(BaseballStL) — It’s no secret the Cardinals have struggled through the first month of the season. Monday, they begin a series with a team that knows a little bit about that.
The Atlanta Braves rushed out to 17 wins, leading the NL East and posting only seven losses in the first 24 games.
Then, they dropped six straight to skid into a three-game set with the Cardinals. St. Louis comes to Atlanta having barely escaped a sweep in Chicago and looking to move above .500 after dropping four of their last six.
2014’s history wouldn’t suggest a win in the series opener, however, since the last time the Cardinals won back-to-back games was April 14 and 15 when hosting Milwaukee.
Headed for Harang
The struggling St. Louis offense couldn’t have a tougher matchup in the first game of the series, as they face a resurgent Aaron Harang.
The 35-year-old starter looked devastatingly effective in his first five starts, allowing only fifteen hits and three runs in 31.2 innings on the mound.
He struck out 33 of the 121 batters he faced and held opponents to a stingy .143 average.
His sixth start was far less effective, as he allowed nine runs on 10 hits to the Marlins while lasting only 4.2 innings.
Any pitcher can have a forgettable start (just ask Adam Wainwright), but the Cardinals will need to see a different Harang than the one that started the season so effectively if they want to raise their team average above .250.
Birds Without the Bats
Speaking of, only two of the Cardinals have an average above .300. Both Matt Adams and Yadier Molina post marks in the .330s, while the next closest is the .267-hitting Jon Jay.
Kolten Wong, who has been in the minors for a week, is still out-hitting Jhonny Peralta and Allen Craig in average, with a .225.
Peralta has been on the rise, however. After going 0-for-20 during a six game stretch in early April, he has raised his average 71 points since April 23.
Beginning with the Pirates series, the Cardinal shortstop has gone 13-for-35 with three home runs, seven RBIs and only five strikeouts in the last nine games. Unfortunately he’s scored only four times during that stretch, an indication of how bad the rest of the offense has been.
He’s seen Harang before, going 8-for-25 off him with two homers.
1) Matt Carpenter 3B
2) Yadier Molina C
3) Matt Holliday LF
4) Matt Adams 1B
5) Allen Craig RF
6) Jhonny Peralta SS
7) Peter Bourjos CF
8) Mark Ellis 2B
9) Shelby Miller P