ST. LOUIS (AP)—Long counts have kept Shelby Miller from pitching too deep into games the last few months. On Saturday, though, the rookie was happy to give the St. Louis Cardinals bullpen a bit of a break.
Miller worked seven innings of three-hit ball and Matt Carpenter and Carlos Beltran each homered as the Cardinals beat the Atlanta Braves for the third straight time, 6-2.
”I thought that’s probably about as good as we’ve seen him in a long time,” manager Mike Matheny said. ”His stuff was electric and he was in the lower part of the zone.
”He was really locked in, hopefully that’s something he can maintain,” Matheny said.
Freddie Freeman homered for the NL East-leading Braves, who totaled five runs while dropping three in a row for the first time since July 3-5. Julio Teheran (10-7) allowed a season-worst five walks and was charged with four runs.
”I didn’t have my best stuff but I was fighting the whole game,” Teheran said. ”I knew it from the first inning, from when I was warming up that it was going to be a hard day for me.”
Miller (12-8) worked more than six innings for the first time in 13 starts since June 1. He struck out six without walking a batter while pitching with no more than a one-run cushion against a fellow 22-year-old right-hander. Center fielder Jon Jay made a leaping catch at the wall to rob Brian McCann of at least extra bases in the seventh.
”My main goal was to keep my focus the entire game and just attack the zone,” Miller said. ”That’s kind of what I’ve been lacking a little bit.
”I felt like we got in front on the counts and after that we didn’t slow down,” he added.
The Cardinals, who began the night a game back in the NL Central, go for a four-game sweep Sunday with Lance Lynn (13-7) opposing Mike Minor (12-5).
”They’re as good a ballclub as you’re going to face in the National League,” Carpenter said. ”For us to take these three games is huge.”
St. Louis totaled three runs while getting swept in a three-game series in Atlanta in late July.
”It’s a combination of tough pitching and we’re not swinging it really well,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. ”Sometimes you run into a hot team like they are right now. They ran into us at our place, we were pretty hot.”
Pinch-hitter Shane Robinson and Carpenter opened a three-run seventh with singles to chase Teheran and the Cardinals broke it open against reliever Dave Carpenter with a two-run double by Matt Holliday and an RBI single by Yadier Molina for a 5-1 lead
The Braves had three of their seven hits in the ninth, including pinch-hitter Gerald Laird’s RBI double off Seth Maness before Edward Mujica struck out Elliott Johnson with two on for his 34th save in 36 chances.
The first three hits of the game were home runs. Miller struck out the first two batters on seven pitches and the Braves’ first contact came when Freeman hammered a 1-2 pitch for his 16th homer.
Carpenter answered with his second career leadoff homer and 10th overall, also on a 1-2 count, in the bottom of the first. Beltran’s team-leading 23rd put the Cardinals ahead 2-1 in the third and he finished with three hits, two RBIs and his second base-running gaffe of the series.
Beltran settled for a single in the fifth after standing at the plate for several seconds and belatedly jogging to first on a liner down the third base line that caromed off the jut in the stands in shallow left. Two days earlier he missed third base and had to double back before scoring.
”I got jammed and I didn’t know where the ball went,” Beltran said. ”I heard the fans just clapping and I didn’t know what happened, then I saw the ball in left field and said I’ve got to run. Wouldn’t it be ugly to be thrown out at first base from left field?”
NOTES: Miller walked nine in 16 1-3 innings his first four starts this month, one of them lasting just two pitches when he took a liner off the elbow. Missouri DE Kony Ealy threw a ceremonial first pitch. … The Cardinals have hit 21 homers in August after totaling nine in July, although Carpenter’s 10th overall was his first since July 10 against Houston. … The Braves are 8-31 when scoring two or fewer runs. … Mujica, who missed the previous two games with back and neck woes, said he probably would be ready to go Sunday. … Freeman is batting .433 (13 for 30) his last seven games.