The Atlanta Braves swept the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday night and now face a tough outing for the next three games as they travel to St. Louis to take on the Cardinals.
This series matches the Braves against a side on course to claim the National League Central Division crown.
Atlanta Braves vs. St. Louis Cardinals, Game one of three
Busch Stadium, St. Louis, Missouri
01:15, Saturday 27th August, 2022
|How to watch||BT Sport, MLB.TV, bet365 Sports Live Streaming platform|
|Odds||ATL Braves 20/29, STL Cardinals 5/4|
It was hugely important for the Atlanta Braves to take the series against their NL East divisional rivals, the New York Mets, recently at Truist Park.
The Braves won three out of the four matches and closed the gap at the top to three and a half games back.
Since then, the Mets have faltered even further losing a two-game series to their city rivals the Yankees, while the Braves capitalised by beating the Houston Astros 2-1 and sweeping the Pirates 3-0.
While the Mets won on Thursday night, the lead they hold is down to just two and a half games and, while New York is expecting to be toiling against the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Braves will have the Colorado Rockies coming into town.
A huge opportunity to take the lead in the Division, with a little over a month to go.
The Braves have been excellent in their relentless pursuit of the Mets. Atlanta are desperate to retain their NL East Division crown for a fifth time in succession and win back-to-back World Series for the first time since the Yankees retained their title in 2000.
The Cardinals have just enjoyed beating their divisional rivals, the Chicago Cubs, over a five-game series.
The Cards moved to six games in front at the top of the NL Central Division over the Milwaukee Brewers, whose form is disappearing, as they are now 1.5 games away from a Wild Card place also.
Some of this recent good form for the Cardinals has been thanks to their superstar, Paul Goldschmidt.
The 34-year-old first baseman has been in tremendous form this season and is on course for the National League Triple Crown. Goldschmidt is leading the NL in batting average, .339. He is second in home runs (33) and first in RBI's with 105.
The NL Triple Crown is such a rare feat that it hasn't been accomplished since 1937, when Joe 'Ducky' Medwick did it. Other notable players to claim a Triple Crown are Ted Williams (twice), Rogers Hornsby (twice), Mickey Mantle and Lou Gehrig.
Goldschmidt was quite coy when he spoke to the official St. Louis website following the Cardinals win against the Cubs on Wednesday, saying: "Listen, if something like that happened it would be a miracle.
"To think that's realistic is probably far-fetched. Like I said, if something like that did happen, it would be pretty amazing, but to think that it's a goal for anyone, that's a crazy standard."
Before this season, Goldschmidt had hit .300 four times, smashed at least 30 home runs six times and driven in 100 runs three times.
He finished second in the NL MVP race in 2013 and 2015 and third in 2017. This season he has been sensational, could he guide the Cardinals to a first World Series title since 2011.
Pitching for the Braves on Friday night will be Spencer Strider. The rookie has a 7-4 record with a 2.95 ERA.
Strider got a no-decision the last time he pitched against the Houston Astros, however the 23-year-old struck out nine and gave up two walks.
On the mound for the Cardinals will be Jose Quintana. The 33-year-old has a 4-5 record with a 3.45 ERA, but had a poor game against the Arizona Diamondbacks the last time he pitched.
Quintana was pulled after 2.2 innings after giving up seven hits and two earned runs, walking three batters and not striking anyone out.
If the Braves sweep this series, then I can see them going on to win the NL East Division title ahead of the Mets, who are limping at present.
However, the Cardinals have quests of their own and they will want to wrap up their divisional title quickly as well, so this series could be an intriguing preview of what also could play out in the play-offs later this season.