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Mikolas, bullpen first to flinch in pitchers' duel

Right-hander takes shutout into 7th, but settles for loss
MLB.com @LangoschMLB

ST. LOUIS -- A game so tidy and crisp early fizzled into a forgettable series of self-inflicted mistakes by the Cardinals late, costing them a chance to turn another quality start from Miles Mikolas into anything more than a footnote.

A run of free bases and sloppy defensive play benefited the Braves and sunk St. Louis in a 5-1 loss Friday at Busch Stadium that exposed some of the issues that have nagged the Cardinals all year. The final three frames hardly resembled the first six, during which Mikolas dueled Atlanta's Julio Teheran through a string of scoreless frames.

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ST. LOUIS -- A game so tidy and crisp early fizzled into a forgettable series of self-inflicted mistakes by the Cardinals late, costing them a chance to turn another quality start from Miles Mikolas into anything more than a footnote.

A run of free bases and sloppy defensive play benefited the Braves and sunk St. Louis in a 5-1 loss Friday at Busch Stadium that exposed some of the issues that have nagged the Cardinals all year. The final three frames hardly resembled the first six, during which Mikolas dueled Atlanta's Julio Teheran through a string of scoreless frames.

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"It was," as Cardinals manager Mike Matheny described it afterward, "like two different games."

The latter will be the one that gnaws at the Cardinals.

The Braves squeezed all their scoring into the final three innings, during which Cardinals relievers walked three, hit two and watched the defense commit a pair of miscues that branded the team with its seventh three-error game this season. They have a Major League-high 67 errors on the season.

The unraveling started in the seventh when Mikolas couldn't snag a 100-mph line drive up the middle. It nicked his glove for the Braves' fourth infield hit. Two more hits followed, and that nudged Matheny out of the dugout. Desiring the lefty-on-lefty matchup with Ender Inciarte, Matheny bypassed veteran Brett Cecil, who is still regaining his manager's trust despite a run of scoreless outings, and entrusted the sticky situation to Austin Gomber.

It was one pitch, one plunk for the rookie left-hander. Gomber's curveball popped Inciarte in the helmet to force in a run.

Video: ATL@STL: Inciarte opens the scoring with hit by pitch

"The grip was fine," Gomber said. "I just didn't make the pitch."

Mike Mayers did a masterful job helping the Cardinals escape further trouble, but the Braves widened their lead against hard-throwing righty Jordan Hicks in the eighth. Hicks complicated things immediately by opening the inning with a walk and a hit batsman.

There was no room for such generosity, not with the way Teheran settled in after walking the first two batters he faced. The Cardinals mustered two hits and an 0-for-6 night with runners in scoring position before Teheran exited for a pinch-hitter in the Braves seventh-inning rally.

Until that point, Mikolas had matched him. He enhanced his case for an All-Star invite while working efficiently and effectively. Four of the first five hits Mikolas allowed did not leave the infield, but this marked the fourth time this month he has received one run or fewer of support in a start.

"Miles had a great start, and we weren't able to get anything going offensively," Matheny said. "Their guy made pitches all day, got into a rhythm."

Since reeling off four consecutive wins, the Cardinals have scored two runs on 10 hits over their last 18 innings.

Video: ATL@STL: Matheny on 5-1 loss against Braves

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The Cardinals' opportunities to get to Teheran were limited, but they did let one slip away early. Matt Carpenter and Greg Garcia saw a combined 13 pitches to open the first, and each drew a walk. But neither would budge. Teheran retired the next three hitters he faced to open a stretch in which he allowed one baserunner in a 16-batter span.

Video: ATL@STL: Teheran strikes out 4 over 6 shutout frames

"He pitched well," Carpenter said of Teheran. "We weren't able to muster up much offense. [He] kept us off balance, threw a bunch of strikes and just kept us off base."

HE SAID IT
"It'd be huge for me, all the work I put in going overseas and everything me and my family did. If I make it, that'd be awesome. I'd love to go. And if I don't, I'll get to hang with my family and probably have more fun doing that anyway." -- Mikolas, on the possibility of earning his first All-Star selection

VOTE: 2018 Camping World MLB All-Star Ballot

UP NEXT
After snapping a string of seven consecutive winless starts his last time out, right-hander Luke Weaver (4-6, 4.59 ERA) will return to the mound to face Atlanta in Saturday's 6:15 p.m. CT game at Busch Stadium. Weaver, who struck out nine Brewers in 5 2/3 innings Sunday, will be looking for his first start of at least six innings since May 22. This will be his first career appearance against the Braves.

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

St. Louis Cardinals, Miles Mikolas