The Cardinals are in second place and five games behind the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central, and a team with a history of success like St. Louis has is certainly better than a 21-20 record. They played a part in the Braves recent struggles as they took two of three in Atlanta the last time I covered a series. Hopefully I have better luck this time.
Luckily, the Braves will avoid both Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha. That is as good as news can get when you are lined up to face the Cardinals. They will face Lance Lynn, Shelby Miller, and Jaime Garcia, who is just returning from the disabled list.
At the plate
The offensive leaders in WAR for the Cardinals are Jhonny Peralta, Yadier Molina, and Matt Adams. The Cardinal offense has not hit for much power so far this year but many of their hitters have the muscle to put one over the fence consistently. Matt Holliday, Adams, and Allen Craig have all underwhelmed in the power department and can get it going at any given moment. Matt Carpenter (are all of their players named Matt?) has dropped off quite a bit from his breakout 2013 season that saw him land a nice long term extension. A player often compared to Braves prospect Tommy La Stella, Carpenter has hit .256/.356/.319 this season. If the Braves can keep Carpenter off the bases they should be able to limit the damage offensively.
On the mound
As mentioned, the Braves will face the latter three starters in the rotation. Lynn has thrown the ball the best of the trio so far, with more strikeouts than innings pitched and a respectable ground ball rate. Miller has succeed in terms of runs allowed but he has suffered from massive control issues this season. The sophomore right-hander has a -0.7 WAR according to FanGraphs due to his 5.44 BB/9. Even though he has thrown the ball poorly, he has pitched around a ton of trouble and still has a very nice 3.22 ERA. Something has to give, either Miller will start pitching better or he will start to see his results regress toward his peripherals. Garcia was chosen instead of prospect Tim Cooney. Garcia has a career 3.45 ERA and has been an effective pitcher when healthy.
In the bullpen
Trevor Rosenthal threw 1.2 innings in closing out the Cubs on Thursday so he may not be available for Friday night's game. The Cardinal bullpen is filled with talented pitchers, whether they be fireballing arms like Carlos Martinez or specialists such as Pat Neshak and Randy Choate. However, their overall numbers are not as impressive as one would expect with this group. Kevin Siegrest has been the most valuable reliever so far, and I would expect Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman to see a heavy dose of Siegrest late in games.
Friday, May 16 8:15pm ET
Ervin Santana (4-0, 1.99 ERA, 2.29 FIP, 1.2 WAR)
Lance Lynn (4-2, 3.83 ERA, 3.36 FIP, 0.6 WAR)
Saturday, May 17 2:15pm ET
Aaron Harang (4-3, 2.98 ERA, 2.55 FIP, 1.2 WAR)
Shelby Miller (5-2, 3.22 ERA, 5.90 FIP, -0.7 WAR)
Sunday, May 18 2:15pm ET
Gavin Floyd (2.70 ERA, 2.58 FIP, 0.3 WAR)
Jaime Garcia (Season debut)