ATLANTA -- Perhaps perceived as underdogs in Friday's Wild Card game largely because of the success Atlanta had against them this season, the Cardinals remain insistent that the St. Louis team the Braves faced back in May hardly resembles the one the Cards bring for this one-game matchup.
And they would seem to have a valid point.
The Braves won five of the six head-to-head games between these two clubs, all of those games being played during a three-week stretch in May. Atlanta's sweep over St. Louis at Busch Stadium from May 11-13 came after the Cardinals positioned themselves atop the National League Central with a 20-11 record to open the season.
About that time, though, much began to go wrong.
Key players like Lance Berkman, Allen Craig, Kyle McClellan, Matt Carpenter and Jon Jay all landed on the disabled list that month. Jaime Garcia was pitching hurt, and the rest of the Cardinals' starting staff had hit a collective lull.
As general manager John Mozeliak noted on Friday: "All of a sudden we started to have leakage in places that maybe we weren't anticipating. We were still scoring runs, but we weren't preventing runs. It was dark times."
The Cardinals' record regressed all the way to .500 by June 21. From that point on, though, improved health and stability within the rotation helped the Cards go 53-39 the rest of the way. The Braves never saw them during that stretch.
"The first time we matched up with them, we were struggling a little bit and they were red hot, taking some very good at-bats," manager Mike Matheny said. "I think we saw them at one of the better stretches that they had. So that's something we stick in our mind and a motivator that we've got to be sharp."