With the calendar officially hitting September, the Braves and Cardinals look ready to go for the Postseason.
Atlanta Braves (86-54, 1st Place NL East, 6.5 Game Lead)
The young Atlanta core has lived up to its expectations as the team now looks like a lock to win the division. As I’ve mentioned before, their lineup is top tier. Ronald Acuna may put together a 40-40 season, as he currently has 36 homers and 33 steals as of September 3rd. Ozzie Albies is having a great sophomore campaign,, slashing .287/.348/.483 for an OPS of .831. And Freddie Freeman continues to be the MVP of this team. Freeman is hitting .298 on the season with 38 dingers and 114 RBI’s. His OPS is currently sitting at .966.
With the monster season that Freeman is having, their pitching has been able to back things up as well. The young rotation has fared well, but Julio Teheran has had another productive season. He’s allowing far fewer home runs this season compared to last. Taking a look at his stat line last season, his numbers were solid, but many of the runs he gave up were off the long ball. His opposing average last season was .193 compared to this season’s .222, a mark he also hit in 2016. While his numbers from this season and last are almost identical, his ERA is much better, which may be credited to the fantastic fielding that backs him.
Max Fried and Mike Soroka are also having productive seasons, as they have a 4.05 and 2.53 ERA’s, respectively. Soroka’s 1.10 WHIP ranks 20th in the majors among starting pitchers. While Mike Foltynewicz is struggling after a great season a year ago, Dallas Kuechel is pitching well after the Braves signed him in early June. In his 84.2 innings of work he has a 3.72 ERA and 1.32 WHIP to go with it.
The Braves kicked off a two-game series against the Blue Jays at home on Monday night. Mike Soroka took the mound for Atlanta and he pitched well enough to earn the win. He went five innings in which he gave up 3 runs while striking out 6.
Josh Donaldson kicked things off with a bang in the first inning. He launched his 34th home run of the season in two-run form to give the Braves the early 2-0 lead. In the third, Dansby Swanson hit a ground ball that ate up third baseman Brandon Drury, which allowed two runs to score.
It wasn’t until the 4th inning that Toronto responded. Randal Grichuk hit a solo homer to put the Jays on the board. Rowdy Tellez hit a 455-foot homer to cut the deficit to two in the 5th, and later that inning Grichuk hit a sac fly that scored Bo Bichette to make it a one-run game. In the 8th, with one on, Johan Camargo’s home run gave the Braves some insurance to make it a 6-3 ballgame. The Braves would go on to win by that same score.
With the help of a 5-inning shutout performance from Mike Foltynewicz, Atlanta again knocked off Toronto last night by a final score of 7-2. Tyler Flowers, Josh Donaldson, and Ozzie Albies did all of the heavy lifting for the Braves, combining for all 7 of the team’s RBIs.
Atlanta will now welcome in the 2nd place Nationals for a four-game series on Thursday. The Braves are winners of 14 out of their last 16 and will look to ride their hot streak into the playoffs.
St. Louis Cardinals (78-60, 1st Place NL Central, 3 Game Lead)
I kind of, maybe, sort of bashed the Cardinals the other week by saying they wouldn’t make the playoffs because their lineup and rotation are both below average. Well, they have entirely proved me wrong.
St. Louis currently holds the lead in the NL Central by 3 games over the Cubs. Going 8-2 in their last 10 games, the Cardinals’ pitching staff has been incredible. Jack Flaherty posted a 0.71 ERA in his six August starts. Dakota Hudson also had a great month of August posting a 2.38 ERA with a 1.12 WHIP. These two have carried the load in the rotation and have a big part in the reason as to why the Cardinals hold first place.
Carlos Martinez has been electric out of the bullpen. While his days as a starting pitcher may be over, he may fit well in the bullpen. With a 3.23 ERA on the season, he has 17 saves and a 9.92 K/9 to go along with it. His production out of the pen may be greater than what he is able to do on the mound as a starter. Regardless, he’s been a great piece for the Cardinals bullpen.
The Cards kicked off the first of four on Monday against the Giants. Adam Wainwright took the mound for St. Louis at home against Tyler Beede. Kolton Wong started the scoring in the first frame with an RBI triple. Later that same inning, Paul Goldschmidt’s RBI groundout made it a 2-0 contest. Later on in the 3rd inning, Paul DeJong smoked an RBI single up the middle to increase the lead making it 3-0.
The Giants were held scoreless until the 8th inning until Mauricio Dubon plated San Fran’s only run of the afternoon with his first career homer. Adam Wainwright was fantastic. The 38-year-old pitched 7 shutout innings allowing just 4 hits. Although he only struck out one batter, he did not walk anyone. Carlos Martinez came in for the four-out save and did so perfectly while picking up two K’s. The Cardinals went on to win 3-1.
St. Louis has won 20 out of their last 24 contests. Fangraphs currently gives them a 90.5% chance of making the playoffs, with a 62.6% chance of winning the division. The Cardinals are the hottest team in baseball, and they may have secured themselves a playoff spot after their piping hot month of August.
The Cardinals took yet another game from San Francisco last night and look to continue their scorching stretch against Madison Bumgarner tonight to further extend their NL Central lead.
Waiver Wire Targets
Kevin Newman, Pittsburgh Pirates (31.6% owned/ESPN)
With fantasy baseball playoffs starting, Kevin Newman is a fantastic pickup for your team. Over the last seven days, he’s hitting .500 with 3 homers and 6 RBI’s. The guy gets on base and his .357 OBP shows that. He plays both positions in the middle infield and he’s a consistent option who will get you runs, hits, RBI’s, you name it. He’s a great depth option who needs to be rostered in the playoffs.
Dakota Hudson, St. Louis Cardinals (50.2% owned/ESPN)
As I just mentioned before, Hudson and the Cardinals are on fire. In three starts between August 14th and 24th, Hudson allowed 0 runs in 18.2 innings with 13 punch outs. In his most recent start, he allowed four runs but went 7.2 innings while striking out eight. He gave up just four hits, but unfortunately gave up a home run in the end to ruin a fantastic start. With how well he is pitching as of late, he’s deserving of a spot on a fantasy baseball playoff roster.
Retired Little League baseball utility player.