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After Folty's gem, Braves hang on for sweep

Freeman's HR highlights 5-run sixth inning as righty K's 9, lowers ERA to 2.02
Special to MLB.com

ST. LOUIS -- The Braves' pitching staff split into opposite ends of the effectiveness spectrum in the team's three-game sweep of the Cardinals.

Braves starters combined for 17 2/3 scoreless innings against St. Louis, lowering the team's starting ERA to a National League-best 3.31.

View Full Game Coverage

ST. LOUIS -- The Braves' pitching staff split into opposite ends of the effectiveness spectrum in the team's three-game sweep of the Cardinals.

Braves starters combined for 17 2/3 scoreless innings against St. Louis, lowering the team's starting ERA to a National League-best 3.31.

View Full Game Coverage

But Atlanta's relievers surrendered 10 runs in 9 1/3 innings, including five runs on Sunday that turned a comfortable lead into a nail-biter as the Braves held on for a 6-5 win at Busch Stadium.

Braves right-hander Mike Foltynewicz, who struck out nine of the 18 batters he faced while allowing just one hit in five shutout innings to earn his sixth win, said the starters have a good vibe.

"It's just a fun group of guys," Foltynewicz said. "We're always pulling for each other, asking each other questions, always hanging around each other."

The Braves earned their first sweep in St. Louis since May 11-13, 2012, and just their second series win in Busch Stadium since 2013.

Foltynewicz used his slider as an out pitch, especially deep in counts.

"I'm really proud of how far that pitch has come," Foltynewicz said. "I've been working like a dog on it the past couple of years, and it's come a long way. I'm throwing it for strikes when I need to, especially in 3-2 counts. I get to 3-2 a lot, so it's a good pitch for me."

Video: ATL@STL: Foltynewicz K's the side for 2nd time

Foltynewicz (6-4) lowered his ERA to 2.02, second among qualified NL starters behind only the Mets' Jacob deGrom (1.84). Foltynewicz has allowed one earned run or fewer in 11 of 16 starts and has allowed more than two earned runs in just one outing this season.

"He was grinding, man," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "There wasn't anything easy about the whole outing. I was just glad we got him through five, because it was so hot. He was working hard from the very beginning. There wasn't really any easy innings for him, but he never gave in."

Freddie Freeman's two-run homer jump-started a five-run sixth inning as the Braves jumped out to a 6-0 lead.

Video: ATL@STL: Freeman's homer sparks 5-run 6th

Charlie Culberson, who had a pair hits and drove in two, hit an RBI double in the second to snap Cardinals starter John Gant's 11 2/3-inning scoreless streak. Gant (2-3) allowed four runs in 5 1/3 innings.

"It's always being ready," Culberson said. "If you're out there and you're passive, the game kind of jumps on you a little bit."

Video: ATL@STL: Culberson drives RBI double into left

The Cardinals sent nine batters to the plate against three Braves relievers in a five-run seventh, with Tommy Pham's three-run homer off Peter Moylan cutting the Braves' lead to 6-5.

Video: ATL@STL: Pham connects with 3-run smash in the 7th

"I was playing matchups right there," Snitker said. "[Jesse] Biddle's good on right-handed hitters, but at that point in time, I'm not going to second-guess myself, and that's what we've got Peter [Moylan] down there for is to get after the right-handers. So if I had to do it over, I'd do it again."

Dan Winkler pitched a clean eighth to restore order, and A.J. Minter earned his third save in as many opportunities with a perfect ninth.

Video: ATL@STL: Minter induces flyout to record save

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
After falling behind in the count, 1-2, against Gant in the sixth, Freeman was able to lay off a 94-mph fastball just out of the zone. After fouling off the next two pitches, Freeman finally squared up a changeup and drove it 426 feet over the right-field bullpen for a two-run homer. It was his first home run since June 15, snapping a 12-game drought.

Video: ATL@STL: Freeman belts towering 2-run homer to right

"It's coming," Snitker said. "I mean, somebody's going to pay. It's just one of those things where everybody goes through it, and he's working and we still got unbelievable confidence in him and what he brings. You feel like he's going to do something special every time he goes up there."

SOUND SMART
Ozzie Albies singled in the sixth to extend his season-high hitting streak to 10 games. His career best is a 13-game stretch last September.

HE SAID IT
"We feel like we can get any starter, but this guy has good stuff. And he was locating the slider in fastball counts and then throwing [in the upper 90s] when he needed a strike with a heater. That's a tough day. Guys are going to have to grind to get through it, and they did. They got some walks, fought off some pitches to build him up and keep him out there in the heat. We did get him out to give us a chance to do something against the 'pen, but six runs is hard to overcome." -- Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, on his team facing Foltynewicz

MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
With one out and runners at first and second in the top of the sixth, Culberson lined a single to center field, scoring Nick Markakis and sending Ronald Acuna Jr. to third. Acuna slid head-first into the bag as Cardinals first baseman Jose Martinez cut off the throw to the plate and threw to third. Matt Carpenter put down the tag, and after Acuna was called safe, St. Louis challenged the play. Upon replay review, there was not enough video evidence to overturn the call, and the call stood.

Video: ATL@STL: Acuna confirmed safe on Culberson's RBI hit

UP NEXT
The Braves and right-hander Anibal Sanchez (3-2, 2.68 ERA) open a three-game series in New York against the Yankees and right-hander Jonathan Loaisiga (2-0, 1.93 ERA) on Monday at 7:05 p.m. ET. Sanchez is 4-1 with a 3.79 ERA in six career starts against the Yankees.

Joe Harris is a contributor to MLB.com based in St. Louis.

Atlanta Braves, Mike Foltynewicz