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Series Preview 5/14-16: Cardinals at Braves

Can the Cardinals turn things around down south?

MLB: Philadelphia Phillies at St. Louis Cardinals Joe Puetz-USA TODAY Sports

Things can change quickly. I think we all can agree with that.

The Cardinals enter Tuesday with nine losses in their last 11 games and tied for third place in the National League Central division. After they won their fifth game in a row back on the first of May, the Cardinals were 20-10. Now, St. Louis is 22-19.

After a day off on Monday that will hopefully reverse the recent trends, the Cardinals are in Atlanta to open a three-game series with the Braves. The Braves sit a game over .500 at 21-20 and are three games back of the East-leading Phillies.

In Tuesday’s opener, Mike Foltynewicz and Jack Flaherty will take the mound in the 6:20 PM game. Foltynewicz will make his fourth start of the season after missing the first month with a bone spur in his elbow. Foltynewicz, a 2018 All-Star, has not gotten off so hot this year. Batters have combined for a .935 OPS off the 27-year-old in his 16 23 innings of work this season, and Foltynewicz’s K/9 rate is at 5.40; last season, he finished with a 9.93. Paul Goldschmidt is just 2-for-15 facing Foltynewicz, and Marcell Ozuna has nine strikeouts in 20 at-bats.

Flaherty has allowed a total of six earned runs over his last two starts and has logged at least five innings in each one. The problem here is that the Cardinals have been shutout in Flaherty’s most recent outings, tagging him with some tough-luck losses. Flaherty has an 8.53 ERA in three road starts this season, so we’ll have to see if both of these facts can change for the better on Tuesday evening.

The middle game of this series will be started by Mike Soroka. The 2015 first-round pick has been sharp as a member of the Braves’ rotation this season. At just 21 years old, Soroka has a 2.64 FIP in five starts with an impressive 83.3 left on-base percentage across his 29 23 innings pitched. His 2018 season was cut short by right shoulder injuries, but it appears Soroka has healed nicely.

The Cardinals will counter with Michael Wacha. Wacha, too, was a first-round pick — back in 2012. Wacha will make his eighth start of the season on Wednesday and look to work beyond the sixth inning for the first time in 2019. Wacha has allowed at least one homer in five of his seven starts, but he is facing a current Braves lineup that has not taken him deep in the past. Wacha has never faced Atlanta’s home run leader Ronald Acuna Jr.; Acuna is up to eight homers this year.

This three-game series will conclude on Thursday and feature a matchup of Julio Teheran and Adam Wainwright. Teheran has four quality starts this season and has allowed only five earned runs over his last 19 innings. Strikeouts are up for the right-hander, as Teheran leads the staff with 52, and his BB/9 rate is down to 3.91 after a career-high 4.30 last season.

Wainwright was on in his last start. After allowing a home run to Pirates leadoff hitter Adam Frazier to start the game, Wainwright went on to pitch seven strong innings and fan eight batters. It was Wainwright’s longest start of the year. Across his career, Wainwright has a 3.29 ERA in over 90 innings of work against the Braves, the team that drafted the Georgia native back in 2000.

So, to recap:

Tuesday, 5/14, 6:20 | Foltynewicz v Flaherty | MLB Network, FSMW, KMOX, CRN

Wednesday, 5/15, 6:20 | Soroka v Wacha | ESPN, FSMW, KMOX, CRN

Thursday, 5/16, 6:20 | Teheran v Wainwright | MLB Network, FSMW, KMOX, CRN

Notes from around the league:

  • After hitting four homers on Mother’s Day, the Astros hit four more on Monday to enjoy a win over the Tigers. Houston has won nine of its last 10 games.
  • The Yankees placed infielder Miguel Andujar back on the injured list on Monday with a right labrum tear. His ailing shoulder has limited him to just 12 games this year, during which he has batted .128 without an extra-base hit.
  • Cardinals Indians prospect Oscar Mercado may be getting his call soon. Cleveland outfielder Tyler Naquin may need a stint on the injured list, and Mercado’s .294/.396/.496 slash-line at Triple-A is attractive.