Posted on October 8, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine

Yadier Molina Cardinals Ronald Acuna Braves
Image via cbssports.com

It’s hard to remember a playoff series with more twists and turns than the one between the St. Louis Cardinals and Atlanta Braves. Both teams have managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory at times during the series, setting up Wednesday’s decisive Game 5. After splitting the first two games in Atlanta and also splitting Games 3 and 4 in St. Louis, anything can happen in Game 5 back in Atlanta.

Who Do You Trust?

Bullpens play such a huge role in the postseason, and things have been no different in this series. St. Louis had the best bullpen in the National League for most of the season. However, closer Carlos Martinez has been at the center of all of the drama. Despite getting the win in Game 1, he gave up three runs on a pair of home runs. He gave up three more runs in a Game 3 loss. But Martinez was able to bounce back and pitch a scoreless inning in Monday’s Game 4 win. The rest of the St. Louis bullpen has only allowed one earned run in the series, but can the Cardinals trust Martinez to throw another scoreless inning or two in Game 5?

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Of course, Atlanta close Mark Melancon also let a game get away from him, costing the Braves what looked like a surefire win in Game 1. The good news is that Melancon bounced back and has saved both Atlanta wins. Lefties Sean Newcomb and Max Fried have also pitched well. However, Chris Martin was lost to an injury and late-game relievers Luke Jackson and Shane Greene have both surrendered runs in the series, so the back end of Atlanta’s bullpen is far from a sure thing these days.

Pitching Matchup

In Game 5, the Braves will turn to Mike Foltynewicz, who was lights out against the St. Louis lineup in Game 2. After a sensational second half of the regular season, Foltynewicz tossed seven shutout innings against the Cardinals, allowing three hits with no walks and seven strikeouts. On regular rest, the Braves will be banking on similar brilliance from Foltynewicz in Game 5.

The Cardinals will also be sending their Game 2 starter back to the mound on regular rest in Game 5. Jack Flaherty made a couple of mistakes in his postseason debut against the Braves, but he was just as good as Foltynewicz for long stretches of the game. He struck out eight and scattered eight hits. If not for a 7th-inning home run from Adam Duvall, Flaherty would have matched six of the seven scoreless innings that Foltynewicz threw for the Braves. After that performance, the Cardinals should have plenty of confidence in Flaherty starting the decisive game of the series.

X-Factor

The X-factor in Game 5 will be St. Louis outfielder Dexter Fowler. The Cardinals have forced a Game 5 despite Fowler going 1 for 17 in the series. His struggles are well-documented but he was one of the team’s most important hitters during the regular season. He was also 2 for 8 with a home run against Foltynewicz before facing him in Game 2. If the Cardinals are going to do damage against the Atlanta starter, they’ll need their left-handed and switch-hitters to step up and make it happen.

Prediction

The way this series has played out, predicting a winner in Game 5 is as good as flipping a coin. With the Braves being at home and having the more explosive offense, they are a little more likely to come up with the one big hit that decides the series. Atlanta wins 8-7.

Note: This prediction is the opinion of the author and not necessarily the prediction of Jon Price or Sports Information Traders.

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