Cardinals-Braves Preview

Though they're in the midst of their worst start in nine years, the defending NL Central champions insist there's no reason to panic three games into the season.

A lack of scoring has been partly to blame for the St. Louis Cardinals, who must now return to a venue where they've struggled offensively in recent seasons.

Matt Wisler will try to extend his early career mastery of St. Louis and lead the Atlanta Braves to their first win Friday night in the series opener at Turner Field.

The Cardinals certainly didn't have many offensive highlights in Pittsburgh, batting .168 while also going 3 for 22 with runners in scoring position en route to the club's worst start since it last finished below .500 in 2007.

Matt Carpenter (1 for 11), Matt Holliday (1 for 10) and Randal Grichuk (1 for 10) are among those off to slow starts. Grichuk is expected to return to the lineup after sitting out Wednesday's 5-1 loss so he could work through some timing issues.

"It's too early to be concerned with anything," Carpenter told the team's official website. "We just didn't hit... But we will, and once we hit, we'll be fine."

The Cardinals will try to avoid getting blanked in four straight by the same opponent for the first time after they managed 12 hits over the final three games in Atlanta last season. They're also looking to stave off their first 0-4 start since dropping the first six in 1997.

"It's early," Wednesday's losing pitcher Mike Leake said. "We're all right. We're three games into it. I think we just need to slow down and play competitive baseball."

Wisler was dominant in the 2015 finale, allowing four hits and walking one while coming within one out of his first complete game in a 2-0 win. The right-hander had a 1.19 ERA in winning his last three starts after going 0-7 with a 8.08 mark over his prior nine.

Wisler, who worked on his changeup with former star Tom Glavine in the offseason, has given up two runs over 15 2/3 innings in winning two career starts versus St. Louis.

"When I came up I felt good and was going after guys, then August hit and I was terrible," Wisler said. "I lost some confidence in myself and got it back in September."

Jaime Garcia will try to pick up a St. Louis rotation that has allowed 23 hits, seven walks and 11 earned runs over the first 14 2/3 innings. The left-hander finished an injury-plagued 2015 strong by going 7-2 with a 2.74 ERA over his last 12 starts.

One of those losses came at Turner Field on Oct. 2 when he surrendered two runs and six hits over four innings of a 4-0 defeat. Drew Stubbs, who has hit .310 over 29 at-bats versus Garcia, is expected to join Tyler Flowers and Gordon Beckham in the Braves' lineup.

Freddie Freeman is 4 for 7 with two homers off Garcia. Freeman, Adonis Garcia (two RBIs) and A.J. Pierzynski drove in Atlanta's four runs in two home losses to Washington.

The Braves haven't dropped their first three since an 0-4 start in 2012, but they've won four in a row overall and nine of the past 11 home meetings with the Cardinals.

Yadier Molina can become St. Louis' all-time leader for games caught with 1,440.