The Atlanta Braves host the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday in Game 5 of the National League Division Series, a fitting winner-take-all matchup after the teams split the opening four games in wild, dramatic fashion. The finale features a rematch of Game 2 starters Jack Flaherty for St. Louis and Mike Foltynewicz for Atlanta, and the Braves will look to jump-start an offense that squandered numerous chances to clinch the series in a 5-4, 10-inning loss in Game 4.
Atlanta's middle of the lineup quintet of Freddie Freeman, Josh Donaldson, Nick Markakis, Matt Joyce and Brian McCann are a combined 10-for-70 in the series with one homer, three RBIs and 16 strikeouts. The Braves have survived offensively thanks in large part to three players: 21-year-old Ronald Acuna Jr. (8-for-16, three doubles and a 1.579 OPS), Dansby Swanson (7-for-14 with three doubles in his postseason debut) and Adam Duvall (five RBIs in seven at-bats after spending most of the season in the minors). The Cardinals have been outscored 16-13 in the series and have leaned heavily on Marcell Ozuna (two homers in Game 4, 8-for-17 in the series with four RBIs) and Paul Goldschmidt (1.563 OPS in the series with seven hits, four doubles and two homers). Among the Cardinals looking to break out in the series finale are Dexter Fowler (one hit in 17 at-bats), All-Star Paul DeJong (two hits with six strikeouts in 14 at-bats) and Kolten Wong, who is healed from a hamstring injury but is 3-for-17.
TV: 5:02 p.m. ET, TBS
PITCHING MATCHUP: Cardinals RH Jack Flaherty (0-1, 3.86 ERA) vs. Braves RH Mike Foltynewicz (1-0, 0.00)
Flaherty was outstanding despite taking the loss in Game 2, giving up a first-inning run and a two-run homer to Duvall in the seventh while finishing with eight hits allowed, one walk and eight strikeouts in his postseason debut. It marked only the second time the 23-year-old has surrendered more than two earned runs in his past 17 starts, with 58 hits, 25 walks and 138 strikeouts in 113 1/3 innings in that span. Flaherty, whose 117 pitches in Game 2 were the most by a St. Louis hurler in his playoff debut since 2001 (Woody Williams, 133), is 1-2 in three career starts at SunTrust Park (including Game 2) with 11 runs allowed in 17 2/3 innings.
Foltynewicz dominated the Cardinals in Game 2, striking out seven with no walks and three hits allowed in seven scoreless innings to earn his first career postseason victory and continue his revival since returning from a mid-summer trip to the minors. The 28-year-old is 5-1 with a 1.69 ERA in his past nine starts dating to Aug. 17, giving up 10 earned runs (11 total) on 35 hits in 53 1/3 innings with 13 walks and 48 strikeouts in that stretch. Foltynewicz, who went 0-1 with five runs allowed in six innings in two starts against the Dodgers in last year's NLDS, has surrendered eight hits with four walks and 16 strikeouts across 20 shutout innings in his past three home outings.
1. Atlanta is 4-for-34 with runners in scoring position in the series and has left 30 runners on base, while St. Louis has stranded 27 runners while hitting 4-for-31 with runners on second and/or third.
2. Goldschmidt and Ozuna have combined for 11 of the Cardinals 16 extra-base hits in the series.
3. The Braves have not won a playoff series since the 2001 NLDS.