Sunday, April 10, 2016

Late-inning rallies hand Cards the sweep

Jeremy Hazelbaker and Stephen Piscotty recorded consecutive RBI singles to cap the two-out, eighth-inning rally the Cardinals produced before piling on in the ninth inning to complete a three-game sweep of the winless Braves with a 12-7 victory on Sunday afternoon at Turner Field.
Right-handed reliever Jim Johnson retired the first two batters he faced in the eighth, and then he allowed each of the next four hitters to reach safely. After Matt Carpenter was hit by a pitch to put runners at first and second, Hazelbaker and Piscotty snuck their consecutive singles through the infield to extend the woes of the Braves, who have blown a lead in the seventh inning or later in four of their first five games.
"We just came off a rough series, so to play better baseball is where we start," said Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, whose club is now 3-3. "It's nice to go back home and have a few games under our belt, where the guys showed a lot of life and showed a lot of energy staying in it and believing in each other.
"Having a lead and losing it, that can a lot of times take the wind out of a team. But to figure out how to get back in it and just keep grinding through at-bats, that's the kind of team we need to be."
En route to falling to 0-5 for the first time since 1988, the Braves did not take advantage ofNick Markakis' three doubles or the game-tying, three-run homer Drew Stubbs hit offAdam Wainwright, who issued five walks and surrendered five runs over five innings. Stubbs' shot to deep center erased the lead St. Louis gained with a four-run third inning that was highlighted by Brandon Moss' three-run homer off Williams Perez.
"It's pitching and defense, if you go back and look at it," Markakis said of the 0-5 start. "There have been some unfortunate plays we haven't made. It comes down to pitching and defense. I think we need to do better with that, and as time goes on, I think we'll be alright."
30 for 30:
 Moss, starting in left field in place of Matt Holliday, blasted his first home run of the season to put the Cardinals ahead, 4-1, in the third. The three-run shot, which was deposited just beyond the outstretched glove of Stubbs in center, was Moss' first career home run against Atlanta. With it, he has now homered against every Major League club.
Triple double: Before looking at a questionable called third strike with runners at the corners and one out in the eighth inning, Markakis recorded three doubles for the second time in his career and each of the two-baggers was productive. Markakis delivered a first-inning RBI double and began the fourth inning with a double that positioned him to score on Hector Olivera's sacrifice fly. His third double -- a sixth-inning opposite-field drive off Kevin Siegrist-- gave the Braves a one-run lead until the eighth inning.
Standing tall: Staked to an eighth-inning lead, the Cardinals turned to Jonathan Broxtonand Trevor Rosenthal to hold it. Broxton got into trouble, allowing a one-out walk to Gordon Beckham, who scooted to third on Erick Aybar's single. But after Markakis worked the count full against him, Broxton froze Markakis with a generous strike-three call. Rosenthal then stranded that potential tying run on third by striking out pinch-hitter Jeff Francoeur.
Bullpen woes: Making his first appearance in nearly two years, Chris Withrow surrenderedGreg Garcia's game-tying single and retired just two of the six batters he faced before exiting the sixth inning with the bases loaded. Daniel Winkler escaped the inherited mess unscathed and was one out away from completing a scoreless seventh before he fractured his right elbow while throwing a pitch. This prompted an earlier-than-expected entry from Johnson, who retired three of the four batters he faced before the Cardinals began their two-out, eighth-inning rally and then added five more ninth-inning runs off Jose Ramirez.
"You try to take as many positives as you can, and we finally scored some runs today. We haven't been playing the prettiest of baseball these first five games. Maybe we'll get get on the road and maybe get some better luck." -- Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman who has gone 1-for-15 since hitting a home run off Max Scherzer in his first plate appearance of the season
"I knew in that situation I wasn't really going to get anything good to hit, so I was just trying to get something a little elevated. I was able to hang with that changeup and stick it out there to right." -- Hazelbaker, on his game-tying RBI single
Before surrendering Stubbs' three-run shot, Wainwright had allowed just three homers over 77 ⅔ innings against the Braves. They were hit by Jason Heyward (July 26, 2013), Derrek Lee (Sept. 9, 2010) and Greg Norton (Aug. 28, 2008).
The Cardinals scored 31 runs in this three-game series against the Braves, including a perfect dozen on Saturday and Sunday. It marked the first time since August 1-2, 2013, that the Cardinals had scored at least 12 runs in consecutive games. They hadn't done it in back-to-back games within the same series since 2003.
Hopeful that time spent repeating his delivery in front of the mirror this week had helped him get into sync, Wainwright labored more on Sunday than he did in his Opening Day start. He walked five in a game for the first time since 2012 and allowed four extra-base hits while struggling to induce ground balls. Stubbs' game-tying homer off him in the fourth marked the first long ball served up by the Cardinals this season.
"Ties my career-high-of frustration level, too," Wainwright said. "I'm so far from where I can be and where I want to be. It's very, very frustrating. I'm so upset about the way the ball is coming out right now."
Cardinals: There will be plenty of pomp and circumstance at Busch Stadium on Monday, as the Cardinals host the Brewers in their home opener. Following the pregame ceremonies and introduction of the franchise's Hall of Famers, Michael Wacha will start for St. Louis opposite Milwaukee's Taylor Jungmann. First pitch is scheduled for 3:15 p.m. CT.
Braves: Bud Norris will take the mound and center fielder Mallex Smith is expected to be in the lineup when Atlanta opens a four-game series at Nationals Park on Monday at 7:05 p.m. ET. Norris did not allow a run until the Nationals took advantage of some defensive miscues during a three-run seventh inning on Wednesday.

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