Both the Braves and the Cardinals announced their Game 1 starters for the NLDS Monday afternoon. As expected, Dallas Keuchel will take the bump for the Braves, with Miles Mikolas doing so for the Cardinals.
Keuchel was the prize Alex Anthopoulos gifted the Braves in the middle of the season. The former Cy Young settled for a prorated one-year deal worth 20 million dollars with Atlanta in early June, and before the month was over, he was game-ready.
It took him about six weeks to find his groove, which isn’t surprising considering the lengthy layoff, but by the middle of August, Keuchel was pitching as well as anybody in baseball. He went 5-0 with a 0.97 ERA in his next six starts but did see some regression in his final three outings of the regular season. The Braves dropped all three games, and Keuchel recorded a 6.19 ERA. But there is a reason Anthopoulos backed up the Brinks truck to acquire a World Champion starting pitcher – for moments like these. He’s the only pitcher in the Braves rotation with substantial postseason experience, and the Braves believe he’s the best fit to handle the massive amounts of pressure of a Game 1 at home.
Miles Mikolas put together a breakout 2018, making his first All-Star team, finishing with an 18-4 record and a 2.83 ERA. He hasn’t been the same pitcher in 2019. Mikolas led the league in losses (14) and finished with only nine wins and a 4.16 ERA. An even better sign for Atlanta is that Mikolas was much better at home than he was on the road. At Busch Stadium, he boasted an ERA of 3.01 with a 5.40 ERA away from home. Mikolas did pitch against the Braves earlier this year in Atlanta, and performed pretty well, tossing seven innings of three-run ball, but the Braves would win 5-2.
Mikolas may no longer be the Cardinals ace – that title belongs to Jack Flaherty – but he’s been much more consistent of late. Over the last month, he has a 3.04 ERA, and in the last two weeks, he’s recorded a 2.86 ERA. This will be a fair test for a lineup that is battling injuries to several key players. The Braves will need the back half of their order to produce if they want to get off on the right foot Thursday night against the Cardinals.