ST. LOUIS – The St. Louis Cardinals got seven stellar innings from rookie starting pitcher Shelby Miller, a pair of early home runs, and enough late inning offense to take their third straight game from the Atlanta Braves 6-2 Saturday evening in front of a sellout crowd of 43,633 fans at Busch Stadium.
“I thought that was probably about as good as we have seen (Miller) in a long time,” Cardinals’ skipper Mike Matheny said. “It was a different style a little bit. His stuff was electric a little bit, but he was in the lower part of the zone more tonight than we have seen him in a long time.”
Atlanta scored first when Freddie Freeman launched a two-out solo home run off Miller in the top of the first inning. The 402-foot homer was the 16th of the season for Freeman. That was the only run the Braves would get off of Miller.
Atlanta did not hold the lead long as Carpenter, the Cardinals’ leadoff batter, hit his second career leadoff home run to tie the game at 1-1. Carpenter’s blast came on a 1-2 count and traveled an estimated 424-feet.
“To answer back right after Shelby (Miller) looked like he was going to have a real nice first inning,” Matheny said. “Guys were having a tough time picking him up and Freeman ends up jumping one out of the park – to be able to answer right away, to answer back right away is always a good momentum shifter, especially after having a couple of wins coming into (Saturday).”
Miller finished the night allowing just three hits to pick up his 12th win of the season. Miller did not walk a batter, for the fifth time this season. Miller also struck out six batters to up his season total to 151 punchouts.
“My main goal tonight was to keep my focus the entire game and just to attack the zone,” Miller said. “It is kind of what I have been lacking a little bit. … Yadi called a great game and our defense played amazing and we put up runs. It was just a great win for us.”
Miller now has the fifth highest strikeout total by a Cardinals’ rookie pitcher in franchise history. Next in line are Dick Hughes (161), Harvey Haddix (163), Dizzy Dean (191), and Rick Ankiel (194).
Matheny said his pitcher is learning to make adjustments in the game that enable him to stay in the game longer.
“I think they catch on after a while,” Matheny said. “They see what Waino (Adam Wainwright) does and then realizes that he has got to try and make small adjustments in order to stay later in the game. I think that is just part of his natural growth.”
The Cardinals took the lead in the third and never looked back on their second solo homer of the evening.
Braves’ starter, Julio Teheran, had allowed just two total home runs in his previous six starts combined. However, the Cardinals ripped their second dinger off of Teheran when Beltran blasted a solo shot 402-feet to left, giving the Redbirds a 2-1 lead. Beltran’s home run was his 23rd of the season.
But the Redbirds’ offense was not finished.
In the bottom of the seventh, Shane Robinson pinch hit for Miller and singled before advancing to third on Matt Carpenter’s single. Those two hits were enough to chase Teheran from the game.
The first batter the Braves' bullpen faced was Beltran, who fouled out. But Matt Holliday came through with a double that scored Robinson and Carpenter. The run scored by Carpenter was his league leading 96th of the season.
Allen Craig followed with a single that moved Holliday to third before Yadier Molina plated Holliday with an RBI single of his own.
By the time the seventh inning came to a close, the Cardinals had nearly tripled their hit total for the game, collecting five hits after picking up just three in the first six frames.
St. Louis added another run in the eighth. Robinson singled and stole second before scoring on a Beltran’s third hit of the night.
“To me, the best part was being able to see Shane (Robinson) coming off the bench and getting two hits,” Beltran said. “When you see the guys on the bench producing like that, it is a great thing. They don’t get the opportunity to play every day and right now he seems like he feels good at the plate.”
The Cardinals had 10 hits as a team and drew five walks, one of which was intentional. Beltran (3-for-5), Carpenter (2-for-5) and Robinson (2-for-2) were the only players to have multi-hit games.
“The offense as a team, we feel like we are having good at bats,” Beltran said. “We are putting good at bats together especially with guys in scoring position.”
Matheny was especially pleased with Robinson’s performance as he came off the bench.
“Impressive, especially coming off the bench,” Matheny said. “We talk a lot about how hard that is. But to come in and get a couple of hits and be ready to do something with his legs and go first to third which was a very aggressive play and getting a stolen base too.”
Trevor Rosenthal pitched a scoreless eighth inning, but Randy Choate and Seth Maness combined to give up a run, three hits and hit a batter in the ninth. This necessitated the Cardinals to bring in closer Edward Mujica with two outs and a pair of runners on second and third. Mujica struck out Elliot Johnson to seal the win and record his 34th save of the season.
“It had been a while since we had Randy (Choate) in there and we wanted him to get some outs,” Matheny said. “He needed to get some help, but fortunately it was a short outing for Seth (Maness) and for Chief (Mujica).”
St. Louis will close out its season series with the Braves this afternoon. After being swept in a three-game series in Atlanta, the Cardinals are one win away from sweeping the Braves in St. Louis.