The 2012 MLB playoffs are upon us. The brisk air, the falling leaves and a cold pumpkin ale. All the reason why we all should love October.
This season brings the first year of the newly instated second wild card team. In the National League, The Atlanta Braves, who finished the season with a record of 94-68, will host The St. Louis Cardinals, who won a tight race with a record of 88-74.
Kyle Lohse (16-3) will takes the hill for the Cardinals, squaring off against Atlanra's Kris Medlen (10-1). Both are right-handed.
Quality pitching will meet power hitting. The Braves' starting staff is in the top five in the National League in ERA, WHIP and BAA. The Cardinals counter that pitching by their offense finishing in top five in runs, batting average, and on-base percentage.
The best part about playoff baseball is that once it starts, none of that matters. Especially in a one-game, winner-takes-all series. Everyone starts fresh, the team that plays the best on Friday will move on to the next round.
So how do they match up?
Fortunately for the Braves, the majority of their power bats hit from the left side of the plate. Jason Heyward mashes right-handed pitching, hitting 20 of his 27 home runs against the righties. Chipper Jones and Freddie Freeman have also had very successful power numbers verses right-handed pitching.
One of the most interesting stats going into Friday's showdown, is that the Atlanta Braves have not lost a single Kris Medlen's start in the last 23 attempts.
Unfortunately, the Braves' starters are pretty banged up. Dan Uggla was held out of Tuesday's game. Jones is dealing with left knee and back soreness, Mark Bowman of MLB.com reports. Catcher Brian McCann has also been missing time in the past week.
In order for the Braves to have a chance, they are going to have to be extremely aggressive on the base paths and jump on Kyle Lohse early. This is Chipper Jones' last chance to play for a ring, expect everything he has left in the tank.
The Braves' closer, Craig Kimbrel, has been the best in baseball this season. If the Braves have the late lead, Kimbrel will slam the door.
St. Louis Cardinals
The defending World Series Champions snuck into the 2012 MLB playoffs thanks in part to a newly instated second wild card team. The Braves finished six games ahead of them. If this was 2011, the Cardinals would be planning tee times as we speak. As the Cardinals did in 2011, they played great down the stretch, beating out three other close contenders for the final wild card spot.
St. Louis has one of the most powerful offenses in the National League. Leading the NL in hits (1517) and on-base percentage (.338). The Cardinals are also second in runs (764) and RBI (731). If that is not an impressive National League team, I don't know what is.
Yadier Molina is a captain on the field, it is his job to control the pitching game. He also had the highest batting average of his eight-year career at .315 this year.
Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday will be keys to a St. Louis victory. Beltran has hit 23 of his 32 homers off right-handed pitching. Holliday is coming off a 102 RBI season with 27 home runs. Their veteran leadership must be on full display if the Cardinals wish to move on to the next round.
Closer Jason Motte is tied for the NL lead in saves with 42. His ERA for the season was 2.75 with 85 strikeouts and only 17 walks. He has seven blown saves on the season. This one may come down to the closers, and should be one for the ages.
Braves 5, Cardinals 3
Chipper Jones leads his team to victory with a clutch performance and Craig Kimbrel comes in to seal the deal.