Braves bats come up short vs. Miller, Cards 'pen
Harang delivers quality start, but it's not enough to sink St. Louis
ST. LOUIS -- Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez reached his boiling point in the fifth inning against the Cardinals on Saturday.
Home-plate umpire Ron Kulpa tossed Gonzalez from the game after the Braves manager argued a double-play call on an Aaron Harang bunt attempt. The play signaled the turning point of the game, in which the Cardinals came back for a 4-1 win in front of 44,981 at Busch Stadium.
With the came tied at 1, Andrelton Simmons led off the fifth with a double. Harang attempted to bunt him to third, but Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina quickly pounced on the ball and threw out Simmons at third. Harang, who never left the batter's box, was then thrown out at first in a 2-6-4 double play.
Gonzalez argued that Molina had grabbed the bunt in foul territory, which cannot be reviewed under Major League Baseball guidelines.
"It's a tough call when you've got to make a call that way," Gonzalez said. "It was close, but I thought maybe five, six inches foul when Yadi got it. It's a tough job. It's a tough situation. They've got to make the call, there's no help really and that's what I kept asking, 'Can we get some help from one of the guys down the line?' What are you going to do? We still only scored one run. That would have been a nice opportunity to try it again to try and advance the runner there with Harang, but it didn't materialize."
"Sometimes it's those little plays like that that changes the tempo of the game," Harang said. "If it gets called foul and then I can get another one down and move [Simmons] over to third and the next ball is a ground ball to short and a run scores. It's tough. It's one of those plays that isn't reviewable and it's going to happen, but I had to go out there and keep pitching. We just weren't able to get to their pitchers more."
The call snuffed out a potential rally for a team still searching for its offense. The Braves hit into three double plays on Saturday, including one that killed a potential eighth-inning rally.
"Right guys, right situation, it just didn't happen that time," said Jason Heyward, who was erased in two of the double plays. "You would like it to happen every time, but if it does, then you can go ahead and write their Hall of Fame ballots up right now."
In perhaps his most impressive start of the season, Cardinals pitcher Shelby Miller held the Braves to one unearned run on five hits over seven innings. Miller struck out seven and improved to 6-2.
Trevor Rosenthal picked up his 13th save and his third in as many days. Cardinal pitchers struck out a total of 10 Braves hitters.
The Cardinals took control with a two-run sixth. With Matt Carpenter on third and Kolten Wong on first, Wong attempted to steal second. Evan Gattis' throw sailed into center, allowing Carpenter to score and Wong to take third. Allen Craig followed with an RBI single, scoring Wong to make it 3-1 Cardinals.
St. Louis added a run in the seventh after Justin Upton couldn't come up with a diving catch on a sinking line drive from Matt Adams. The ball went to the wall, allowing Adams to collect his second triple of the season. Adams scored on a Peter Bourjos bunt single.
"We were absolutely in the game," Heyward said. "The Cardinals are a team you have to show up and execute the small things. That's how they beat you. They obviously have the ability to hit the ball out of the ballpark, but that's not their goal and mindset each day. Their mindset is to do the little things right."
Harang helped himself in the second with his first hit of the season. The Cardinals appeared to have a good chance at throwing out Simmons at third on the hit, but Wong's throwing error allowed Simmons to come all the way around to score, making it 1-0 Braves.
B.J. Upton quelled a potential Cardinals rally with a diving catch to rob Craig of a leadoff single in the bottom of the second. Molina followed with a single, but Harang struck out Adams and Jhonny Peralta to end the inning.
Wong used his speed to atone for his error in the fourth. Wong led off with a bunt single, went first to third on a Matt Holliday hit and scored on a Molina sacrifice fly to second. Molina's fly was actually a pop out to shallow right, but second baseman Tyler Pastornicky caught it when Heyward didn't call him off of the ball. With Pastornicky's momentum going away from the plate, Wong was able to tag and score to tie it at 1.
"That was a tough one man, because I try not to call him unless I know for sure I've got it and I know he had a beat on that one and by the time I realized I could get there, it would have been tough to call him off," Heyward said. "So I had to let him make the play and a heads up play on their part by sending the runner."
Harang went six innings and gave up three runs, but just two were earned. He fell to 4-4.
"What else can you ask for?" Gonzalez said. "He got six innings; he gave up three runs; he got himself a base hit. We just have to get the bats going."