Entering the final game of a three-game set in St. Louis, the Braves have an opportunity to sweep the Cardinals on Thursday. This would put Atlanta over .500 and give them three consecutive victories, which almost feels like an impossible feat to accomplish this season. However, recent additions have augmented the roster and the club seems to have been legitimately improved over the past week.
The Braves saw two flashes of brilliance from Touki Toussaint following his recent callup. The right-hander was outstanding against both the Padres and Phillies, inspiring hope that command issues from the past would remain in the rearview mirror. That was not the case in his last outing against the Brewers, who tattooed Toussaint to the tune of seven earned runs in 31⁄3 innings, including three homers. Touki can be dominant with his incredible arsenal, but when his command falters the results can be disastrous. Atlanta will hope for a bounceback from the 25-year-old tonight.
Opposing Toussaint will be Cardinals left-hander Wade LeBlanc, who owns an 0-2 record with a 4.17 ERA this season. The veteran has been employed by four different organizations in 2021, with St. Louis signing him in mid-June. LeBlanc has made 16 appearances this season, seven of which were starts, for the Orioles and Cardinals. Despite his ugly stat line for the season, LeBlanc has actually been mildly serviceable for St. Louis recently. He owns a 3.15 ERA for the Cardinals, but his 5.53 xFIP indicates that regression will hit hard at some point. The Braves hope that occurs on Thursday.
LeBlanc fits the bill of a crafty lefty, heavily featuring five different offerings. His fastball, cutter, and sinker each live in the high-80’s, while his changeup hovers in the low-80’s and his curveball in the low-70’s. This mixture gives hitters plenty to account for, but his 14.4% K-rate indicates that contact has rarely been the issue. If some batted-ball regression arrives for Atlanta, there should be little stopping the offense from delivering against LeBlanc.
Among current Braves, Guillermo Heredia surprisingly has the best career numbers against Leblanc. He has three hits, including a homer, in six careers at-bats. Expect to see Heredia earn the start in the outfield on Thursday.
The Braves can clinch a very important sweep tonight and have a favorable matchup against the opposing pitcher. The key will be which Touki Toussaint shows up for Atlanta. The Braves enter play just 2.5 games behind the Mets for the division lead and appear to have righted the ship in some small way. Perpetuating their offensive success while getting yet another solid outing from Toussaint would build confidence throughout the clubhouse. Can the Braves get it done?
Game Date/Time: Thursday, August 5, 8:15 p.m. ET
Location: Busch Stadium, St. Louis, Missouri
TV: Bally Sports South
Radio: 680 AM / 93.7 FM The Fan, WNNX 100.5, Braves Radio Network