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Series Preview: Braves vs. Cardinals

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The Braves look to end their skid as the Cardinals come to town

Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off a six game losing streak, things do not get much easier for the Braves this week as they face the Cardinals in a three game set that features both Shelby Miller and Adam Wainwright. Miller has struggled with his command so far this year but we all know how good he was in his rookie campaign. Overall, the Cardinals have underwhelmed to start the season, but they have been successful enough over the past number of years to earn the right to be called a better team than their .500 record displays.

On the Mound

Starting the series will be Miller, followed by Tyler Lyons and Adam Wainwright. As mentioned, Miller has struggled with his command this year and while he has a 3.15 ERA he also has a 6.19 FIP which puts his WAR for the season at -0.6. He starts tonight against Aaron Harang in a matchup of two pitchers nobody knows what to expect out of. Last year Miller had a 3.67 FIP and totaled 2.1 WAR in 173.1 innings pitched and his velocity is consistent with that of last season’s, so the Braves bats better be ready to wake up because I expect Miller is.

Lyons has made two starts and two relief appearances this year, with decent numbers for a back end starter. He has all four pitches and throws right around 90mph with his fastball. When it comes to generic pitchers, Lyons seems like the epitome of such.

Wainwright we all know is an ace of aces. He has been extremely successful this year in seven starts, striking out a lot of batters, walking few, and limiting his home runs. He wasn’t as efficient in his last start against the Cubs, but we can all expect him to pound the zone and pitch at a high level on Wednesday when he matches up with Mike Minor.

At the plate

Yadier Molina’s evolution into a prime time offensive catcher has truly been a thing to watch. While he is not the most enjoyable of characters for opposing team’s fans, a once defense-only player has turned himself into an elite bat at his position and he has been the best offensive player on their team this year.

Notable breakouts Allen Craig and Matt Carpenter have underwhelmed so far this year, with a 102 and 68 wRC+ respectively. Matt Holliday is always a hitter to worry about even if he is hitting his decline years.

One of the more interesting players the Cardinals have is Matt Adams. Teams have been over shifting him a lot this season and he has decided that rather than swing past them, he will try and beat the shift. The plump left-handed hitter has a .339 average but has hit for little power this year. It will be very interesting to see how the Braves handle Adams defensively throughout the series.

In the bullpen

Trevor Rosenthal closes out games for the Cardinals and the young right-hander has pitched better than his 5.02 ERA suggests. He has appeared in 12 games, saving eight, and has a ton of strikeout potential along with a lack of command at times. The Cardinals like to mix and match in the innings before Rosenthal, with Pat Neshek and Randy Choate being a solid lefty/righty combination. Carlos Martinez was competing for a rotation spot this year but has moved into a set up role and has been successful as has Kevin Siegrist. The bullpen isn’t full of big names, but it is not a group that the Braves would like to venture into the late innings against while trailing.

On the bench

A platoon of Jon Jay and Peter Bourjos has seemingly emerged in center field so expect to see the speedster Bourjos on the bench for the first two games as the Braves throw Harang and Gavin Floyd at them. The rest of the group is relatively unknown with Greg Garcia and top 10 prospect Randal Grichuk filling out the bench alongside Tony Cruz and Danny Descalso.  None of the bats are too intimidating, which is certainly a positive for the Braves bullpen that would likely be facing the pinch hitters in late game situations.

Monday May 5 7:00pm ET (ESPN)

Aaron Harang (ATL)
3-2, 2.97 ERA, 2.97 FIP, 0.7 WAR
Shelby Miller (STL)
3-2, 3.15 ERA, 6.19 FIP, -0.6 WAR

Tuesday May 6, 7:10pm ET

Gavin Floyd (ATL)
Season Debut
Tyler Lyons (STL)
0-2, 4.20 ERA, 3.33 FIP, 0.2 WAR

Wednesday May 7, 7:10pm ET

Mike Minor (ATL)
0-1, 3.00 ERA, 6.13 FIP, -0.1 WAR
Adam Wainwright (STL)
5-2, 2.16 ERA, 2.65 FIP, 1.1 WAR