After taking two of three in Washington, the Atlanta Braves will continue their season-opening road trip Monday when they begin a three-game series against the St. Louis Cardinals. Atlanta won the first two games in Washington before dropping the finale in Jared Shuster’s debut.
It wasn’t all great for Atlanta, who saw Max Fried exit the opener in the fourth inning due to a hamstring strain. Fried would have been lined up to start Wednesday’s game against the Cardinals, but will miss that start and is likely headed to the Injured List.
Matt Olson continued his red-hot spring in the opening series going 4-for-11 at the plate with a double and two home runs. Travis d’Arnaud had four hits in the opener and was 6-for-13 in the series. Ronald Acuña Jr. led off Saturday’s game with his first home run of the year and was 3-for-13 with a stolen base.
The Cardinals began the season with a series win over the Toronto Blue Jays and banged out 22 runs and 41 hits in the three games. Nolan Gorman homered twice in Sunday’s 9-4 win while rookie Jordan Walker is 4-for-12 with a double over the first three games of his major league career. The Cardinals are expected to win a relatively weak NL Central and have gotten off to a good start against a tough opponent, so this shouldn’t be a pushover of a series. The Braves aren’t favored to win the series, but it seems really unlikely that they’ll get swept.
Monday, April 3, 7:45 p.m. ET (Bally Sports Southeast)
Charlie Morton (2022: 31 GS, 172.0 IP, 28.2 K%, 8.7 BB%, 39.8 GB%, 4.34 ERA, 4.26 FIP)
Veteran right-hander Charlie Morton will make his first start of the season in Monday’s series opener. Morton had an up-and-down 2022, but still tallied 200 strikeouts. He has recorded at least 200 strikeouts in each of the past four full seasons (excluding 2020). Morton faced the Cardinals once in 2022, where he allowed four runs over five innings, including a pair of homers. He allowed a career-worst 28 home runs and had a 5.72 ERA, 5.09 FIP, and 4.21 xFIP in 15 starts away from Truist Park.
Jake Woodford (2022: 27 G, 1 GS, 48.1 IP, 12.8 K%, 5.9 BB%, 52.0 GB%, 2.23 ERA, 3.13 FIP)
Jake Woodford worked mostly out of the bullpen for the Cardinals in 2022, but he will make his first start of the season in Monday’s series opener. Woodford moved into the rotation replacing Adam Wainwright, who hit the Injured List with a groin strain, after a strong showing in the spring. Monday’s game will be Woodford’s first career appearance against the Braves. Woodford’s arsenal is incredibly grounder-oriented, which could either work out really well if the Braves elevate, or really poorly if they’re stuck in a grounder rut like they were in Sunday’s loss in Washington.
Tuesday, April 4, 7:45 p.m. ET (Bally Sports South)
Dylan Dodd (Double A: 9 GS, 46.1 IP, 28.4 K%, 6.7 BB%, 38.7 GB%, 3.11 ERA, 3.87 FIP)
Dylan Dodd will be the second Atlanta rookie left-hander to make his major league debut in the team’s first five games, after Jared Shuster made his debut Sunday. Dodd turned heads during the spring with his performance as he and Shuster took hold of the competition for the fifth starter spot. The Braves opted to have Kyle Wright begin the season on the Injured List to give him more time to ramp up after a spring shortened by shoulder concerns. That opened the door for Dodd to begin the season in the rotation. Dodd currently isn’t on the active roster, so Atlanta will have to make a roster move prior to Tuesday.
Steven Matz (2022: 15 G, 10 GS, 48.0 IP, 26.1 K%, 4.8 BB%, 38.3 GB%, 5.25 ERA, 3.78 FIP)
Injuries limited Steven Matz to just 15 games and 10 starts in 2022. He is hoping that some changes to his offseason training program will lead to a healthy campaign in 2023. Matz turned in a strong performance during the spring to lock down a spot in the Cardinals’ rotation. He didn’t face the Braves in 2022, but has a 3.42 ERA, 4.06 FIP, 4.07 xFIP in 79 innings in his career against Atlanta.
Matz has generally been effective, just not healthy, with a career 106 ERA-, 104 FIP-, and 93 xFIP-. He turned a career-best season in 2021 (2.8 fWAR) and pitched even better last year despite the injuries.
Wednesday, April 5, 1:15 p.m. ET (Bally Sports South)
The Braves haven’t announced their plan for Wednesday’s start, but all signs point to it being Bryce Elder. The team still hasn’t placed Fried on the Injured List, but can backdate the assignment for up to three days when the move is needed. Elder started Friday’s season opener for Gwinnett and would be on regular rest for Wednesday’s game.
Miles Mikolas (2022: 33 G, 32 GS, 202.1 IP, 19.0 K%, 4.8 BB%, 45.0 GB%, 3.29 ERA, 3.87 FIP)
Miles Mikolas will make his second start of the season Wednesday and will be looking to bounce back after a rough debut. Mikolas didn’t make it out of the fourth inning on Opening Day, where he allowed 10 hits and five runs in just 3 1/3 innings. That came just days after he and the Cardinals agreed on a two-year extension that will pay him at least $40 million. It was a real hard-luck outing, as Mikolas had a 6/0 K/BB ratio while the runs piled up. He has a 3.04 ERA, 4.88 FIP, and 4.01 xFIP in five career appearances (four starts, 26 2⁄3 innings) against Atlanta.