After a couple of late rallies on Friday and an offensive explosion on Saturday delivered a series victory to the Braves in June’s final days, they will attempt to secure a sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals to begin the month of July. While the Braves have won a ton of series this year, they actually haven’t pulled off a three-game sweep since doing so to the Mets during the first three games of May. That’s actually been the team’s only three-game sweep so far, though they did pull of mini-sweeps of the Mets and Rays in two games each as well. The Cardinals, meanwhile, have only endured one sweep — by the Pirates, in Pittsburgh, during the last days of April.
The Braves will send Mike Foltynewicz to the hill in their pursuit of a sweep. The big man nicknamed “Folty” has been a top 20 starter in MLB so far, with a 2.14 ERA, 3.09 FIP, and 3.54 xFIP (54, 78, 88 on a minus basis). Last time out, Folty allowed just one run in five innings (on a solo homer) to the Reds while walking four and striking out four in his return from a brief Disabled List stint that saw him skip one turn in the rotation. Foltynewicz has only lasted five innings in each of his three most recent starts; before that stretch he had shut out the Nationals for all nine innings as one of the season’s best pitching performances. While the Braves may want more longevity to save their overtaxed bullpen, they can’t complain about his run prevention, as he has allowed only allowed three runs in those three starts with a wicked 18/7 K/BB ratio.
St. Louis will rely on John Gant’s right arm to try and stave off a sweep. Gant was part of (really, the only notable part) the package the Braves sent to the Cardinals in the pre-2017 offseason for Jaime Garcia, and has stepped into the rotation void created by Michael Wacha’s injury after working out of the bullpen earlier this season. Gant’s journey with the Cardinals has been a winding one: he pitched okay for them in Triple-A in 2017 but did poorly in two starts and five relief appearances, and ended up starting the 2018 season in Triple-A as a result. Since his callup in late April he has served a variety of roles for the team, including spot starter and long reliever, and is now taking a second consecutive rotation turn for the second time this year.
On the year, Gant has a 3.48 ERA, 2.92 FIP, and 4.09 xFIP. His numbers aren’t too different across his four starts versus his five relief outings (104, 74, 94 as a starter on a minus basis; 59, 71, 116 as a reliever on a minus basis). Up until his last start, he had featured better peripherals than run prevention, as he allowed four, five (three earned), and three runs in those outings while posting a smooth 19/4 K/BB ratio. Everything kind of flipped last Monday against the Indians, however, as he hurled seven scoreless frames and allowed just one hit despite a 4/5 K/BB ratio.
Gant heavily relies on his vulcan changeup, which neutralizes much of the inherent advantage that lefties have against him. So far this season, his FIP is pretty much the same against both lefties and righties.
With last night’s victory, the Braves have pushed their division lead to three games over the Phillies, and five games over the Nationals, through June. They trail the Brewers by half a game for the best record in the National League and maintain baseball’s sixth-best record.
Atlanta Braves at St. Louis Cardinals
Sunday, July 1, 2018
2:15 pm EDT
Busch Stadium, St. Louis, MO
TV: Fox Sports South, MLB Network (out of market), MLB.tv
Radio: 680 AM/93.7 FM, WYAY 106.7, Braves Radio Network