The Cardinals made the most of two hits and beat the Atlanta Braves 1-0 on Saturday night for their fifth straight win. They lead the majors with a 63-34 record.
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Pinch-hitter Stephen Piscotty got his first career RBI with a sacrifice fly in the eighth inning and Martinez worked eight innings of six-hit ball against his former team.
Manager Mike Matheny said Martinez had perhaps the best sinker ”we’ve ever seen from him,” and it led to three of St. Louis’ four double plays. Through an interpreter, Martinez said his sinker was ”nasty.”
”Tonight was big, a fun night to compete against (Miller),” Martinez said. ”The defense was outstanding.”
Martinez (11-4) made his first post-All-Star break start and had six strikeouts and one walk, which was intentional. He worked the last four innings and took the loss in an 18-inning setback to the Mets on Sunday.
Randy Choate got the last two outs for his first save. Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal has gotten two games off after working three straight.
Miller (5-7) got a standing ovation from a sellout crowd before his first at-bat and allowed a run and two hits in 7 1-3 innings. The right-hander is 0-6 in his last 12 games, the longest winless slump by a Braves starter since Kenshin Kawakami went 14 games between victories in 2010.
”It was everything you expected it to be, it was a lot of fun,” Miller said.
Miller shrugged off the winless slump, saying ”That’s not a big deal. I’m going to come back every five days and try to do my job.”
The Braves have not scored a run in nine of his starts this season.
”How much more can he do other than drive in a couple of runs himself?” Gonzalez said.
Kolten Wong had a leadoff double in the first and St. Louis didn’t get another hit until Yadier Molina opened the eighth with a single.
Randal Grichuk then walked, and Pete Kozma pinch-ran for Molina and advanced on a fly out. Kozma beat the throw home from Nick Markakis on Piscotty’s flyball to medium right field.
”It was just a cool moment and I’m just really glad it came through,” Piscotty said.
Miller retired 12 straight ending the seventh. The former first-round draft pick of the Cardinals spent his first three seasons with St. Louis before getting dealt to Atlanta in the offseason for outfielder Jason Heyward.
The trade came after the death of promising Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras. Martinez inherited Miller’s spot in the rotation, dedicating the season to Taveras.
The Braves loaded the bases with two outs in the second before Martinez struck out Miller.
Braves: Freddie Freeman, activated from the 15-day DL from a wrist injury, flied out as a pinch-hitter in the seventh and finished the game at first base. He had been scheduled to play a second rehab game in Double-A Orlando but that was rained out, so he flew to St. Louis and arrived in the second inning.
”Hand doesn’t hurt at all,” Freeman said. ”I was on the phone all morning pleading my case. Happy they obliged.”
Cardinals: One sterling rehab start, five innings of no-hit ball, was enough for LHP Jaime Garcia to show he’s ready to rejoin the rotation early next week. He’s been out with a strained left groin since July 4 and will start either Tuesday or Wednesday against Cincinnati.
Braves: Just like Miller, rookie Matt Wisler (4-1, 3.60) will be facing the Cardinals for the first time. Michael Wacha (11-3, 3.20) has 93 strikeouts and needs one more to set a career best.
The Cardinals won with just two hits for the first time since Sept. 4, 2004, against the Dodgers in a 5-1 win. They won 1-0 on a sacrifice fly for the first time since July 21, 2004, by Edgar Renteria against the Brewers. … The Braves have been shut out nine times.