Friday, April 8, 2016

Matchups could be in play for Cards-Braves opener

After 67 regular-season meetings at Turner Field since 1997, the Cardinals and Braves are set for their final three this weekend, beginning with a 7:35 p.m. ET meeting on Friday.
The Cardinals, who closed the 2015 regular season in Atlanta, now return there to end their opening road trip of 2016. The Braves own a 43-24 advantage over the Cardinals in their home park, which is shutting its gates at the end of the season. Last year, the Braves shut the Cardinals out to sweep the series at Turner Field.
Both clubs are expected to feature changes to their lineups for the series opener. With lefty Jaime Garcia making his season debut for the Cardinals, the Braves are likely to start catcher Tyler Flowers, outfielder Drew Stubbs and second baseman Gordon Beckham for the first time this season.
Interestingly, though, Garcia actually had better results facing right-handed batters (.218/.266/.292) than he did left-handed ones (.250/.304/.327) last season.
Matt Wisler, who threw 8 2/3 innings in one of those shutout wins against the Cardinals last season, will start for Atlanta. Wisler worked with Tom Glavine over the winter to refine his changeup, and it showed this spring. Wisler allowed six earned runs in 13 2/3 Grapefruit League innings.
With that changeup a particular weapon against left-handed batters, look for the right-handed-hitting Randal Grichuk to return to St. Louis' lineup. Grichuk opened the season 1-for-9 with five strikeouts and was out of the lineup on Wednesday so that he could work through some timing issues with his swing.
Things to know about this game
• With a start on Friday, Yadier Molina will pass Ted Simmons and become the franchise's all-time leader for games played as a catcher with 1,440. On Wednesday, Molina eclipsed Simmons' total of 1,380 career starts with the Cardinals. Earlier this week, Molina made a club-record 12th straight Opening Day start.
• There's a chance that Jeff Francoeur may make his first start for the Braves since 2009. If Francoeur does draw the start, it would likely be in left field.

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