Friday, July 26, 2013

Game 103 Preview: St. Louis Cardinals (62-37) at Atlanta Braves (57-45)

Pitching Probables:
RHP Adam Wainwright (STL) 13-5, 2.44 ERA
LHP Mike Minor (ATL) 9-5, 2.98 ERA

Tonight's Starting Lineups (7:35 pm ET, FS South/MLB Network):

Cardinals (career vs. Minor):
Matt Carpenter - 2B (1-2, HR, RBI)
Shane Robinson - CF (N/A)
Carlos Beltran - RF (4-7, 2 2B, 3B, HR, 3 RBI, 2 BB, 2 K)
Allen Craig - LF (1-2, HR, RBI, K)
Yadier Molina - C (0-4, 2 K)
David Freese - 3B (N/A)
Matt Adams - 1B (N/A)
Pete Kozma - SS (N/A)
Adam Wainwright - P (N/A)

Braves (career vs. Wainwright):
Andrelton Simmons - SS (N/A)
Jason Heyward - RF (2-8, RBI, 2 K)
Freddie Freeman - 1B (0-3, BB, K)
Evan Gattis - LF (N/A)
Brian McCann - C (4-17, 2B, 3 RBI, BB, 5 K)
Dan Uggla - 2B (4-22, 2B, HR, 4 RBI, 2 BB, 7 K)
Chris Johnson - 3B (2-11, 3B, 4 K)
Jose Constanza - CF (N/A)
Mike Minor - P (N/A)

Braves pitching has suddenly become a concern. Tim Hudson fractured his right ankle Wednesday, rookie Alex Wood was knocked around by the Mets on Thursday and the Braves aren't looking like a team that ranks in the top four in the Majors with a 3.38 ERA this season. Since the beginning of July, Atlanta has posted a 4.20 ERA, which ranks 22nd this month.
The impending return of Brandon Beachy could help, as could the continued dominance of Mike Minor, who has turned himself into the staff ace this season and will take the mound Friday night as the Braves open up a pivotal three-game series with the Cardinals.
Minor's last outing, an eight-inning masterpiece against the White Sox, resulted in a 3-1 loss in which he allowed just two earned runs while striking out eight.
Minor will try to contain a Cardinals offense which ranks third in the Majors in scoring this season and have the highest run differential, despite having a slight power outage in the month of July. In 17 games this month, the Cardinals have hit just eight home runs, third fewest in baseball. But this club does not need the long ball, winning 26 games this season without leaving the yard. With Adam Wainwright on the mound, too many runs shouldn't be needed.
The Cardinals' ace sports a 2.44 ERA in 2013 and has allowed more than four runs once all season long. He's also lost to the Braves just once in seven career starts, going 6-1 with a 2.98 ERA.
Friday marks a crucial road trip for the NL Central-leading Cardinals, who will play 11 games in 10 days, including eight against division rivals Pittsburgh and Cincinnati.

Braves' Beachy to join rotation on Monday:
After a long road back from Tommy John surgery, Braves P Brandon Beachy will make his 2013 debut Monday night against the Rockies. Beachy had his best rehab start on Wednesday, going six innings and allowing just two runs (one earned) and struck out three on 86 pitches.
The 26-year-old righty was off to an amazing start in 2012 before his injury. Beachy at the time, lead the Majors with a 2.00 ERA and opponents were hitting just .171 off him.

Three Cards hitters atop hitting in NL:
Entering play tonight, Cardinals C Yadier Molina leads the National League with a .336 average, 1B/OF Allen Craig is second with a .334 average, and 2B Matt Carpenter is fifth with a .325 average.
It's no wonder the Cardinals are scoring runs without the home run ball. While the three have combined for 26 homers this season, they've driven in 182 runs and each ranks in the top 25 among NL position players in WAR.

Side note:
Yadier Molina has struck out in about 8.8% of his plate appearances, making him the fourth-toughest player to strike out in the NL.
Braves C/OF Evan Gattis has simply been on fire since being activated from the 15-day disabled list on July 14. He's gone 9-for-32 with three multi-hit games to go with a homer.
Cardinals CF Jon Jay, one of the best defensive outfielders in the game, carries a 241-game errorless streak coming into play Friday night, which is the longest active streak in the NL.

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