Fresh off yet another sub-.500 road trip, the Braves return to the friendly confines of Turner Field tonight for a three-game set against the National League leading St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals enter this series with a 62-37 record to go along with a MLB best +142 run differential. They also come in playing well, having won seven of their last ten games, including most recently a sweep of the Philadelphia Phillies.
It's also a battle of two of the top three offenses in the National League. The Braves have the third best wRC+ at 103, while the Cardinals top the league at 110.
Going beyond that, the Cardinals rank first in the National League in batting average (.278), first in on-base average (.339), second in slugging percentage (.415), first in wOBA (.330), seventh in walk rate (7.7%), second in strikeout rate (17.3%), 10th in ISO (.137), 13th in home runs (82) and last in stolen bases (25). Overall, they have accumulated a position player fWAR of 16.1, which is third in the National League behind Atlanta and the San Francisco Giants.
The debate over the best player on the Cardinals this season is squarely between second baseman Matt Carpenter and catcher Yadier Molina. Carpenter, playing mostly second base this season, is hitting .325/.401/.499 with a .391 wOBA and 153 wRC+. He leads the team in fWAR at 4.5. Molina enters with a triple-slash of .336/.382/.484 with a .375 wOBA and 142 wRC+ to go along with a fWAR of 4.2.
Allen Craig's power is down, but he's still been very productive with a .334/.381/.491 triple-slash with a .378 wOBA and a 145 wRC+. The same goes for outfielder Matt Holliday, who has a .268/.351/.448 line along with a .347 wOBA and 123 wRC+. Fellow outfielder Carlos Beltran continues to age gracefully, leading the team in home runs (19) and Isolated Power (.220) while hitting .301/.335/.522.
Beefy first baseman Matt Adams is hitting .305/.363/.513, while third baseman David Freese checks in at .275/.350/387. Jon Jay and Shane Robinson have been platooning in center field lately, with Jay facing right-handed pitchers and Robinson getting the left-handed one. Matt Holliday is eligible to come off the disabled list Saturday, and appears ready to do just that.
Looking at all that, it's quite clear that Atlanta's pitchers will have their hands full this weekend with the Cardinals' bats.
Friday July 26, 7:30 PM ET. Fox Sports South/MLB Network
Saturday July 27, 3:05 PM ET. Fox.
Sunday July 28, 8:05 PM ET. ESPN Sunday Night Baseball.