ATLANTA -- The Braves' pitching spun out of control on Monday night, and the Cardinals made them pay in an 11-6 victory at SunTrust Park, the site of a growing home-field disadvantage.
Despite the defeat -- and the third straight loss at home -- the Braves inched closer to clinching the National League East. Their magic number was reduced to seven when the Phillies lost, 9-4, to the Mets. The Braves' sudden slump has occurred after they compiled a season-high six-game winning streak.
Overall, the Braves issued seven walks (one intentional) to Cardinals' batters. Five of them scored. The Cardinals took advantage by smashing four home runs -- and nine extra-base hits overall.
"It just goes down early on to the walks, the walks, the walks," manager Brian Snitker said. "And they all score. That's the big thing."
In their past four games, the Braves have walked 32 batters.
"We're being as competitive as we can," said right-hander Mike Foltynewicz (11-10), who couldn't find the strike zone early and labored through a 37-pitch first inning. "When you're not throwing strikes, it's a red flag for the other team to be patient, and that's what everybody has been doing [against us] this whole week."
Still, the Braves had their chances.
After the Braves closed the gap to 6-5, their hopes were seemingly dashed when Cardinals center fielder Harrison Bader, a defensive replacement, smashed a two-out, three-run homer off reliever Jesse Biddle in the eighth.
Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina made it academic with a two-run homer in the ninth.
Foltynewicz, who has lost three of his last four decisions, issued four walks (one intentional) and hit a batter in the first inning. The Cardinals built a 3-0 lead they wouldn't lose, eventually making a winner out of right-hander Miles Mikolas (16-4).
"They were good pitches, but just off the plate," Foltynewicz said. "They weren't biting at it."
"[Foltynewicz] didn't look hare-brained wild or anything," Snitker said. "He couldn't hit with his breaking ball to get back into counts. You just can't give free passes like that and expect to [get] away with it."
After Foltynewicz briefly settled down, twice retiring the side in order, the Braves broke through in the third inning, pulling within a run on Freeman's 22nd home run, a one-out shot into the bullpen.
But the Braves couldn't do enough after that, as the Cardinals kept pounding. A pair of no-doubt homers -- Kolten Wong's solo drive in the fourth and Paul DeJong's two-run clout in the fifth -- put St. Louis up, 6-2.
DeJong's homer was sandwiched by doubles from Jose Martinez and Marcell Ozuna, both of them crushed off the top of the right-field wall. Two batters later, Foltynewicz's night was done.
It was the shortest -- and arguably, the worst -- outing of Foltynewicz's largely productive season. But from the start, he didn't have it.
After walking leadoff batter Matt Carpenter, Foltynewicz got a pair of infield outs as the runner advanced to third base. But his control problems persisted. He walked Ozuna and Jedd Gyorko, loading the bases, then plunked Molina on the left elbow, forcing in the game's first run. Wong followed with a two-run double to the right-field corner, making it 3-0.
The Cardinals took a four-run lead into the sixth, when the Braves staged a mini-rally with two unearned runs, a sequence that featured major struggles from St. Louis center fielder Yairo Munoz. First, Munoz allowed runners to reach second and third when he misplayed a single by Ender Inciarte. Then he flagged down a sacrifice fly by Tyler Flowers, but his throw was well up the third-base line and Inciarte kept chugging, scoring all the way from second base.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Foltynewicz came close to getting out of the first without allowing a run. With two runners on (both walks) and two outs, he began with a 3-0 count on Gyorko. A line-drive foul and called strike made it 3-2. Foltynewicz kept battling, but so did Gyorko, fouling off three straight pitches. The ninth pitch was ball four.
This is the third straight home defeat for the Braves, who are 38-37 at SunTrust Park. The Braves have an NL-best 45-30 record on the road.
HE SAID IT
"Hopefully, it's a stretch we're going through, then we right ourselves and we get on a run again. We've done it time and time again. Things aren't going good, and they have a way of rebounding and turning it around. We're in a rut. We've just got to work through it." -- Snitker
The Braves will face Cardinals left-hander Austin Gomber (5-1, 3.78 ERA) on Tuesday at 7:35 p.m. ET. When the Braves last faced Gomber, it was distinctly unmemorable (two brief relief stints on June 29 and June 30). But Gomber has since worked his way into the rotation, faring well down the stretch as the Cardinals have climbed back into the postseason race. The Braves will counter with right-hander Anibal Sanchez (6-5, 3.01).