAs could suddenly take a steep climb over the next few months. Braves will most likely face Adam Wainwright, who recently admitted to using sticky substances during the 2019 season, on either Saturday or Sunday.
There was 1 transaction of mediocrity today:
And the lineup:
We dislike the Cardinals a lot…why can’t THIS be the turning point, right Jonathan F?
I’ll say it: John Gant sucked until he was 25 years old. He’s a junkballing RHP without elite stuff. Wouldn’t surprise me one bit if guys like him or Ryan Weber or Lucas Sims (Proven Closer, Lucas Sims, mind you) or whatever RHP without elite stuff was doctoring the ball to get enough outs to make a few bucks. Hell, I would. And all the best to Gant if that’s what he has done to make a few bucks.
When they said the Muller callup was likely only for a short time, they weren’t kidding. It would suck not to get a chance to redeem yourself for several weeks after a poor 1 inning debut and carry an ERA of 18.
Are you still guaranteeing that Soroka will never pitch in the majors again Chief?
I didn’t guarantee it, but I still would be surprised if he pitched this season for the Braves and no one on this board knows if he will be effective or not if he does.
He didn’t guarantee it. He just said definitively that he would never pitch again. BIG difference.
All Braves Journal predictions come with a money back guarantee.
From the could-be-worse department:
This team is a juggernaut.
Sorry guys, how I deal with disappointment is sarcasm, and I’ve been laying it on the last few days with this team.
Just turned the game on. From Morton’s line (6IP, 0 H, 0 BB, 2 HBP), I wonder whether he may be throwing very sharp breaking balls in anticipation of this being his last start before he is unable to throw sharp breaking balls. Is that what’s happening?
That hit breaking up the no-no was my fault. I just texted my son and son-in-law telling them they ought to tune inâ€”right before Goldschmidt lined that ball to center.
This is one way to avoid a third straight bullpen meltdownâ€¦
Morton had always been a true professional. I am very happy for him.
Is a shutout actually possible?
GREAT game. Best this year. Congratulations to the Atlanta Braves and Mr. Morton.
Now can they win three of four?
Break up the Bravos!