ATLANTA -- The Atlanta Braves would have done anything for a play-in game between wild-card teams a year ago. This season, the feeling is far different.
The new playoff format works against the Braves rather than helps them. Worse yet, the St. Louis Cardinals could be the ones benefiting from the wild-card switch.
With the end of his illustrious career hanging in the balance today at Turner Field, Chipper Jones was the most vocal as the regular season wore down.
"I think it's stupid, to be honest with you," the future Hall of Famer said of having one game decide your playoff life.
But the Braves and Cardinals will play at 5:07 p.m. to decide who advances to the National League Division series against NL East champion Washington.
Atlanta finished six games better than the defending World Series champions and took five of the six games against each other during the regular season. But none of that matters now.
Of course, it was St. Louis' run to the title as a wild-card team last year that helped cause the change. Now two instead of one non-division winner makes the postseason, but they are penalized by facing a play-in game.
Jones admits that "there's nothing like cut-throat baseball for the fans." But it's different for the players.
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez called the one-game format "crazy."
But one game may be enough for the Braves with Kris Medlen pitching. Atlanta hasn't lost with Medlen starting since May 23, 2010. The 23-game streak is the longest in baseball history.
"I'm glad that Medlen is pitching for us," Gonzalez understated.
After being moved into the rotation at the end of July, the right-hander compiled a 0.97 ERA and limited opponents to a .191 average while going 9-0 in 12 starts. He was 10-1 with a 1.57 ERA overall.
"I'm not going to be changing anything," said Medlen, who came back from Tommy John surgery. "I'm just trying to stay fresh and prepare mentally for the biggest game of my life."
St. Louis will counter with right-hander Kyle Lohse, who had an amazing season as well. He was 16-3 with a 2.86 ERA, although he was hit hard during a loss to the Braves in May.
The Braves faltered in September a year ago, letting the Cardinals pass them for the final wild-card spot on the last day of the season. Both teams finished strong this time, each going 20-9 in September.
Now comes the one-game survival test.
Jones doesn't mind two wild-card teams, just the format.
"If it was two games out of three, I'd be OK with that," he said recently.
Of course, it isn't.
"There won't be another series if we don't get it done (today)," Medlen said.