The Milwaukee Brewers and defending National League Central Division champion Cincinnati Reds were getting a lot of preseason buzz.
But 25 games into the season, it’s the St. Louis Cardinals who are on top in the NL Central thanks to the hot bats of Matt Holliday, Lance Berkman and Albert Pujols.
The Cardinals, who meet Atlanta in Game 2 of their three-game series Saturday morning at 10:10 (PT) on FOX, have the majors' two top hitters in veterans Holliday and Berkman.
Holliday was batting .433 heading into this series with Berkman hitting .410 with eight homers and 22 RBIs.
St. Louis averaged 2.6 runs per game during the seven games Holliday was out following an emergency appendectomy. In 17 games since Holliday returned, the Cardinals are averaging 6.7 runs per game.
Pujols is batting .328 with six homers and 14 RBIs in his past 15 games entering the series after hitting just .150 with one homer during the first 10 games of the season.
The Braves were 13-13 through their first 26 games. Their strength has been a pitching staff that came into the series ranked fifth in ERA at 3.07 and second in strikeouts.
Atlanta, though, was 29th in batting at .229. The Braves’ offense hasn’t been helped much by their pitchers. Atlanta pitchers have only one hit all season.
The scheduled starters are Jake Westbrook against rookie Brandon Beachy.
Westbrook is 2-2 with a 7.40 ERA. The 33-year-old right-hander worked on three days’ rest for the first time in his 11-year big league career this past Sunday beating Cincinnati and Edinson Volquez, 3-0, as a 115 home favorite.
Westbrook held the Reds to three hits in six innings with four strikeouts and three walks. The combined three runs went ‘under’ the 8 ½-run total. Westbrook induced 10 groundball outs.
The 33-year-old right-hander is 0-1 with a 4.91 ERA in 11 career innings versus Atlanta.
Beachy also pitched well this past Sunday. He limited San Francisco to two runs on three hits in six innings with seven strikeouts and no walks. The Braves won in 10 innings, 9-6. Beachy was a 120 road ‘dog to Jonathan Sanchez. The combined 15 runs flew ‘over’ the 7 ½-run total.
It was Beachy’s second strong performance in a row. He beat the Los Angeles Dodgers, 10-1, on April 19 as a 105 road ‘dog against Hiroki Kuroda. Beachy held the Dodgers scoreless in his six innings giving up only two hits with sevens strikeouts and two walks.
The 24-year-old righty is 1-1 with a 3.68 ERA and 1.09 WHIP. Beachy has never faced St. Louis.
The Cardinals won six of eight meetings against the Braves last year. The teams split a four-game September series at Turner Field.
The Cardinals are 11-4-1 to the ‘over’ in their previous 16 games through this past Thursday. They are 19-7-1 ‘over’ during their last 27 road contests.
Atlanta had played five ‘overs’ in a row going into Game 1 of the series. The ‘under,’ though, had cashed in six of Atlanta’s past seven games at Turner Field.
The ‘over’ was 4-0-1 during the last five games between these two teams when playing in Atlanta entering the series.
Chipper Jones had driven in nine runs in his past five games heading into the series. Braves catcher Brian McCann leads the majors in hitting with runners in scoring position at .688.
The Saturday forecast is for temperatures in the 70s with six mph winds blowing out to left and a three percent chance of rain.
The series concludes on Sunday. The Cardinals then open a seven-game homestand on Monday taking on Florida for four games followed by Milwaukee.
The Braves host the Brewers for four games beginning on Monday.