Atlanta Braves Vs. St. Louis Cardinals MLB National League Divisional Round Game 5 Preview

Yadier Molina #4 of the St. Louis Cardinals hits a walk-off sacrifice fly to give his team the 5-4 win over the Atlanta Braves in game four of the National League Division Series at Busch Stadium on October 07, 2019 in St Louis, Missouri.
Jamie Squire / Getty Images

It’s all to play for tonight as the Braves and Cardinals meet in a decisive Game 5 that will determine whose World Series dreams will continue into the National League Championship, as reported by Sports Illustrated. The Braves will look to gather themselves after a disappointing Game 4 loss as they return to SunTrust Park in Cumberland, Georgia, with the hopes that the home field advantage can give them an edge.

It looked like the Braves wouldn’t need this game and could secure progression in St. Louis’ Busch Stadium as they entered the eighth inning of Game 4 with a 4-3 lead. That all changed thanks to some late-inning heroics by the Cardinals’ 37-year-old catcher Yadier Molina, who pulled off a clutch hit in the eighth and a clinching sacrifice fly in the 10th to keep the Cardinals’ World Series hopes alive. In a series that hasn’t seen either team win consecutive games, the Cardinals will hope their Game 4 momentum can carry them into the National League Championship.

Game 5 will see the Cardinals’ Jack Flaherty and the Braves’ Mike Foltynewicz face off once again after their matchup in Game 2. Flaherty had been putting up historical numbers, holding a 0.91 ERA, the third-lowest in major league history, according to USA Today. That didn’t mean much to the Braves, as they took the lead in the first inning off a Josh Donaldson single before Flaherty gave up a two-run homer in the seventh that sealed the Braves’ victory. While Flaherty’s three runs and eight hits allowed is only a poor performance by his own standards, the Braves handled his typically dominant four-seam fastball better than most and forced him to dig deeper into his collection of pitches. Still, it’s no guarantee that Atlanta has him figured out, and it would be no surprise if Flaherty bounces back with a historic performance.

Yadier Molina #4 of the St. Louis Cardinals is congratulated by his teammates after he hits a walk-off sacrifice fly to give his team the 5-4 win over the Atlanta Braves in game four of the National League Division Series at Busch Stadium on October 07, 2019 in St Louis, Missouri.
  Scott Kane / Getty Images

On the other hand, Foltynewicz kept a shutout over seven innings, holding the Cardinals to only three hits. His dominant performance has been part of a major turnaround for the pitcher who spent the majority of the summer playing for the Braves’ Triple-A affiliate Gwinnett Stripers after a poor start to the season. Foltynewicz found major success with his slider, a pitch he will have to once again rely on to secure Atlanta’s progress.

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The starting pitching matchup is pivotal for both teams, as the bullpens of the Braves and Cardinals have let them down throughout the series. St. Louis’ Carlos Martinez has given up three runs in the ninth inning on two different occasions this series, while the Braves’ two losses have been the results of blown leads by the bullpen. In a series that has seen three of the four games decided in the ninth inning or later, the bullpen that keeps it together will likely determine who progresses.

Despite this matchup looking like a potential pitchers duel, it would be no surprise to see Ronald Acuña Jr. become the deciding factor in the game. The 2019 all-star has gone 8-16 so far this series, with three doubles, a triple, a home run, and three walks. While Atlanta’s offense has been carried by the 2018 Rookie of the Year, the starting catcher of St. Louis’ 2006 World Series team has been the player that has gotten the Cardinals this far. It could take this veteran experience to seal progression in what should be another hotly-contested game in what has been one of the most entertaining series in the playoffs.