Photo is credited to Getty Images.
After dropping three straight games in Pittsburgh, the Cardinals got back on track while facing the Atlanta Braves this weekend, sweeping the series and evening their record to .500.
Game One: Cardinals 7, Braves 4 — WP: Kevin Siegrist (1-0) LP: Eric O’Flaherty (0-2) SV: Trevor Rosenthal (1)
A game that started with a solid pitching matchup between Matt Wisler and Jaime Garcia ended as a historical offensive performance for the Cardinals.
The Braves kicked off their scoring against Garcia in the bottom of the third inning with back-to-back singles from Wisler and outfielder Drew Stubbs. Stubbs, who stole second, took third on a sacrifice fly from Erick Aybar, which prompted Wisler to tag and score. An intentional walk to third baseman Adonis Garcia — who entered the night 4-for-7 — did not go the way the Cardinals had planned as outfielder Nick Markakis singled following the free pass, giving the Braves a 2-0 lead. Another pair of singles, this time from outfielder Hector Olivera and catcher Tyler Flowers, upped Atlanta’s advantage to 4-0.
The Cardinals responded in the fourth with three runs of their own, beginning with Matt Holliday’s second double of the evening. Matt Adams singled next, scooting Holliday to third. Holliday scored on a groundout from Yadier Molina, which sent Adams to third, who scored on a wild pitch, cutting the deficit in half. Kolten Wong drew a walk before singles from Jedd Gyorko and Garcia, which cut the score to 4-3.
After the shaky third inning, Garcia settled down and got comfortable, retiring nine of his last ten batters of the night — four via the strikeout — before exiting the game with a pinch-hitter in the seventh. In fact, Garcia’s pinch-hitter, Jeremy Hazelbaker, was one of the final batters that Wisler would face. Hazelbaker, appearing in just the sixth at-bat of his career, homered, tying the game at four. Wisler’s outing would end a batter later, exiting a game in which neither of its starters were in line for a decision and that had become a battle between the bullpens.
With lefty Eric O’Flaherty on the mound in the eighth, the Cardinals used rookie Aledmys Diaz as a pinch-hitter for Adams. The rookie went yard for his first major-league homer and gave the Cardinals a 5-4 lead. The lead would grow in the ninth inning against John Gant, who surrendered a pinch-hit home run to Greg Garcia before allowing a homer to Stephen Piscotty, which set the eventual final score at 7-4.
-The three pinch-hit home runs the Cardinals hit had not been done since.. never. Prior to Friday night, no team had ever hit three pinch-hit home runs in a single game.
-Atlanta outfielder Ender Inciarte departed the game prematurely with a tight hamstring.
Game Two: Cardinals 12, Braves 2 — WP: Carlos Martinez (1-0) LP: Julio Teheran (0-1)
Early in the middle game of the series, the starting pitchers did not appear as dapper as their spectators usually witness them. It took starters Julio Teheran and Carlos Martinez a combined 48 pitches to get through the first inning of the ballgame, but, despite five walks, no runs scored in the opening frame.
The Cardinals got to Teheran in the second, however, with a single from Kolten Wong. A passed ball and a wild pitch bumped Wong to third. Martinez reached on a fielder’s choice that allowed Wong to score, giving the Cardinals a 1-0 lead. A double off the bat of Matt Carpenter allowed Martinez to trot home and up the score to 2-0. The Cardinals added a third run in the third, thanks in large part to an error on Nick Markakis.
Markakis helped the Braves get that run back in the bottom of the inning with a double that was sandwiched between singles from Erick Aybar and Freddie Freeman. The series of hits set the score at 3-2. After the Braves scored those two runs, their bats went quiet, and the Cardinals began to pile on the runs.
Brandon Moss, Stephen Piscotty, Martinez, Jeremy Hazelbaker, Yadier Molina, Aledmys Diaz, and Eric Fryer all collected RBIs following the third inning, which were joined by a wild pitch and a pair of errors. The Cardinals won the ballgame by a ten-run margin, 12-2.
-With three errors committed by each side in the ballgame, the Braves and Cardinals have combined to commit fifteen errors in the first week of the season.
