Miller, Braves Drop Duel to Martinez, Cardinals

BravesWith an eighth-inning sacrifice fly off Braves reliever Luis Avilan, rookie Stephen Piscotty interrupted a pitchers’ duel between former teammates and lifted the Cardinals to a 1-0 win over Atlanta. The victory, which came in front of a Saturday night sellout of 45,862 at Busch Stadium, gave the Cards their sixth five-game winning streak of the season.

Returning to St. Louis for the first time since being traded away last November, Shelby Miller matched Carlos Martinez through seven scoreless innings. The Cardinals finally broke through in the eighth, which opened with a Yadier Molina single and a walk to Randal Grichuk. With one out, Piscotty delivered a pinch-hit sacrifice fly to give the Cardinals their 11th final at-bat win of the year.
Martinez, who took Miller’s rotation spot this year, pitched a career-best eight innings as he became the National League’s fourth 11-game winner. He worked around a bases-loaded jam in the second en route to his 11th consecutive quality start.

“I think that’s his best outing we’ve seen, just from the fact that he gives up a couple hits and as soon as he does, he’s throwing some of the best sinkers maybe we’ve ever seen from him to induce groundballs, double plays,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “That usually tends to be the next step a guy takes, figures out how to be a little stingier with his pitches. … Just a phenomenal start from him.”

Miller found himself as a hard-luck loser again. He remains winless since mid-May and has made nine starts in which he’s received no run support.¬†¬†“It was everything you expect it to be,” Miller said. “It was a lot of fun. Obviously, a tough game and we kind of lost it at the end, but other than that, on my part, I felt good. We made some key defensive plays, got some double plays that were huge and got us out of a little jam.”

Piscotty is still waiting to make his first start at Busch Stadium, but in the meantime, he collected his first career RBI in a key spot. After initially sending Dan Johnson up as a pinch-hitter with runners on the corners and one out, Matheny swapped out Johnson for Piscotty, once the Braves countered with the lefty Avilan. Piscotty worked a six-pitch at-bat before lifting a fly ball just deep enough to right to allow pinch-runner Pete Kozma to score.

Miller received a lengthy ovation from Cardinals fans when he came to the plate in the second inning, but he struck out with the bases loaded in what turned out to be the Braves’ best scoring chance of the game. A.J. Pierzynski and Adonis Garcia had singled before him, and Martinez intentionally walked Andrelton Simmons with two outs so he could face Miller.

“I like the way we battled against a tough pitcher in Martinez, and when he gives you an opportunity, you’ve got to take advantage and we didn’t today,” Gonzalez said. “He made some nice pitches also.”

For the 13th time in Miller’s 20 starts, the Braves scored three runs or fewer, and for the 10th time they scored two runs or fewer. Miller’s record is 0-6 when Atlanta scores between 0-2 runs.

Atlanta first baseman Freddie Freeman woke up expecting to play for the club’s rookie league affiliate in the Gulf Coast League, but when that game was rained out, he successfully lobbied to be activated for the first time since injuring his wrist on June 17. He arrived in the second inning and flied out to left field as a pinch-hitter in the seventh. He remained in the game at first base.

Rookie right-hander Matt Wisler gets the nod for his seventh big league start on Sunday at 1:15 p.m. CT, as the Braves are expected to welcome Freeman back to their lineup.  Thunder Radio will bring you the broadcast beginning with the pregame show at Noon.