Cardinals hang on to defeat Braves for 7th straight win
ST. LOUIS — As he walked in from the bullpen Friday night after warming up, St. Louis Cardinals right-hander Adam Wainwright looked over at catcher Yadier Molina.
“I told him this is going to be a little different,” Wainwright said. “We’re going to get a little crazy.”
Lacking the pop in his fastball with the side of his arm feeling sore, Wainwright dialed down to Jamie Moyer-style velocity and negotiated his way through five innings against the Atlanta Braves in an 8-5 decision at Busch Stadium.
As St. Louis (60-56) upped its winning streak to a season-high seven games, Wainwright (12-5) did more with less. With his fastball averaging a mere 84.1 mph, Wainwright managed to change speeds and turn in a decent outing.
He allowed four hits and a run, walked three and struck out none. It was the first time in 10 years that he didn’t fan a batter, but Wainwright induced double plays in each of the first three innings.
“I’ve always relied on pitchability,” Wainwright said. “If I don’t have the good fastball, as long as I can keep the ratios (between pitches) the same, it doesn’t matter. I think I threw a couple of curves in the 50s.”
Wainwright flipped up one curve to Matt Adams at 61 mph, meaning it wouldn’t have been caught for speeding on nearby I-40 that runs behind the stadium. But beginning with Freddie Freeman’s bases-loaded 3-6-1 double play in the third that scored Atlanta’s first run, Wainwright mowed down the last eight men he faced.
With the Cardinals leading 6-1 after 4 1/2 innings, Wainwright lobbied for another inning, mindful that their bullpen was taxed heavily during 8-5 and 8-6 wins the last two nights against Kansas City.
“He said he could,” manager Mike Matheny said of Wainwright’s pleas to start the sixth. “But with what he was doing, I thought we would be pushing it at that point.”
However, Brett Cecil relieved and coughed up four two-out runs in the inning. Adams lined an RBI single to right and rookie Ozzie Albies jacked a three-run homer to left, his second of the year, to turn a comfortable lead for the Cardinals into a one-run nail-biter.
But John Brebbia, Zach Duke and Matt Bowman sealed the outcome with 3 1/3 scoreless innings. Bowman got to close with Trevor Rosenthal unavailable and sailed through a 1-2-3 ninth for his second save.
St. Louis’ offense continued its dominant stretch, driving the Braves’ top starter, right-hander Mike Foltynewicz, off the mound after just 2 2/3 innings. Foltynewicz gave up seven hits and six runs, walking four and fanning one.
The Cardinals have scored 62 runs in their winning streak, an average of 8.9 per game.
“Everyone is doing their part,” said rookie shortstop Paul DeJong, who doubled twice and drove in three runs. “We seem to get the first guy on every inning and that’s huge. It just has a snowball effect.”
DeJong capped a four-run second with a run-scoring double to left. Kolten Wong opened the outburst with an RBI double to right-center. Randal Grichuk singled Wong home and Matt Carpenter laced a double to right-center that plated Grichuk.
In the third, Grichuk ripped a triple to left-center that scored Wong to make it 5-1. Wainwright looped a single to right that scored Grichuk. Tommy Pham’s double chased Foltynewicz, who spiked the ball into the turf as manager Brian Snitker came out to relieve him.
“It was just an embarrassing outing,” Foltynewicz said. “To go out there and not even get through three innings, it’s tough. I got myself in trouble with all the walks and couldn’t stop the bleeding.”
St. Louis managed just one hit off four Atlanta relievers in 5 1/3 innings — DeJong’s two-out, two-run double to right in the eighth.
While the Braves fell to 51-62 with their fourth straight loss, the Cardinals pulled within a half-game of the first place Chicago Cubs in the National League Central, pending the outcome of Chicago’s late game in Arizona.
NOTES: St. Louis has scored at least eight runs in six straight games, matching a franchise record set during September 1925 and matched during April 2011. ... Atlanta’s Matt Adams started in left field in his return to St. Louis, batting sixth and going 1-for-4 with an RBI. Adams was traded to the Braves in May for a minor leaguer, in part because the Cardinals felt he couldn’t play adequately enough in the outfield. The career first baseman took fly balls for the first time in the spring. ... Atlanta finished the Brandon Phillips trade with Cincinnati Friday, acquiring minor league INF Kevin Franklin as the player to be named later.