This series would have been so great if the Braves had a full compliment of players. Now, I'm looking at it just hoping we can get two games of the four at best. My expectations have completely changed in the wake of injuries, but we can't do anything about that, and we don't have to worry about the division lead. That's the facts, and the division lead is the most positive. Let's check out the matchups:
Game 1 - Maholm (9-9) v. Kelly (4-3)
Game 2 - Medlen (10-11) v. Wainwright (14-7)
Game 3 - Teheran (10-6) v. Miller (11-8)
Game 4 - Beachy (2-1) v. Lynn (13-7)
Maholm makes his triumphant return to the mound after his injury. He'll face off again Joe Kelly, the RH reliever turned starter this year who has been very successful for St. Louis. Kelly has a 1.99 ERA in August with a 3-0 record. However, the last game he lost back in July was to the Braves, 2-0. The good news is that all of the usual suspects who are still in the lineup (BMac, Freddie, Justin, CJ) hit Kelly well when they first saw him. Maholm has faced the Cardinals several times and had his fair share of issues. Craig, Carpenter, and Beltran really give Maholm fits, so he'll have to try to minimize their chances with RISP if he wants to be successful against this high powered Cardinals lineup. That means having good control and minimizing the walks. Considering Paul's road ERA though? This game looks like a possible disaster if he's not spot on.
Medlen goes against Wainwright in Game 2, which is a huge matchup for the fans. Medlen hasn't lost a start in his last 4 (even though he got the loss in extras against the Nats). Wainwright has won his last 2 in a row, but before that he'd gone on a skid of 3 losses in a row, the first of which started with Atlanta. In that game, Wainwright was outbattled by Minor, and his offense completely abandoned him on the road. In this case, the Cardinals offense at home has been prolific, and Wainwright has maintained a 2.18 ERA in front of his crowds. Medlen will need a bit more support to overcome his road ERA of 4.38, but he knows that the Braves will have a hard time doing that if he doesn't perform in the first few innings. That's always the key with Medlen, how he pitches in innings 1 and 2.
Teheran has won his last 3 road games in a row. His road ERA is actually a respectable 3.25, and he's been pitching very well of late. The last time he faced the Cardinals, he posted a 7 inning 2 hitter, so he's comfortable working within this lineup. That's good because Miller for the Cardinals had trouble with the Braves the one time he saw them. With a .261 BAA for Miller against the Braves, he was dealt a loss in Atlanta when the Cardinals didn't have the answer for Kris Medlen. As you can see, a lot of these matchups are similar to the pitchers from the series in Atlanta, but they've been put into a box and shaken up. I actually like this matchup with Teheran going against Miller because I think it benefits the Braves due to Teheran's better road record.
Beachy gets Lynn in the anchor game. Lance Lynn has been getting increasingly worse over the last month in terms of his ERA. From 2 to 3 to 4 runs in a game, his ability to keep people from scoring runs has been suspect in August. When he's won, the Cardinals scored 6 or more runs. He lost when they didn't. That means Beachy's job should be simple. Just hold the Cardinals at bay. Sounds easy, but he hasn't faced them since 2012. This matchup should be about whether or not the Braves can capitalize on the problems Lynn has faced recently, and if Beachy can continue the progression he's made with his pitches up to this point.
The CPA (65-43) lost when the first game of the Mets series didn't pan out. How does it feel about the Maholm comeback?
CPA Prediction Game 1: Cardinals 7 - Braves 2
The CPA expects this to be a butt-kicking in favor the Cardinals. The Braves are emotionally reeling and Paul is making his first start back in a while. It doesn't set up well statistically because Paul has a terrible road ERA as well. The way the Braves can turn the tide is if Paul has changed his form on the road after the injury, and if the Braves can jump on the Cards early with some quick homers.