ST. LOUIS — Shelby Miller’s best start of the season continued a streak of strong starts from the Cardinals’ rotation.
Miller allowed just one unearned run and scattered five hits over seven innings as the Cardinals beat the visiting Braves 4-1 on Saturday afternoon at Busch Stadium.
The 23-year-old right-hander struck out seven batters and walked two, winning his fifth straight decision to improve to 6-2 on the season.
"That’s one of the best outings we’ve seen from him, definitely this year," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "He had a great game plan going in. He stayed on top of the ball and worked down. I think as the game went it made the up-ball better. Probably the best breaking ball we’ve seen from him, too."
Miller threw a season-high 101 pitches, with 72 going for strikes, and lowered his earned-run average from 3.22 to 2.79.
"I think I did a really good job of keeping the hitters off-balance and getting ahead in the counts and try to be as efficient as possible. I thought Yadi (Molina) did a good job behind the plate," Miller said. "The defense helped me out a lot. We got a big double play. (Matt) Holliday made some great plays. Yadi made a good play behind the plate on that bunt."
Miller said his fastball command was better than it has been. He talked about working with pitching coach Derek Lilliquist on his rhythm and mechanics. He worked quickly and displayed a variety of pitches.
He is now 12-4 with a 1.72 ERA in 125 1/3 innings over 22 career appearances (21 starts) at Busch Stadium.
Miller’s performance marked the third straight game where a Cardinals starting pitcher has tossed seven innings.
Michael Wacha allowed two runs on seven hits in seven innings against the Cubs on Thursday. Then Lance Lynn allowed two runs on seven hits in seven innings in the series opener against the Braves on Friday night.
— Kolten Wong’s speed. The rookie second baseman has provided a spark since his return from Triple-A Memphis and produced his second multi-hit game in as many days with two bunt singles.
Matheny called it a great day. "Being able to make some things happen," the manager said. "Just some smart baseball plays, too. I really like how he’s going about it."
Wong reached on a bunt single in the fourth inning and scored on a sacrifice fly to second baseman Tyler Pastornicky, who was in shallow right field. He reached safely with his second bunt single in the sixth with Matt Carpenter on base in front of him, then stole second with one out. The throw from Evan Gattis sailed into center field, which allowed Carpenter to score from third and Wong to advance to third. He scored on a single by Allen Craig to make it 3-1.
"The first bunt definitely went for a base hit," Wong said. "I was trying to get something started. It was tough today facing that guy (Aaron Harang). I wanted to try to get something going, so I just laid that bunt down. The second one was more of a sacrifice. Luckily for me I put it in the right spot and just beat it out."
— Matt Adams’ speed. Huh? Yeah, the big first baseman led off the bottom of the seventh inning with an opposite-field shot that eluded left fielder Justin Upton and rolled to the wall. Adams lumbered all the way to third for his second career triple and then scored on Peter Bourjos’ second bunt single of the game for the Cards’ fourth run.
— Randy Choate’s one pitch. The lefty reliever entered the top of the eighth inning with one out and runners on first and second and Braves No. 3 hitter Freddie Freeman at the plate. Freeman swung at Choate’s initial offering, an 85-mph sinker, and grounded into a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning and preserve St. Louis’ 3-1 lead.
Choate had allowed a run in his three previous appearances, including the six earned he was tagged for against the Cubs on Monday.
— Bourjos’ base-running blunder. The Cardinals’ speedy center led off the bottom of the third inning with a bunt single but then got picked off first base when Miller was attempting to bunt him over. After Bourjos got picked off, Miller and Carpenter both struck out looking to end the inning. It was a missed opportunity for St. Louis and for Bourjos, who redeemed himself with an RBI bunt single in the seventh inning.
— Carlos Martinez. The rocket-throwing righty had a rough start to the eighth inning. He walked No. 9 hitter Tyler Pastornicky on five pitches and then surrendered a single to Jason Heyward. But he recovered by striking out Justin Upton before being relieved by Choate, who quickly induced the double play to squash the Braves’ threat.
— Fredi Gonzalez. The Braves’ manager was ejected by home-plate umpire Ron Kulpa in the fifth inning but didn’t go down without a fight. Gonzalez argued the call on what turned into a 2-6-3 double play on Aaron Harang’s failed sacrifice bunt attempt. After being ejected, the manager came out twice to contest the call, which was not reviewable.
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