The city of St. Louis is busy writing another chapter of the legend of Yadier Molina. With a clutch hit to tie Monday’s Game 4 of the National League Division Series against the Atlanta Braves in the eighth and then a walk-off sacrifice fly two innings later, the Cardinals catcher forced a winner-take-all Game 5 set for Wednesday.
Both Atlanta and St. Louis have one win at home and one win on the road in this deadlocked series. Whoever breaks the 2-2 stalemate with a Game 5 win earns the right to take on either the Washington Nationals or top-seeded Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Championship Series.
However, you can be sure that neither team will be looking beyond Wednesday’s game at this point.
So, how did we get here?
The Cardinals were able to steal Game 1 in Atlanta in a 13-run affair by scoring four runs in the ninth inning of a game that was previously tied at 4. The Braves responded with three runs of their own in the bottom of the frame but fell one run short of the visitors.
Games 2 and 3 were won by the Braves, who held St. Louis to just one total run over both contests. Braves right-hander Mike Foltynewicz pitched seven innings of scoreless baseball while giving up just three hits in his Game 2 start.
Mike Soroka started Game 3 for Atlanta. In seven innings, Soroka struck out nine batters while allowing a single earned run on two hits.
And so, the stage is now set for a win-or-go-home Game 5 in Atlanta between the Cardinals and Braves.
Game 5: Cardinals at Braves
At the end of Wednesday’s game between the Cardinals (91-71) and Braves (97-65) in Atlanta, the loser will have played its final game of the season. The prize for the winner: A spot in the NLCS.
Throughout the series, both clubs have been close offensively. While Atlanta has scored 16 runs with four homers, St. Louis has scored 13 runs with four home runs of its own.
In the regular season, the Braves had the better bats by far. With 855 runs scored on the year, Atlanta ranked seventh in the majors. With 764 runs scored, the Cardinals ranked just 19th among all teams.
Jack Flaherty (11-8, 2.75 ERA) is expected to start Game 5 for the Cardinals. The St. Louis right-hander pitched Game 2 of the series, holding the Braves to three runs over seven innings. In two regular-season games against Atlanta this year, the 23-year-old Flaherty allowed just three runs over 12 total innings.
The Braves are expected to send out Foltynewicz (8-5, 4.54 ERA) for his second start of the series. In seven career starts against St. Louis, Foltynewicz is 3-4 with a 7.64 ERA, but he tossed that seven-inning, three-hit, scoreless gem earlier this series.
Foltynewicz has the pleasure of having Ronald Acuna Jr. providing run support for him. Acuna Jr. led the club with 41 homers in the regular season and is now 8-for-16 with three doubles, a triple, and a home run in the NLDS.
What the Odds Say
The Cardinals vs. Braves NLDS feels like one of the closer postseason matchups in recent memory, and Game 5 proves it. In a virtual pick ’em game, Atlanta is the tight favorite at -110, with St. Louis getting even odds.
If you’re looking to place a totals bet, the over/under is set at eight runs. Although Foltynewicz was just about flawless in Game 2 and Flaherty only gave up three runs in that same contest, both lineups should see more success the second time around in such quick succession.
With home-field advantage and the combination of Foltynewicz, Acuna Jr., and Freddie Freeman, the Braves should have what it takes to reach the NLCS, and the odds back that sentiment up, if only by the smallest of margins.
And in a winner-take-all Game 5 in which either manager will likely be quick to replace any pitcher that gets into trouble early, the over is an attractive bet Wednesday night.