The Atlanta Braves will attempt to climb over .500 for the first time this season on Thursday when they bid for a three-game sweep of their series against the host St. Louis Cardinals.
The Braves posted a 6-1 victory on Tuesday and a 7-4 win obn Wednesday. Those were their first back-to-back victories since a three-game winning streak ran July 7-10.
Atlanta has been in win-one, lose-one mode since the All-Star break. Yet the Braves find themselves within 2 1/2 games of the first-place New York Mets in the National League East.
Jorge Soler has belted homers in back-to-back games and Adam Duvall hit a two-run shot Wednesday. The Braves acquired those outfielders before the trade deadline as part of their offensive retooling.
“We just try to be tough outs, we just try to work counts, get the barrel to the ball and make them throw strikes,” Duvall told Bally Sports Atlanta after Wednesday’s game. “When you can do that up and down the lineup, it’s fun to see, it’s fun to watch, it’s fun to be a part of.”
Meanwhile the Cardinals have lost four of their past six games to fall 11 games back of the first-place Milwaukee Brewers in the National League Central.
“We have to start winning ballgames, winning series,” said Cardinals third baseman Nolan Arenado, who hit a three-run homer Wednesday.
“We have a chance of avoiding a sweep tomorrow and we have to find a way to do it, because we can’t be losing series the rest of the way through like this.
“We have a lot of games left but they definitely are running out.”
The Braves will turn to Touki Toussaint (1-2, 4.76 ERA) on Thursday. He has started three games since arriving from Triple-A Gwinnett, with the first two going quite well after he allowed two runs in 13 2/3 innings.
Toussaint’s last outing wasn’t as promising. He allowed seven runs on six hits — including two homers — and two walks in 3 1/3 innings during a 9-5 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers.
“His command wasn’t as good,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “The previous two (starts) he was throwing a lot of strikes. His fastball was leaking, and he just wasn’t as sharp. He was kind of off kilter. It happens. Hopefully, he bounces back, uses this and gets back to where he was the last two starts.”
Toussaint is 1-0 with a 2.79 ERA in three career appearances against St. Louis, including one start. In his limited exposure to the Cardinals, he has allowed homers by Harrison Bader and Matt Carpenter.
The Cardinals will start their third consecutive veteran left-hander, Wade LeBlanc (0-2, 4.17). He moved from the bullpen to the rotation and went 0-1 with a 3.09 ERA in five July starts.
He worked 5 2/3 innings in his most recent start, a 5-1 victory over the Minnesota Twins. Since then, fellow veteran lefties Jon Lester and J.A. Happ joined the starting rotation after arriving in trades.
LeBlanc threw 3 1/3 scoreless innings in two relief appearances against the Braves when the teams met in June. He allowed just two hits and a walk in those outings.
He is 0-4 with a 6.28 ERA in 12 career appearances against the Braves, including four starts. Freddie Freeman (4-for-8, two doubles) and Guillermo Heredia (3-for-6, homer) have fared well against him.
–Field Level Media