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NL Wild Card Game Preview: Do the Cardinals stand a chance?

Oct 5, 2012, 12:30 AM EST

Cardinals Braves Baseball

The Matchup: St. Louis Cardinals (88-74) at Atlanta Braves (94-68)

The Time: Friday, 5:07 PM Eastern

The Starting Pitchers:  Kyle Lohse (16-3, 2.86 ERA) vs. Kris Medlen (10-1, 1.57 ERA)

The Breakdown:  Yes, the headline is meant to be tongue-in-cheek. Any team stands a chance in any one game.  This is baseball for crying out loud. The Houston Astros won nearly five dozen games this season, and they stink on ice.  Trying to handicap a single baseball game is madness when the very pinnacle of the sport requires a team to only win four of seven. Anything can happen.

Which isn’t to say that we can’t look at the matchup and glean … something from it.  And the something I glean is that the Braves are really well set up for a one-game series.  Kris Medlen gets the ball for Atlanta and he hasn’t lost a start since 2010. This year, since moving to the rotation from the pen, he is 9-0 with an 0.97 ERA. At the other end of the game is Craig Kimbrel, the Braves’ beastly closer. He struck out 16.7 batters per nine innings. No, that is not a misprint.  If the Braves have a late lead, the Cardinals are going to be in big trouble.

But there’s nothing to say that they’ll have a late lead. Kyle Lohse has not been as dominant as Medlen, but he has been nearly as consistent this year. Has only lost one start since June, and he’s facing a Braves lineup that’s sputtering a bit of late, even if the team did finish strongly overall.  And the Cardinals bats may not be too intimidated by Medlen. They scored three runs off of him in five and two thirds relief innings against him this year.

The Prediction:  Ultimately you have to give the edge to the Braves. They have hit Kyle Lohse very well overall, and as long as Kris Medlen pitches like he’s capable of, it’s gonna be a tough evening for the Cardinals. And a short one if Medlen is able to hand off a lead to that Atlanta bullpen. Let’s call it, oh, I dunno … 5-2, Braves.

But of course, in one game, anything can happen.

  1. verytalldad - Oct 5, 2012 at 12:45 AM

    Way to go out on a limb on that pick Craig.

    • kevinbnyc - Oct 5, 2012 at 12:54 PM

      See everything everyone said to you on the AL pick. Idiot.

      • verytalldad - Oct 5, 2012 at 7:30 PM

        Hows that pick working out ya? Medlen the unhittable!!!!!!

  2. schmedley69 - Oct 5, 2012 at 12:47 AM

    The Braves should win, unless that damn squirrel shows up again, in which case all bets are off.

    • ajcardsfan - Oct 5, 2012 at 1:01 PM

      I don’t care who wins, I just want a good game, but I am hoping for something bizarre to happen, whether it’s a rally squirrel or a Randy Johnson exploding bird kind of deal.

  3. cur68 - Oct 5, 2012 at 1:56 AM

    No, I see the Cards doing it. The have last years momentum. Seriously.

  4. buffalomafia - Oct 5, 2012 at 3:52 AM

    Braves win

  5. indaburg - Oct 5, 2012 at 7:06 AM

    On paper, the Braves are the superior team, but a one game play-off is going to have all sorts of all hands on deck craziness. I don’t who will win. I know, way to go out on a limb. Sorry, Craig, but I hope the Cards do pull off the upset. The tomahawk chop and that fake stupid Native American chant pushed me in the bird’s favor. I could not stand to listen to that for more than one game.

    I’m not trying to be a semantical prick, but can you technically have a one game series: “the Braves are set up well for a one game series”? I thought by definition that a series is a sequence involving more than one? I’ve struggled myself with what to call this one game, and I’m into words and their meanings. Yeah, I’m cool like that.

  6. biasedhomer - Oct 5, 2012 at 7:46 AM

    I see clutch hitting David Freese carrying the Cards to the next round.

    • thefalcon123 - Oct 5, 2012 at 9:29 AM

      David Freese’s “clutch” stats:

      FanGraphs “Clutch”: -1.46 (which ranks between ‘poor’ and ‘awful’)
      2 Out, RISP OPS: .845 (slightly up from .839 regular season OPS)
      Late and Close OPS: .730 (waaaaaaay down from regular season OPS)

      So we’re agreed…David Freese is no more “clutch” than anyone else. Yes, that game 6 was really awesome and he gets all the credit in the world for a wonderful game. But clutch is not a skill, a statistics have shown over and over and over and over again.

      • srgntyork - Oct 5, 2012 at 11:42 AM

        Right because they give the NLDS abd WS MVP to a guy who only played well in one game. What you your stats say about that?

      • srgntyork - Oct 5, 2012 at 11:43 AM

        I meant NLCS

  7. maegreen18 - Oct 5, 2012 at 7:59 AM

    Braves win. I’ll chop to that.

