Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 11:30 AM EST.
ATLANTA +101 over St. Louis
2:02 PM EST. Late inning losses have been the theme of this series with both teams blowing at least one game in the eighth inning or later, which brings us to a deciding fifth game to determine who gets to move on to face the winner of the Dodgers/Nationals fifth game.
And for this final game, it’s the second verse, same as the first. Okay, maybe it’s the fifth verse, same as the second with a rematch of Mike Foltenewicz vs. Jack Flaherty. The first game between these two went to the Braves, with Flaherty pitching well but not quite like Second Half Ace Flaherty, but Foltynewicz pitching, well, like Second Half Ace Flaherty.
A game between two pitchers of this talent level can be decided on just one or two swings and that’s exactly what happened in Game 2. It was an infield single followed by a wild pitch, a productive out and a single and then a two-run homer from Adam Duvall in a seventh inning that led to some fun second-guessing of Mike Shildt for leaving Flaherty in.
It’s been a generally quiet series offensively outside of the eighth inning and later. Of the 29 runs scored, 14 have been scored late in the game. The bullpens are playing a role nobody on either team wants them to play. Marcell Ozuna and Paul Goldschmidt have been absolute beasts for the Cardinals with Yadier Molina playing hero on Monday, while the Braves have relied on Dansby Swanson and Ronald Acuna, Jr. (and a dose of Adam Duvall off the bench). But things have been mostly quiet outside of them. The Cardinals’ Game 4 win didn’t deviate at all from those offensive forces.
Projected Gameday Lineups
Cardinals vs. Foltynewicz (R) Braves vs. Flaherty (R)
Dexter Fowler, CF Ronald Acuna, Jr. (CF)
Kolten Wong, 2B Ozzie Albies, 2B
Paul Goldschmidt, 1B Freddie Freeman, 1B
Marcell Ozuna, LF Josh Donaldson, 3B
Yadier Molina, C Nick Markakis, LF
Matt Carpenter, 3B Matt Joyce, RF
Tommy Edman, RF Brian McCann, C
Paul DeJong, SS Dansby Swanson, SS
Jack Flaherty, P Mike Foltynewicz, P
The Cardinals switched to their “offensive” lineup for Game 3, and that didn’t go very well, putting up just the one run that Carlos Martinez couldn’t make stand up. They continued with the lineup in Game 4 and were able to make a late comeback and put up five runs and force this deciding game, so they figure to stick with it and hope for enough from Flaherty to make some runs count.
Flaherty has given up multiple runs in a start just four times since the All-Star break, and the response after each of the previous three has been stellar. He’s gone 23 innings in those three starts with just five hits allowed and one run to go along with 25 strikeouts and just four walks. It’s almost as if he takes it personally that he merely had a quality start his last time out instead of a great one.
The starting pitchers in this series have combined to go 46.1 innings with a 1.94 ERA. The relievers in this series have combined to go 26.1 innings with a 5.13 ERA. The difference-maker for the Braves has been Max Fried, who has pitched in three games and looked very sharp with four strikeouts. For the Cardinals, they haven’t really found their bullpen difference-maker, but with everyone but Monday’s starters available, we could see an array of starters used in relief if Flaherty and/or Foltynewicz falter.
Ideally, the Braves would love to have Mike Soroka ready to start the NLCS and the Cardinals would love to have either Adam Wainwright or Miles Mikolas, but with the poor performance of both bullpens, they might not have much of a choice. Can’t worry about Game 1 if you don’t win Game 5, ya know?
The betting line indicates it should be a close game. The Braves very much enjoy their home field, having gone 50-31 in the regular season, and a loud crowd behind them should give them the edge over the Cardinals who went 41-40 on the road during the regular season. Flaherty on the mound does give the Cardinals an excellent chance to stop that from happening, but in a 50/50 game, we simply have to play the value. That value is on the Braves to hold serve at home. In other words, the Devil Magic dies, and Atlanta marches into the league championship series for the first time since 2001.
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ATLANTA +101 (Risking 2 units - To Win: 2.02)