Dallas Keuchel (8-8, 3.75 ERA) vs. Miles Mikolas (9-14, 4.16 ERA)
Not the typical numbers you see from Game 1 starters in a playoff series, but both of these guys have been better of late. Keuchel joined the Braves in the middle of the season, and it took him a little over a month to find his groove. But since August 14th, he is 5-3 with a 2.55 ERA. However, all three of those losses came in his last three outings, as he posted a 6.19 ERA. Even still, the former Cy Young Award winner and World Series champion has pitched his best at SunTrust Park this season, and there isn’t an arm in the Braves rotation better-suited to handle the pressure of Game 1 in the NLDS at home.
Mikolas has a 3.03 ERA over his previous six starts, and his last outing was 7.2 innings of two-run ball in a must-win game against the Cubs. The Cardinals trust this guy after he was an All-Star and an eighteen game-winner for them in 2018. Neither of these pitchers strikes out many batters, and they both do a phenomenal job of pitching to contact and avoiding the longball. Game 1 could come down to which team plays better defense.
Mike Foltynewicz (8-6, 4.54 ERA) vs. Jack Flaherty (11-8, 2.75 ERA)
This is the game the Cardinals will have circled in this series. Flaherty’s numbers for the season have been spectacular, but he’s been on another planet since the All-Star break, recording a 0.91 ERA. The only reason Flaherty isn’t starting Game 1 is because he was forced to pitch on Sunday so the Cardinals could clinch their division. He has 231 strikeouts in 196.1 innings pitched, and opponents are only hitting .192 against him. If the Braves can find a way to win Game 2, you have to like their chances of advancing to the NLCS.
Atlanta has the perfect guy on the mound to pull the upset too. Mike Foltynewicz’s 2019 got off to the worst possible start anybody could have imagined, and soon enough, he found himself in AAA for over a month. But whatever they fed him on the farm worked, as Folty has returned even better than his 2018 form. Prior to his last start, which was an abbreviated outing against the Mets with the division already in hand, the Braves had won the last nine games Foltynewicz had appeared in since being brought back to Atlanta. He recorded a 2.35 ERA over those previous nine contests and performed his best last month. When Folty’s on, like he’s been in August and September, he’s as electric as any pitcher in the bigs.
Mike Soroka (13-4, 2.68 ERA) vs. Adam Wainwright (14-10, 4.19 ERA)
Soroka wasn’t far off from becoming the second pitcher ever to win the Cy Young as a rookie. Had the Braves not been cautious of his pitch count the entire season, he might have done it. Regardless, Soroka has been the ace of Atlanta’s staff all season. The Braves don’t want to put the pressure of a Game 1 start on him, and he’s been substantially better on the road (1.55 ERA in 16 starts) than at home (4.14 ERA in 13 starts). No matter the situation, Atlanta will feel confident about taking Game 3 with Soroka on the mound.
The Cardinals announced Dakota Hudson will be available out of the bullpen in Games 1 and 2, meaning Adam Wainwright should take the mound in Game 3 with Hudson as an option as the starter in Game 4 if necessary. Wainwright isn’t the spectacle that he once was but has gobs of playoff experience, dating back to 2006. In a ridiculous 89 career postseason innings, he’s 3-4 but boasts an outstanding 3.03 ERA