The Wild Card round is over, and the Division Series are finally upon us. After six months, we are down to just eight teams left. While the National League seems like it is just a small road bump for the Los Angeles Dodgers, or so Vegas says, there are still three teams that would like something to say about that.
The St. Louis Cardinals and Atlanta Braves are both coming off very impressive seasons. The Braves were a popular breakout team choice, but the Cardinals were quite a surprise this season. In a division that had the Chicago Cubs and the Milwaukee Braves, the Cardinals rode a hot second half to 91 wins and a division title.
The Cardinals will send Miles Mikolas to the mound in Game 1 of the NLDS. After an incredible 2018 season that saw Mikolas finish 18-4 with a sub-3 ERA, he was in line to become the team’s ace in 2019. However, Mikolas fell completely flat this season and stumbled to a 9-14 record and a 4.16 ERA.
He did, however, put together a solid month of September to gain some momentum going into the playoffs. He went 1-1 with a 3.34 ERA in 29 2/3 innings. The major problem that Mikolas is having this season compared to last is his inability to keep the ball in the park. His home run numbers have nearly doubled from 2018. He gave up only 16 in 32 starts last year while giving up 27 in the same number of starts in 2019.
Mikolas’ HF/FB% went from 9.2 to 16.1, and his HR/9 0.72 to 1.32. If he wants to help this team win in October, he has to keep the ball in the park because nothing kills a pitcher in the playoffs more than home runs.
The Braves will be sending left-hander Dallas Keuchel to the mound in Game 1 in what will be his 20th start of the season. Keuchel had a very solid season since joining Atlanta in June. Without a spring training to get himself ready, he performed admirably. He finished 2019 with an 8-8 record and a 3.75 ERA.
Keuchel isn’t coming into October coming off the best September, unfortunately. He lost his last three starts after going on a five-start win streak. However, what Keuchel does have is postseason excellence. Coming over from Houston, he has thrived in the playoffs. This will be his 10th start and 11th appearance in the playoffs, and he holds a 4-2 record with a 3.31 ERA.
Batter To Watch
The Braves were one of the best hitting teams in the league this year, finishing ninth in batting average and seventh in runs, and Ronald Acuna Jr. was a major reason why. The 21-year-old had a monster year, hitting .280 with 41 home runs, 101 RBI, and 37 stolen bases.
The Braves have a lot of terrific hitters with Freddie Freeman, Ozzie Albies, Josh Donaldson and so on. But, there are not many people I’m more excited to watch this postseason than Acuna.
The Cardinals had a Cinderella season of sorts. Vegas had their over/under on season wins at 88.5, and they exceeded that and won the division. It was a great story, but I think it ends here. The Braves are both an excellent hitting and pitching team, and I’m not sure the Cards have what it takes to keep up. Take the Braves.