Cardinals strike late after Martinez-Miller duel
ST. LOUIS -- With an eighth-inning sacrifice fly off Braves reliever Luis Avilan, rookie Stephen Piscotty interrupted a pitchers' duel between former teammates and lifted the Cardinals to a 1-0 win over Atlanta. The victory, which came in front of a Saturday night sellout of 45,862 at Busch Stadium, gave the Cards their sixth five-game winning streak of the season.
Returning to St. Louis for the first time since being traded away last November, Shelby Miller matched Carlos Martinez through seven scoreless innings. The Cardinals finally broke through in the eighth, which opened with a Yadier Molina single and a walk to Randal Grichuk. With one out, Piscotty delivered a pinch-hit sacrifice fly to give the Cardinals their 11th final at-bat win of the year.
Martinez, who took Miller's rotation spot this year, pitched a career-best eight innings as he became the National League's fourth 11-game winner. He worked around a bases-loaded jam in the second en route to his 11th consecutive quality start.
"I think that's his best outing we've seen, just from the fact that he gives up a couple hits and as soon as he does, he's throwing some of the best sinkers maybe we've ever seen from him to induce groundballs, double plays," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "That usually tends to be the next step a guy takes, figures out how to be a little stingier with his pitches. ... Just a phenomenal start from him."
Miller found himself as a hard-luck loser again. He remains winless since mid-May and has made nine starts in which he's received no run support.
"It was everything you expect it to be," Miller said. "It was a lot of fun. Obviously, a tough game and we kind of lost it at the end, but other than that, on my part, I felt good. We made some key defensive plays, got some double plays that were huge and got us out of a little jam."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Rookie delivers at home: Piscotty is still waiting to make his first start at Busch Stadium, but in the meantime, he collected his first career RBI in a key spot. After initially sending Dan Johnson up as a pinch-hitter with runners on the corners and one out, Matheny swapped out Johnson for Piscotty, once the Braves countered with the lefty Avilan. Piscotty worked a six-pitch at-bat before lifting a fly ball just deep enough to right to allow pinch-runner Pete Kozma to score.
"Just a cool moment," Piscotty said. "I'm just real glad I came through. As I was preparing to come off the bench, you never know when that time is going to come. I was preparing two innings ahead and got up there and had a good plan and just tried to execute." More >
Serenading Shelby: Miller received a lengthy ovation from Cardinals fans when he came to the plate in the second inning, but he struck out with the bases loaded in what turned out to be the Braves' best scoring chance of the game. A.J. Pierzynski and Adonis Garcia had singled before him, and Martinez intentionally walked Andrelton Simmons with two outs so he could face Miller.
"I like the way we battled against a tough pitcher in Martinez, and when he gives you an opportunity, you've got to take advantage and we didn't today," Gonzalez said. "He made some nice pitches also." More >
Credit the defense: Though it never felt like he was in much trouble on Saturday, Martinez did allow leadoff singles in four of his first six innings. But a busy infield helped him avoid further trouble by turning three double plays behind him. That kept the Braves from advancing a runner into scoring position after the second inning. The Cardinals ended the game with their fourth double play of the night.
"It was the best one so far," Martinez, speaking through a translator, said of his start. "I like the double plays. I like throwing the ball down. The defense was excellent tonight."
Needing support: For the 13th time in Miller's 20 starts, the Braves scored three runs or fewer, and for the 10th time they scored two runs or fewer. Miller's record is 0-6 when Atlanta scores between 0-2 runs.
"That's not really my job [to close], but if those guys need to be down and that situation comes up, I'll just go out there and try to get them out. What's nice is that we have a lot of quality relievers who can step in and don't try to make the ninth inning more than it has to be." -- Randy Choate, after earning his first save since 2012
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Martinez's string of 11 consecutive quality starts is tied with Clayton Kershaw for the longest current active streak in the Majors. The last Cardinals pitcher to have a streak of that length was Chris Carpenter in 2010.
FREDDIE IS FREE
Atlanta first baseman Freddie Freeman woke up expecting to play for the club's rookie league affiliate in the Gulf Coast League, but when that game was rained out, he successfully lobbied to be activated for the first time since injuring his wrist on June 17. He arrived in the second inning and flied out to left field as a pinch-hitter in the seventh. He remained in the game at first base. More >
Braves: Rookie right-hander Matt Wisler gets the nod for his seventh big league start on Sunday at 2:15 p.m. ET, as the Braves are expected to welcome Freeman back to their lineup.
Cardinals: Michael Wacha will start the final game of this three-game series as he seeks his 12th win of the season. Wacha has allowed five runs in each of his last two starts, both Cardinals victories.
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