The Washington Times - October 5, 2012, 04:46PM

ATLANTA — Good afternoon from Turner Field, where all that’s marring the blue sky are a couple wisps of clouds and a pair of planes towing banners advertising strip clubs. The Nationals’ postseason destination hinges on what happens today between the Braves and Cardinals in the National League’s wild card game.

Plenty of criticism followed the new format, adding a second wild card team so the two non-division winners meet in a one-game playoff to advance to the Division Series. The critics include Nationals manager Davey Johnson (“I hate it”) and Braves skipper Fredi Gonzalez (“It’s going to be tough”).


So, the winner of today’s game hosts the Nationals for two games starting 3 p.m. Sunday. The loser’s season is finished.

In one sense, the Nationals already have one win thanks to the new format: they’ll only have to face Braves’ starter Kris Medlen or Cardinals’ starter Kyle Lohse once in the Division Series.

Both lineups are standard. You’ll get a glimpse of the challenges each present the Nationals. The Braves are heavy with left-handed bats, a good thing for lefty starters Gio Gonzalez and Ross Detwiler. That includes the one notable absence for the Braves: banged-up catcher Brian McCann.

Despite losing Albert Pujols to free agency (he’ll be enjoying the postseason at home after the Angels’ uninspired season), the Cardinals led the National League in average, on-base percentage and runs. They’ll run into the buzz saw that is Medlen. The righty has won his last 23 starts — yes, 23 — for the Braves going back to 2010 and, this season, held opponents to a cool .169 batting average.

Here are the lineups:

St. Louis Cardinals
Jon Jay, CF
Carlos Beltran, RF
Matt Holliday, LF
Allen Craig, 1B
Yadier Molina, C
David Freese, 3B
Daniel Descalso, 2B
Pete Kozma, SS
Kyle Lohse, RHP

Atlanta Braves
Michael Bourn, CF
Martin Prado, LF
Jason Heyward, RF
Chipper Jones, 3B
Freddie Freeman, 1B
Dan Uggla, 2B
David Ross, C
Andrelton Simmons, SS
Kris Medlen, RHP