ST. LOUIS, MO - MAY 13: Lance Berkman #12 of the St. Louis Cardinals reacts to striking out against the Atlanta Braves at Busch Stadium on May 13, 2012 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
After playing 27 straight games against mediocre National League Central opponents, the Cardinals are broadening their baseball horizons. If the sweep against the defending National League West champion in the desert built confidence in this high-scoring Cardinals flock, the invasion of the Braves has given cause for concern. Jason Heyward's two-run homer off of Kyle McClellan in the twelfth inning broke a 7-7 tie, the Braves spent sixteen of the remaining eighteen innings of the series in the lead.
The Cardinals entered play on Friday with a +74 run differential, 68.4% of which was tallied against NL Central opponents. The Braves proved an altogether different type of challenge. Their deep offense, ranked second in the NL in runs scored entering play on Friday, had no problems scoring on the previously stingy Cardinals pitching staff. Atlanta averaged 7.7 runs per game this series against the Cardinals. The Braves trimmed the Cards' run differential to +65 over the three-game series.
The NL Central rival Cubs come to town tomorrow for an odd two-game series. After that, there will be 19 straight games and 37 out of the next 40 games for the Cardinals will come against non-NL Central teams. Beating up on NL Central foes is fun and all, but we may very well get an idea of just how good this Cardinals club is over this upcoming stretch.