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Cards, Braves square off NL Wild Card Preview

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS (88-74) at ATLANTA BRAVES (94-68) Line & Total: Atlanta -165 & 6.5 over -120

As major league baseball debuts its one-game Wild Card playoff on Friday, the Cardinals will travel to Atlanta in a win-or-die showdown.

The Cardinals finished the season riding the back of their pitching with 12 wins in their final 16 games. In that span, St. Louis gave up just 2.4 runs per game. Despite closing out the season with a series loss to the Pirates, Atlanta also finished the season with stellar pitching, winning eight of their last 11, allowing three or fewer runs in all but one of those games. Kris Medlen will look to continue to make history for Atlanta on Friday, leading the Braves to victory in each of his past 23 starts, an MLB record. In 2012, he has a 9-0 record with a 0.97 ERA and 0.80 WHIP in 12 starts. On Friday, he faces Kyle Lohse, who is also amid a strong season albeit not a historic one, with a 2.86 ERA and 1.09 WHIP. He also has an impressive win tally with a 16-3 record. Atlanta has taken five of six meetings with the Cardinals this season, but St. Louis has won 12 of 20 over the past three years and are 5-5 at Turner Field. Ultimately, this is shaping up to be an extremely competitive game, one in which no team should be heavily favored.

On the road this season, Lohse is 8-2 with a 3.41 ERA and 1.12 WHIP, averaging 6.1 innings per start. In his career, he owns a 3-1 record (team 4-6) versus Atlanta with a 4.97 ERA and 1.58 WHIP. One of those starts came this year, an outing in which he yielded five earned runs in as many innings. The Cardinals have also struggled as a road team in the 2012 campaign with a 38-43 mark (.469), but are 5-2 in their past seven away games. Also, St. Louis deserves respect when it comes to postseason play-it has won the World Series two of the past three times they have made it to October baseball.

This will be Medlen's first career start versus St. Louis. In Medlen's dominance on the mound he has found himself deep into games, averaging 7.0 innings per start. That leaves little room for the Atlanta bullpen, as strong as it has been this season with a 2.76 ERA and 1.19 WHIP. They have 47 saves in 58 opportunities (81% conversion rate) and a 25-14 record. The Braves are a strong home team (48-33) and also great in the daylight (30-18). And whereas the Cardinals tend to make deep postseason runs, the Braves are the opposite. Atlanta has lost in the first round of the playoffs in each of its past five appearances.

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