-Prior to the series finale, Atlanta placed outfielder Ender Inciarte (tight hamstring), retroactive to 4/8, on the 15-day disabled list. A corresponding transaction will be announced on Monday.
Game Three: Cardinals 12, Braves 7 — WP: Seung Hwan Oh (1-0) LP: Dan Johnson (0-1) SV: Trevor Rosenthal (2)
In their final meeting at Turner Field, the Cardinals and Braves played their sharpest game of the series, and the score remained relatively close for most of the day.
The Braves opened the scoring quickly, getting to Adam Wainwright for a run within the first couple batters of the game. Shortstop Erick Aybar, who singled, came in to score on a double from Nick Markakis. Wainwright issued a walk to Adonis Garcia and was bailed out by an inning-ending double play.
In the top of the third, starter Williams Perez issued a walk to Greg Garcia, who was soon moved to second on a sacrifice bunt from Wainwright. Jeremy Hazelbaker walked, stole second, and scored on a single from Stephen Piscotty. Piscotty’s single was hit sharply to Aybar, who failed to field it cleanly. With two aboard, Moss hit his first homer of the season, a three-run shot to give the Cardinals the lead.
Wainwright allowed a three-run homer to Drew Stubbs in the fourth inning, the first long ball given up the Cardinals this year. Then, in the fifth inning, Hector Olivera hit a sacrifice fly to score Markakis, who reached base with his second double of the day. Wainwright’s day would come to a close at the end of the fifth inning.
In the sixth inning, with Chris Withrow now on the mound for Atlanta, Randal Grichuk, who pinch-hit for Matt Adams, walked and stole second. Grichuk moved to third base on Kolten Wong’s groundout and came around to score on a base hit from Greg Garcia, tying the game at five. The Braves took their lead back in the sixth while facing lefty Kevin Siegrist. Markakis hit his third double of the game (fourth of the series) to score Gordon Beckham, who also doubled.
Right-handed reliever Dan Winkler of the Braves was forced to leave with two outs in the seventh inning after delivering a pitch and immediately reacting to pain in his arm. Winkler, 26, underwent Tommy John surgery in June of 2014. Dan Johnson replaced him.
Johnson came out to pitch the eighth inning, though it did not go nearly as smooth as his one-third of an inning had earlier. After recording two outs, Johnson allowed a single to Matt Holliday, pinch-hitting for Seung Hwan Oh, who pitched a clean seventh. Carpenter was hit by a pitch, moving Holliday to second. Hazelbaker laced a base hit to right field, allowing Holliday to score the tying run and Carpenter to take third. Up next was Piscotty, who singled to put the Cardinals ahead with a 7-6 lead.
Trevor Rosenthal entered the game via a double switch with two outs in the bottom of the eighth to face Jeff Francoeur with the bases loaded. Rosenthal struck out Francoeur on three pitches to end the threat.
The Cardinals provided Rosenthal with further insurance in the top half of the ninth with five runs, originating from a leadoff walk to Grichuk. Yadier Molina doubled before an intentional walk to Greg Garcia, which loaded the bases. Aledmys Diaz roped a double to plate two runs and pad the lead. Next, Matt Carpenter unloaded on a pitch for his first homer of the year, a three-run shot, to give the Cardinals a 12-6 lead.
Rosenthal pitched the ninth for St. Louis, but it did not come without a little life from the Braves. Olivera and Kelly Johnson recorded singles before Beckham walked. A fielding error by Wong allowed Olivera to score what would be the final run of the ballgame.
-After the game, the Braves announced that Dan Winkler suffered a fractured right elbow. He is out indefinitely and a timetable for his return is unknown.
–With his three-run shot in the third, Brandon Moss has homered against every MLB team.
Braves: The Braves will leave home for the first time this season to begin a four-game series with the Washington Nationals. The Braves, who scored thirteen runs during their series with the Cardinals, will not have an easy task with the Nationals, whose loop of starting pitchers will be going from the top this week.
Cardinals: The Cardinals will head to St. Louis to begin their first homestand of the 2016 season with a three-game series against the Milwaukee Brewers. The Brewers are fresh off of a 3-3 stretch of home games, which included the San Francisco Giants and Houston Astros as opponents.