St. Louis vs. Atlanta (SunTrust Park)
May 14 – Cardinals 14, Braves 3 (Over 9)
May 15 – Braves 4, Cardinals 0 (Under 10)
May 16 – Braves 10, Cardinals 2 (Over 10)
Atlanta vs. St. Louis (Busch Stadium)
May 24 – Braves 5, Cardinals 2 (Under 10)
May 25 – Cardinals 6, Braves 3 (Under 9 ½)
May 26 – Braves 4, Cardinals 3 (Under 9)
The Braves (97-65) captured their second consecutive National League East title in spite of an 18-20 record to start 2019. Atlanta closed out the first half with a 36-17 record in the final 53 games prior to the All-Star break to run away with the division for back-to-back NL East championships for the first time since 2004-2005 (which actually concluded an 11-year stretch of division titles).
Ronald Acuna, Jr. and Freddie Freeman paced the Braves’ offense, which finished third in the National League with 855 runs. Acuna, Jr. didn’t fall off following Rookie of the Year honors in 2018 as the Braves’ center fielder hit a team-high 41 home runs and drove in 101 runs. Freeman posted 120 runs batted in, which ranked second in the National League behind Washington’s Anthony Rendon (126), while former MVP Josh Donaldson slugged 37 home runs following a rough 2018.
The Atlanta starting rotation was in question to begin the season, but the Braves put it together thanks to a breakout season from right-hander Mike Soroka (13-4, 2.68 ERA). Atlanta went 10-1 in Soroka’s 11 starts from June through July, while Soroka actually fared better on the road (7-1, 1.55 ERA) than at home (6-3, 4.14 ERA).
The Game 1 starter for the Braves didn’t appear on the roster until June but Dallas Keuchel (8-8, 3.75 ERA) gets the nod for the series opener. The 2015 American League Cy Young award winner caught fire in mid-August as Keuchel won five consecutive decisions, but closed the season with three straight losses. Keuchel didn’t face the Cardinals this season as he was still a free agent when these teams hooked up in May, but the number that sticks out is the 15-3 mark to the UNDER in his 18 starts.
The Cardinals (91-71) missed the playoffs the previous three seasons heading into 2019 and went through a merry-go-round atop the NL Central along with the Brewers and Cubs all season. St. Louis put together a 44-44 record prior to the All-Star break, but the Cardinals won 12 of 15 games to start the second half to take over first place in the division. The Redbirds clinched their first playoff berth since 2015 by sweeping the rival Cubs at Wrigley Field in late September with four wins by one run each.
The Diamondbacks surprisingly dealt All-Star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt to the Cardinals in the offseason and he paid immediate dividends in St. Louis. Goldschmidt hit three home runs against the Brewers in his second game with St. Louis and ended the 2019 campaign leading the Cardinals with 97 runs batted in, while playing in 161 games, which was a career-best.
Marcell Ozuna put together another solid season for the Cardinals after getting traded by the Marlins in 2018 as the left fielder drove in 89 runs in only 130 games. Shortstop Paul DeJong hit a career-high 30 home runs, as 11 different Cardinal hitters knocked out at least 10 home runs on the season (nine Braves went deep 10 or more times).
Miles Mikolas (9-14, 4.16 ERA) put together a stunning 18-4 season in 2018, but only won half that amount of his decisions in 2019 for St. Louis. The Cardinals actually finished with a winning record when the right-hander took the mound this season at 17-15, as Mikolas gets the nod in Game 1. Mikolas faced the Braves at Busch Stadium on May 24 as a -140 favorite, but he suffered the defeat in spite of striking out nine batters in seven innings, even though he allowed three runs in a 5-2 setback.
Jack Flaherty (11-8, 2.75 ERA) owned a 4.90 ERA on July 2 after giving up four earned runs in less than five innings of a 5-4 defeat at Seattle. Since July 7, the Cardinals’ right-hander has yielded 11 earned runs in 16 starts to drop his season ERA by over two runs. In nine of those outings, Flaherty didn’t give up a single run, while tossing seven innings or more 10 times in the past 16 trips to the mound. In two starts against the Braves this season, Flaherty gave up three earned runs in 12 innings of work, while beating Atlanta as a -125 road favorite, 14-3 on May 14.
The Braves won four of six matchups with the Cardinals this season, including capturing series victories at SunTrust Park and Busch Stadium. St. Louis destroyed Atlanta, 14-3 in the series opener at SunTrust on May 14, but the Braves won the next two games by a combined score of 14-2. The Braves topped the Cardinals, 5-2 on May 24 at Busch Stadium, but St. Louis bounced back the next night with four runs in the eighth inning to beat Atlanta, 6-3. The Cards held a 3-0 lead in the series finale heading to the ninth inning, but the Braves scored three runs to tie the game before Atlanta won it in the 10th, 4-3.
Atlanta has not advanced to the National League Championship Series since 2001 as the Braves have been bounced from the NLDS in seven straight tries, including in last year’s four-game defeat to the Dodgers. The Cardinals fell in four games to the Cubs in the 2015 NLDS in their previous postseason appearance, as they seek their first NLCS trip since 2014.
St. Louis knocked off Atlanta in the 2012 Wild Card round in their most recent playoff matchup, 6-3.