ATLANTA — Georgia native Adam Wainwright didn’t hang his head after his first loss in five career appearances at Turner Field.
In fact, Wainwright said he had “great stuff,” including “the best my changeup has been in a while.”
The only problem was, Atlanta’s Mike Minor was even better.
Wainwright took his first loss in more than a month as the St. Louis Cardinals fell to the Braves 4-1 on Friday night in a matchup of division leaders.
Wainwright gave up a home run to Jason Heyward, and Minor allowed only one run to give Atlanta’s depleted rotation a lift.
Wainwright (13-6), the NL leader in wins, took his first loss since a 2-1 decision to Texas on June 23. He allowed four runs, three earned, on seven hits and one walk with eight strikeouts in seven innings.
“He competed like he always does and gave us a chance, if we could have gotten something going offensively,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “It was one of those nights where we didn’t.”
Wainwright, from Brunswick, Ga., had been 3-0 with a 2.35 ERA in his first four appearances in Atlanta. He said he had 43 people on his pass list, and said others from his south Georgia hometown bussed to the game.
Wainwright complimented the Braves on their patience in trying for opposite-field hits.
“I think I just have to tip my hat,” Wainwright said. “I think they had a great approach from the first pitch of the game on.
“They took some great at-bats off me, worked the counts, and they didn’t get pull-happy out there. Really, they hit some tough pitches and worked some tough at-bats. Sometimes you just get beat. I had some pretty good stuff tonight.”
Minor (10-5) gave up four hits with no walks in seven innings. His sharp performance came two days after Tim Hudson was lost for the season with a broken right ankle.
Minor, who became the first Braves pitcher to reach 10 wins, lowered his ERA to 2.89. His strong start was especially important after Hudson’s season ended.
Asked if he felt he needed to step up as the staff ace, Minor said “That’s not really my role. I go out every fifth day and just try to pitch.
“With Huddy going down, that was our ace. That was our best guy. We just need everybody else to step it up a little bit.”
The Atlanta rotation also is without left-hander Paul Maholm, who isn’t on the disabled list but is expected to miss at least one start because of a bruised left wrist.
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez also resisted suggestions that Minor is emerging as the top pitcher on a young staff that also includes rookies Julio Teheran and Alex Wood.
“Let’s not get there yet,” Gonzalez said. “Mike Minor doesn’t have to do anything. He’s been this good for a while. We saw him growing up and getting better and better about this time last year.
“Let’s let him dictate his own career and let’s not start putting labels yet.”
Yadier Molina gave St. Louis a 1-0 lead in the second with his eighth homer. The Braves answered with two runs in the bottom of the inning.
The Braves took a 2-1 lead with four hits off Wainwright in the second. Brian McCann doubled, moved to third on Dan Uggla’s single, and scored on Chris Johnson’s single to left field. Minor added a single with two outs to drive in Uggla.
Heyward pushed the lead to 3-1 with his eighth homer, a one-out shot to left field, in the fifth.
“The game today was just a couple of pitches away from being a deadlocked game,” Wainwright said. “Mike threw an amazing game on their side of it. For me, I hung a pitch to Heyward. The other pitches were not bad pitches, they just had some tough at-bats and made some good swings on them.”
With one out in the seventh and Johnson on first base following his second hit, Joey Terdoslavich pinch-hit for Minor and hit a grounder to shortstop Pete Kozma, who threw wild toward second base. Johnson scored on the error.
Jordan Walden pitched a perfect eighth inning before Craig Kimbrel recorded the final three outs for his 29th save.
Heyward, sprinting toward the infield from right field, made a diving catch to take a hit away from David Freese in the fifth inning. Heyward rolled and came up holding the ball as Minor slapped his glove in approval on the mound. NOTES: Cardinals OF Matt Holliday joined the team and is expected to come off the DL on Saturday. He has been out since July 12 with a right hamstring injury. … Cardinals LHP John Gast had season-ending surgery on his left shoulder. He could return in eight to 12 months. Gast was 2-0 with a 5.11 ERA in three starts before he was placed on the disabled list on May 26 with a left shoulder strain. … Attendance was 50,124, a sellout. … Teheran will face Joe Kelly in a matchup of right-handers on Saturday. Kelly will make only his fourth start of the season.