It's that time of year... the leaves are falling off the trees, students are doing homework, all the children are deciding what costume they want to wear for Halloween, and, of course, the MLB postseason is back!
All of these events are certain to happen every October. For the Braves, they were accustomed to the postseason with 14 consecutive division titles from 1991 to 2005. Atlanta has since played one playoff series, the 2010 NLDS.
It shows that even the little things shouldn't be taken for granted. Fans learned that a year ago when their beloved Braves allowed a 10.5 game lead to evaporate and lost the opportunity to participate in the postseason to the eventual World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals.
It's impossible to project how far the Braves would have played into October had they reached, but seeing the Cardinals lift up the trophy had to be difficult to see.
Atlanta boasted a record of 94-68, which was good enough for the top wild-card spot in the National League. This October the Braves get their shot at redemption. The opportunity to have a say in ending the Cardinals' season would be satisfying after their collapse last year by one game, but would it be their only satisfaction? Of course not.
The Braves have bigger goals in mind. They haven't advanced past a division series since 2001 when they lost in five games to the eventual World Series champion Arizona Diamondbacks. They would love that opportunity, but have to take one game at a time.
The NL wild-card matchup is evenly matched. The Cardinals and Braves both display dangerous lineups. St. Louis ranked second in the NL in runs scored with 765 and Atlanta ranked seventh with 700.
The key to the game will more likely be pitching. The Braves are ranked fourth in NL in team ERA at 3.42 and and the Cardinals sixth at 3.71. No team had a better ERA in the second half in the senior circuit than the Braves at 2.87.
Kris Medlen has been the Braves' best pitcher as he posted a 9-0 record 12 starts this season with an ERA of 0.94. Atlanta won the last 23 games pitched by the ace. He has not been defeated as a starter since 2009, but he missed all but one appearance in the 2011 season due to Tommy John surgery.
Atlanta will be opposed by Kyle Lohse. The right-hander boasted career numbers for the Cardinals as he compiled a 16-3 mark with a 2.86 ERA in 33 starts.
Don't expect too many walks, as the starters have only allowed a combined 51 free passes in 45 starts this season.
The game will be decided by which team can manufacture a run and take an early lead. Michael Bourn is starting to find a groove again at the plate after a sub-par second half. The Braves are the likely team to accomplish it against a tough pitcher. I like Atlanta's bullpen in the latter innings with dynamite closer Craig Kimbrel.
Braves win in a close 3-2.
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