  8. heyblueyoustink - Oct 5, 2012 at 8:23 AM

    Admiral Ackbar would suggest St. louis has a good shot of winning.

  9. smftrdr - Oct 5, 2012 at 8:49 AM

    Really Craig? Just go with the homer pick, no analysis at all?

    • alexo0 - Oct 5, 2012 at 9:37 AM

      Craig’s role here is opinion/legal analysis. Everyone else does the baseball analysis.

      • paperlions - Oct 5, 2012 at 2:06 PM

        There are HBT writers that do analysis? Who?

    • delawarephilliesfan - Oct 5, 2012 at 9:38 AM

      As the President of the “Troll Craig Society”, I really hate it when soemone says something that makes me defend Mr. Clean

      He did not write out a novella, but her certainly did offer his analysis of why he thinks the Braves will win. And these are called “predictions”. He predicted the Phillies would win the NLDS Game 5 last year. They didn’t.

  10. blues1988 - Oct 5, 2012 at 9:04 AM

    just like last year, not one “expert” has the cards going past the division series and only a 2 or 3 picked them to beat Atlanta. i love when the cardinals fly under the radar….

    • thefalcon123 - Oct 5, 2012 at 9:33 AM

      Yeah, those dirty “experts” picking the 101 win team with one of the best rotations in baseball history for beat the team that won 11 fewer games. What kind of expert would do that?

      • delawarephilliesfan - Oct 5, 2012 at 10:10 AM

        102 wins for last years Phillies – and that 102nd win made all the difference in the World (101 Phillies wins would have had Braves as Wild card winner, rather then Cards)

      • forsch31 - Oct 5, 2012 at 12:28 PM

        @delaware–actually, if the Phillies had lost against the Braves in their last game, there would have been a one-game play-in between the Cardinals and Braves to determine the Wild Card.

      • delawarephilliesfan - Oct 5, 2012 at 1:59 PM

        @forsch – ah yes, you are correct. Mostly we just recall the irony of winning all 3 against the Braves, and thus facing the Cardinals. But you are correct, the last one prevented a one game playoff

  11. jaygott87 - Oct 5, 2012 at 9:11 AM

    Nice breakdown of the lineups Craig

  12. smftrdr - Oct 5, 2012 at 9:12 AM

    http://www.cbssports.com/mlb/blog/eye-on-baseball/20448112/nl-wild-card-preview-can-cardinals-offense-get-to-medlen-braves-bullpen

    Craig, that’s a preview.

  13. chill1184 - Oct 5, 2012 at 9:28 AM

    Carlos Beltran hits game walk off winner

    • delawarephilliesfan - Oct 5, 2012 at 9:34 AM

      “Carlos Beltran hits game walk off winner”

      Think about that one for a second…..

      Okay, got it now Champ? We all good? Ok

  14. jaygott87 - Oct 5, 2012 at 9:44 AM

    Hey Craig, it’s Friday, you ain’t go no job, you ain’t got shit to do….

  15. temporarilyexiled - Oct 5, 2012 at 10:08 AM

    Craig, I’m rooting for your team today, and not because I’d rather have the Giants face the Braves. (That’s if the Giants can even get past the Reds in a series where there isn’t a clear favorite.)

    That said, in a one-game play-in, the Cardinals lineup is just sick, and assuming Kyle Lohse pitches like he’s been pitching, this is asking Kris Medlen to continue to pitch even better.

    The fact that the Braves even have to deal with a team that completely beat the odds just last year and knows they can do it again is about the worst matchup your team could get.

    Again, I’m on your side today (so if you want to throw up in your mouth a little, I’ll understand).

  16. stlouis1baseball - Oct 5, 2012 at 12:07 PM

    The way I see it…Medlen (and Braves when he is starting) are long overdue for a loss.
    Go Cardinals!

  17. Loren - Oct 5, 2012 at 1:17 PM

    You know what this game really needs? Tony LaRussa.
    He was made for a one game playoff with an 11 man bullpen.
    You may disagree. You may think it would be torture.
    I think it would be a thing of beauty. The ultimate expression of his art.

  18. paperlions - Oct 5, 2012 at 2:09 PM

    Am I the only one that thinks “Barves” every time they see “Braves”?

  19. spudchukar - Oct 5, 2012 at 2:27 PM

    Craig, Good Luck in this afternoon’s game. May the team that plays the best win.

  20. foreverchipper10 - Oct 5, 2012 at 3:25 PM

    Chipper and the Braves have to prevail on my birthday. Don’t they? I think so.

  21. phillyphannn83 - Oct 7, 2012 at 3:11 PM

    Where’ve you been Craig?? Since this game went final you’ve been MIA. Stop hiding and come take your licks like a man!!!

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