|Will pitching or offense win out in the NL wild-card game? (US Presswire)|
Cardinals at Braves, 5:07 p.m. ET Friday. TV: TBS
The Atlanta Braves missed the 2011 playoffs after a historic collapse down the stretch. The team that took control of that wild-card spot was the St. Louis Cardinals. And they rode that spot to a World Series championship. This time around, the Braves had the best record in the National League among non-division winners, but there's an extra wild card. Naturally, it's the Cardinals. The two clubs will square off Friday in what amounts to a play-in game, as the winner will advance to face the Washington Nationals in the NLDS, starting Sunday.
Medlen vs. Cardinals hitters
There isn't much history to go on here, but the small sample data suggests Medlen owns the Cardinals. Cardinals hitters are 4-for-25 career (.160) with no walks. Daniel Descalso has a triple in three at-bats, David Freese has a single in his only at-bat against Medlen and Skip Schumaker is 1-for-3. The only player who has faced Medlen more than four times is Carlos Beltran, and he's 0-for-6 with a strikeout.
Medlen is 4-1 with a 1.76 ERA and 0.94 WHIP at home this season in 76 2/3 innings pitched. He did not make a start against St. Louis this year, but made three relief appearances. In those appearances, he gave up six hits and three earned runs in just 5 2/3 innings (4.76 ERA).
Lohse vs. Braves hitters
Overall, current Braves hitters have a career triple slash line of .320/.371/.485 against Lohse. Chipper Jones owns him in 20 career plate appearances, hitting .462/.600/.846 with two doubles, a homer, five RBI and six walks. Martin Prado (.429 average in 14 at-bats) and Dan Uggla (.333, homer, 5 RBI in 15 at-bats) have also had good success. On the flip-side, Michael Bourn has struggled against Lohse in his career, hitting just .205/.229/.235 in 35 plate appearances.
Lohse is 8-2 and 3.41 and 1.12 WHIP in 103 innings pitched on the road this season. He faced the Braves once this season and allowed nine hits and five earned runs in five innings. In four career starts in Turner Field, Lohse is 2-0 with a 3.52 ERA and 1.61 WHIP.
The Braves won five of the six meetings between these two clubs this season, but the margin of victory was only eight (40-32). Also, both three-game series took place in May, so it's hard to so these matchups being overly relevant.
The Cardinals will win if ...
... they are able to jump on Medlen early.
The Braves boast a stellar back-end of the bullpen in Jonny Venters (1.78 ERA in second half), Eric O'Flaherty (1.76 ERA this season) and Craig Kimbrel (1.02 ERA this season). Cory Gearrin and Peter Moylan have been good, too, albeit in lower-pressure situations. If Medlen throws the way he's been throwing and gets the ball to the bullpen in the late innings with a lead, the Cardinals could very well be buried. Thus, the Cardinals' key is to score early and often on young Medlen, who is making his first career postseason appearance. If they jump on Medlen early and face the lesser arms in the bullpen instead of dealing with the late-inning studs, the Cardinals will once again surge past the Braves to the NLDS.
The Braves will win if ...
... they take care of business on the mound and in the batter's box.
The Braves are the superior team here, but the Cardinals have a very potent offense and a reliable starting pitcher. The Braves' offense needs to provide four or five runs in support of their pitching staff and the pitchers just need to throw like they've been throwing the past two months. If that happens, it's a Braves victory (5-2?) and a bit of a revenge taste for the home team.