The St. Louis Cardinals are setting out on a pivotal road trip as they try to pad their lead atop the NL Central.
It appears they have the right pitcher to get off to a positive start.
The Cardinals (62-37) have plenty of momentum to begin their trek, sweeping three games from Philadelphia after a 3-1 victory that extended their winning streak to four. Lance Lynn pitched effectively for his 12th victory, making St. Louis' three-run third inning stand.
While this three-game set will pit division leaders against each other, eight games against the Cardinals' closest pursuers in the Central - Pittsburgh and Cincinnati - loom. St. Louis, a season-high 25 games over .500, will play five times in four days at PNC Park versus the second-place Pirates - 2 1/2 games back - following this series, but manager Mike Matheny refuses to look that far ahead.
"We'll jump on a plane, it will take us to the right place, and we'll end up at the right hotel and we're going to start studying the right team," he told the team's official website prior to Thursday's win. "Let's play them then. I just think if we got our heads too far into what's in front of us, you lose some of your focus on here and now.
"And we've got plenty of here and now."
While Wainwright (13-5, 2.44 ERA) has been uneven in his last two road starts - giving up four runs in each and not getting a decision in either - his eight-game winning streak is the longest active road run by an NL pitcher and best by a Cardinals hurler since Chris Carpenter reeled off 10 straight from July 5, 2009-June 23, 2010.
The right-hander got back on track Sunday versus San Diego, working in and out of trouble to limit the Padres - whose leadoff hitter reached base in seven of eight innings Wainwright pitched - to two runs in a 3-2 victory."He got tough with guys on base, no doubt about it," Padres manager Bud Black said. "He's a veteran pitcher with a lot of know-how."
And Wainwright knows how to pitch at Turner Field, winning all three of his starts there with a 2.57 ERA, but this will be his first appearance in Atlanta since 2010. The Braves reached him for five runs and nine hits with five walks in 4 1-3 innings in a 7-2 victory May 12, 2012, ending Wainwright's six-start win streak against them.
Atlanta (57-45) has a comfortable eight-game cushion atop the NL East but settled for a split of its four-game series with the Mets following a 7-4 defeat Thursday. Dan Uggla and Freddie Freeman each homered for the Braves, but a missed call on David Wright 's triple - replays showed it should have been a ground-rule double - keyed a three-run Mets rally in the sixth and the ejection of manager Fredi Gonzalez."I don't think I needed a replay to know I was right," Gonzalez said.
Mike Minor (9-5, 2.98) will try to avoid losing consecutive starts for the first time this season as Atlanta opens a seven-game homestand. The left-hander threw a five-hitter in a 3-1 road loss to the Chicago White Sox on Sunday for his first complete game.
Minor, who has no record with a 9.31 ERA in two lifetime starts versus St. Louis, has struggled against Carlos Beltran , who is 4 for 7 with two doubles, a triple and a homer in this matchup.
Uggla, who has homered in his last two games, is 4 for 22 with a double, home run and seven strikeouts lifetime versus Wainwright.
|St. Louis Cardinals|
|July 12, 2013||Matt Holliday||15-Day DL||Strained right hamstring|
|July 11, 2013||Matt Holliday||Day-to-Day||Left game - right hamstring|
|July 02, 2013||Matt Holliday||Day-to-Day||Stiff neck/back|
|May 26, 2013||John Gast||15-Day DL||Left shoulder tightness|
|May 26, 2013||Carlos Beltran||Day-to-Day||Left shoulder soreness|
|May 25, 2013||John Gast||Day-to-Day||Left game - left shoulder tightness|
|July 25, 2013||Tim Hudson||15-Day DL||Fractured right ankle|
|July 21, 2013||Paul Maholm||15-Day DL||Left wrist contusion|
|July 13, 2013||B.J. Upton||15-Day DL||Right adductor strain|
|July 11, 2013||Jason Heyward||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained right hamstring|
|July 04, 2013||Jordan Schafer||15-Day DL||Right ankle contusion|
|July 02, 2013||B.J. Upton||Day-to-Day||Left game - left forearm spasms|
ATLANTA (AP) -- After Mike Minor pitched like a rising ace, he tipped his cap to the injured leader of the Atlanta Braves ' rotation.
Minor allowed only one run to give the depleted staff a lift, Jason Heyward homered, and the Braves beat Adam Wainwright and the St. Louis Cardinals 4-1 in a matchup of division leaders on Friday night.
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 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."
Wainwright (13-6), the NL leader in wins, took his first loss since a 2-1 decision to Texas on June 23.
Yadier Molina gave St. Louis a 1-0 lead with his eighth homer in the second inning. The Braves answered with two runs in the bottom of the inning.
Wainwright allowed four runs, three earned, on seven hits and one walk in seven innings. He complimented the Braves hitters 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."
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.
"I got a pitch to hit," Heyward said before adding that Wainwright "made a mistake with a changeup away."
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: Of Minor's 103 pitches, 70 were strikes. ... Attendance was 50,124, a sellout. ... Hudson had surgery to repair his broken right ankle. His wife, Kim, said on her Twitter account the procedure went well. ... RHP Brandon Beachy , recovering from right elbow ligament-replacement surgery in June 2012, will come off the DL to take Hudson's rotation spot Monday night against Colorado. ... 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. ... Teheran will face Joe Kelly in a matchup of right-handers on Saturday. Kelly will be making his fourth start of the season.