ST. LOUIS – A sweep wasn’t in the cards Sunday as St. Louis coughed up the lead twice before eventually falling to the Braves 6-5 in front of a sellout crowd of 44,278 fans at Busch Stadium.
“It would have been a big win, no question,” Cardinals’ skipper Mike Matheny said. “They are all tough, but to have one, even though it was a slim lead, to have a lead in the ninth there, it was a tough one to lose.”
Leading 5-4 in the top of the ninth, the Braves rallied for two runs off closer Trevor Rosenthal who was pitching for the fourth consecutive day.
“I came ready to go,” Rosenthal said. “They make the decisions so I just did everything. Did my normal routine and treated it like a normal day.”
Rosenthal (0-2) picked up his second blown save in his last five appearances and was tagged with the loss.
“No one feels worse than me,” Rosenthal said. “When it comes down like that, walking in the run that loses the game. At the same time, you have got to bounce back. There is going to be another opportunity. You just learn from it and make an adjustment.”
Freeman opened the top of the ninth with a single. After a strike out and a pop out, things looked to be falling the Cardinals’ way. But that wasn’t the case.
Pinch hitter Ryan Doumit doubled on the first pitch, putting runners at second and third. Atlanta sent another pinch hitter to the plate, Evan Gattis, and Rosenthal walked him intentionally. Jordan Schafer then worked the count full, fouling off a couple of pitches before walking in the game-tying run during an eight pitch at bat.
“I thought it was a good pitch,” Rosenthal said. “It is kind of one of those pitches that could go either way. I have gotten that pitch for a strike before and it’s been called a ball before. It was right there.”
That was it for Rosenthal. The Cardinals’ closer retired just two of the six batters he faced. Rosenthal threw 23 pitches and allowed two hits and two walks while striking out one.
Carlos Martinez relieved Rosenthal and on the first batter he faced, Martinez threw a wild pitch that allowed Doumit to score the game-winning run.
“Carlos (Martinez) was in the same kind of boat,” Matheny said. “They have both worked hard lately. I pushed them today and it didn’t work.”
Atlanta (23-19) entered the series with a 14-1 record when scoring first. The Braves scored first in all three games, but were unable to hold the lead in any of the games. It didn’t matter Sunday though as the Braves were able to battle back. Atlanta is now 15-3 when scoring first.
The Braves got their first run on a solo home run from Freddie Freeman. The homer was Freeman’s eighth of the season. Atlanta’s Justin Upton added another solo homer in the fourth. The shot was Upton’s 10th of the year.
St. Louis (23-21) took its first lead of the game in the bottom of the second with some poor play by the Braves.
It started with a long single by Matt Adams. But, Adams was doubled up by Jhonny Peralta. The inning should have ended when Peter Bourjos struck out, but the ball was in the dirt and got by Braves catcher Gerald Laird. Bourjos was able to sprint to first base safely before Laird could recover the ball and throw him out.
That miscue gave the Cardinals new life.
Next to the plate was Cardinals’ starting pitcher Jaime Garcia. On the very first pitch, Garcia hit a clean single to left field for his first hit of the year, in his first at bat. Matt Carpenter then walked on four pitches to load the bases.
That brought Kolten Wong to the plate. After a pair of bunt singles on Saturday, Wong cleared the bases with a double off the left field wall, giving the Cardinals a 3-1 lead.
“(Gavin Floyd) was pitching me tough,” Wong said. “He was pitching a bunch of the guys tough. I was just trying to get something that I knew I could put a good swing on and I got a pitch I was looking for and got some good results.”
The Redbirds got the run back in the bottom of the fifth. Matt Holliday singled, but was forced at second when Allen Craig reached on a fielder’s choice. Yadier Molina followed with a single that moved Craig to third. The Cardinals’ right fielder then scored on Adams’ sacrifice fly to center.
Atlanta tied the game at 4-4 in the top of the sixth. Following a strikeout, Garcia gave up a single and a double before Freeman doubled home both base runners.
“I made a mistake to a good hitter,” Garcia said. “I was trying to go down and away and he put a good swing on it.”
Jhonny Peralta’s gift two-out double in the bottom of the seventh broke the 4-4 tie. With one out, Yadier Molina singled. Following a strike out, Peralta hit one a mile high and deep to centerfield. Braves center fielder Jordan Schafer was unable to make the catch and Molina sped all the way around the bases to score, giving the Cardinals their second lead of the game.
But, like earlier in the game, the Redbirds were unable to keep the lead. Part of that can be attributed to the 12 runners the Cardinals left on the bases. Of those, eight were left in scoring position and three were left on third base.
Making his first start since being placed on the disabled list exactly one year ago, Garcia finished the day throwing 83 pitches over seven innings of work. He allowed all four runs on five hits, two of which were solo home runs. Garcia, who did not factor into the decision, hit one batter but did not issue any free passes. Garcia also struck out five.
“Overall I think it was all right,” Garcia said. “When you are facing Major League hitters, you make mistakes and you pay the consequences. Today that was the case. I made a few mistakes and they were able to put good swings on them. But overall, I felt good.”
Matheny was pleased with the performance his starting pitcher gave.
“Jaime threw the ball well, very well,” Matheny said. “He had a couple of solo homers and some hard hit balls, but for the most part he was down, staying out of the middle, and staying ahead in the count. He was making some very good pitches and getting some very quick outs.”
The Cardinals collected 11 hits, five walks, and were hit by three pitches. Carpenter, Adams and Molina each had a two-hit day. Carpenter book-ended his two hits with a career-high three walks. Molina extended his hitting streak to seven games. Craig was the only Cardinals’ hitter that failed to collect at least one hit in the game. Holliday, Garcia and Wong were all hit by a pitch.
After an off day Monday, the Cardinals will start a three game series against Arizona on Tuesday. Adam Wainwright will take the mound as he makes his second attempt at win number seven this year.