St. Louis Cardinals’ late comeback vs. Atlanta Braves could be crucial in five-game NLDS

St. Louis Cardinals’ late comeback vs. Atlanta Braves could be crucial in five-game NLDS

by October 4, 2019 0 comments

The score from last night’s NLDS Cardinals-Braves game probably doesn’t accurately reflect the feeling of the game through eight innings, but nonetheless, the Cardinals came out as victors after blowing the game open in the ninth inning.

Game 1 of the NLDS truly showcased the strengths of the St. Louis Cardinals and Atlanta Braves: starting pitching. Both squads rank in the Top 10 in MLB in ERA, and starters Miles Mikolas and Dallas Keuchel combined for two earned runs in 9.2 innings.

But the story of the game was each team’s competing bullpens. Tyler Webb followed Mikolas and proceeded to allow two runs as the Braves took a 3-1 lead. This lead stood until the eighth inning when Luke Jackson entered for Braves reliever Chris Martin, who left with oblique tightness. Jackson allowed the Cardinals to tie the game when both Paul Goldschmidt and Kolten Wong slugged home runs. The Braves completely imploded in the ninth when Mark Melancon allowed four runs, including a Marcell Ozuna two-run double. The Braves did rally in the ninth as they scored three runs of their own but ultimately fell short, 7-6.

This has to be a frustrating loss for Braves fans, knowing the score was in their favor until late. In a five-game series, mistakes can be devastating because they can easily be difference makers. Taking the early lead in the series (especially at home) is crucial. Can the Braves rally to ultimately win the series? Of course, but that will ultimately be decided by their bullpen. The Braves are now spread thin with reliever Chris Martin going down due to injury. Brian Snitker, the Braves’ skipper, may have to get creative in the rest of the series, possibly piggybacking starters or praying for length out of them. The x-factor moving forward could be Ronald Acuña, Jr., who homered in the loss and finished 3-for-4. The Braves will need early leads if they even hope to compete with the Cardinals for the rest of the series.

The task gets no easier as the Braves will face Cardinals’ starter, Jack Flaherty. Flaherty was the best starting pitcher in all of baseball in the second half, notching a microscopic 0.91 ERA since the All-Star break. The Braves should be attacking Flaherty on first pitches before they allow him to get his secondary pitches in — namely his wipeout slider. If the Atlanta hitters can attack Flaherty right away, they might be able to find success.

This is where Acuña comes in. If Acuña can attack Flaherty on first-pitch fastballs, a pitch he’s hit 14 home runs on (his most by pitch), the Braves could hope to either gain an early lead or set the table for Josh Donaldson, Freddie Freeman, and others.

Otherwise, we could see a 2-0 series deficit and a team well on their way to an early October exit.

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