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That’s the scenario for the St. Louis Cardinals this weekend as they welcome the Atlanta Braves, who lead the National League East, for a three-game series at Busch Stadium starting Friday.
And Atlanta (45-34) will be a stronger team offensively for the series. Prized rookie outfielder Ronald Acuna will be activated off the 10-day disabled list for Friday night’s game and should slot right into the lineup.
The 21-year-old Acuna, who missed a month with a right knee injury suffered on May 27 in Boston, hit .265 with five homers and 13 RBIs in his first 117 big league at-bats. Acuna recorded a solid .779 OPS, although his 10 walks and 37 strikeouts suggests he needs to gain a bit more control of the strike zone.
Acuna’s return at least tempers worries about the status of center fielder Ender Inciarte, who left Wednesday’s 6-5 loss to Cincinnati when he felt discomfort near his left oblique. Should Inciarte have to miss any time, Acuna could bat near the top of the lineup.
The Braves missed a chance to extend their division lead during a six-game homestand against two last-place teams. They lost two of three to Baltimore, which has the worst record in baseball, and dropped two of three to Cincinnati, which isn’t playing like a last-place team at the moment with nine wins in 10 games.
“We didn’t play up to our capabilities 100 percent,” Atlanta starting pitcher Sean Newcomb said to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “You’re not going to every day. I know we’re going to come back out at St. Louis and be pretty strong, pitching and offensively.”
The Braves will have to be strong to deal with Cardinals right-hander Miles Mikolas (8-2, 2.69 ERA), who has been one of baseball’s best free-agent finds this year. Signed after three successful years in Japan, Mikolas has put together an All-Star resume with St. Louis.
He is coming off a 3-2 win Saturday in Milwaukee, giving up only three hits and two runs to the NL Central leaders in a 6 2/3-inning effort. Mikolas walked two and fanned five, giving him 71 strikeouts and just 12 walks in 97 innings.
Mikolas has faced Atlanta just once in his career, throwing two shutout innings in relief six years ago when he pitched for San Diego.
Julio Teheran (5-5, 4.52) will continue a season-long search for consistency as he starts for the Braves. After tossing six no-hit innings on June 17 in a win over San Diego, Teheran was belted around Saturday for seven runs on six hits in 4 2/3 innings of a 7-5 loss to Baltimore.
The veteran right-hander has made five career starts against the Cardinals, going 1-3 with a 3.86 earned run average. Two players who have hurt him are Matt Carpenter, who is 6-for-12 with two homers, and Marcell Ozuna, who is batting .405 with three homers in 42 career at-bats against Teheran.
St. Louis (42-37) had a four-game winning streak snapped Wednesday with a 5-1 loss to Cleveland.
It’s been a week full of injuries, as more and more pitchers hit the disabled list, making arms a premium once again for Fantasy owners.
He’s not a pitcher [url=http://www.billsauthorizedshops.com/authentic-taron-johnson-jersey]http://www.billsauthorizedshops.com/authentic-taron-johnson-jersey[/url] , but Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez headlines the list of injured players, as the catcher will miss 3-4 weeks for the second straight season.
There are names like John Hicks, Austin Romine, Tucker Barnhart and Tom Murphy who deserve to be owned in Sanchez’ absence. Now, let’s look at some pitchers to help hold down your rotation.
PLAYERS TO PICK UP
ZACH EFLIN, SP, Philadelphia Phillies (42 percent owned in Yahoo) – First it was Nick Pivetta, now it’s Zach Eflin. The Phillies are having pitchers who were no more than a healthy arm last season turn into legit standouts. Eflin increased his velocity this year, and he’s adding more swings and misses than a season ago. Like Pivetta, it’s smart to grab him before everyone else in your league takes notice.
ZACK WHEELER, SP, New York Mets (12 percent) – Like Jacob deGrom earlier this season, the Mets struggle to win games for Wheeler. That’s OK, though, as he is holding his own as of late with a reasonable ERA and a good strikeout rate. He won’t live up to the prospect hype that he had when he was moving through the system, but he can be a useful pitcher for your Fantasy roster.
SHANE BIEBER, SP, Cleveland Indians (57 percent) – Bieber was thought to be a guy who wouldn’t register big strikeout numbers, but would help Fantasy owners out in ERA, WHIP and Wins. Well, in a small sample, he’s averaging more than a strikeout per inning. Add him wherever he’s available.
ADALBERTO MONDESI, OF, Kansas City Royals (1 percent) – Speed is hard to find. Kevin Kiermaier was a suggested pickup last week as a multi-category contributor, but Mondesi is a deep-league add if you’re desperate for speed.
TWO-START PITCHERS TO STREAM
BRENT SUTER, SP, Milwaukee Brewers (39 percent) – It’s not a great week for two-start pitchers [url=http://www.billsauthorizedshops.com/authentic-jeremy-kerley-jersey]http://www.billsauthorizedshops.com/authentic-jeremy-kerley-jersey[/url] , and Suter underachieved in a juicy matchup against the Royals on Wednesday. He’s worth running out again, though, as he gets the Twins and the Braves in a two-start matchup.
KYLE GIBSON, SP, Minnesota Twins (34 percent) – Speaking of failing to capitalize, Gibson struggled against the White Sox on Wednesday. Forget that start, though, as he’s been a quality start machine this year. He’ll face a less-than-favorable team in the Brewers in his first start, but he’ll wrap the week up against Baltimore, who struggled mightily against right-handed pitching.
NATHAN EOVALDI, SP, Tampa Bay Rays (7 percent) – Eovaldi impressed this week against the Nationals, allowing just one hit over six innings. He has a date with the Marlins and Mets next week; both of which are terrific matchups.
HITTERS TO STREAM
SCOTT SCHEBLER, OF, Cincinnati Reds (22 percent) – Jesse Winker is starting to come around for the Reds, but Schebler has been the 22nd-best outfielder in Yahoo leagues over the past 30 games as the leadoff hitter for the Reds.
LOGAN MORRISON, 1B, Minnesota Twins (13 percent) – The Twins have seven games next week in Milwaukee and against the Orioles‘ bad pitching staff. There’s only one lefty on the slate, which means Morrison is a sneaky streamer to get in your lineup.
ALEN HANSON, 2B/OF, San Francisco Giants (5 percent) – Hanson has been playing regularly for the Giants, and he’s a contributor across multiple categories, with his standout category being batting average. With three games in Colorado and four more against the all-of-the-sudden questionable St. Louis rotation, Hanson could fill the stat sheets for Fantasy owners.
This column was provided to The Associated Press by the Fantasy Sports Network,