A capsule look at Cardinals-Braves wild-card game

Associated Press Published: October 4, 2012
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Braves: Shaking off the disappointment of a historic collapse, the Braves (94-68) returned to the playoffs for the second time in three seasons. Last year, Atlanta squandered a 10½-game wild-card lead and lost out to the Cardinals on the final day, going 9-18 in September. This season, the Braves trailed Washington in the NL East most of the summer but maintained a comfortable lead for the top wild card. Of course, with St. Louis getting in as the second wild card under the expanded format, the teams that battled in 2011 for the final NL playoff spot now find themselves matched in the league's first one-game postseason round. ... Jones announced during spring training this would be his final year. At age 40, he put up solid numbers and remained a force in the middle of the lineup, even though he couldn't play every day because of an ailing body. Heyward bounced back from a disappointing sophomore season to provide the sort of pop he showed as a rookie. Prado was perhaps the most valuable of the position players, playing regularly in left field but also filling in at second and third base. ... The Braves had to revamp their rotation during the season to deal with injuries and ineffective performances. Brandon Beachy was leading the NL in ERA when he went down in mid-June with season-ending elbow surgery. Former All-Star Jair Jurrjens never returned to form, spending most of the year in Triple-A. Atlanta acquired LHP Paul Maholm from the Cubs, but it was Medlen who saved the season. After missing most of 2011 recovering from Tommy John surgery, he started the year in the bullpen. The right-hander moved into the rotation after the All-Star break and never looked back, going 9-0 with a 0.97 ERA as a starter. Without Medlen, the Braves likely would have been watching another postseason on television.

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Watch For:

— Medlen's Streak. When the rotation was struggling, Medlen took over as a starter and went on to a record-breaking streak. The Braves have won 23 straight games with Medlen as the starter going back to 2010, the longest run in modern baseball history. Since 1921, only two other teams won 22 straight starts by a pitcher: the New York Giants with Carl Hubbell (1936-37) and the Yankees with Whitey Ford (1950-53).

— RBI Machine. Craig was third on the team in RBIs, but there's a reason he's the cleanup man. In his first season as a starter, he was just eight RBIs shy of 100 despite playing only 119 games due to injuries. He began the year in right field and was the regular first baseman most of the season after Berkman went down early with knee woes.

— Chipper's Farewell. The Braves' third baseman announced during spring training this would be his final year. Now he's trying to extend it as long as he can. The 40-year-old switch-hitter remains a key contributor in a lineup that was hampered by miserable performances from Uggla and McCann. While his body keeps breaking down, Jones still has a flair for the dramatic. He homered in his return from the disabled list, on his birthday and on a bobblehead night in his honor.

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