ST. LOUIS -- Shelby Miller
found a new tool in his previous start. He might have perfected it Saturday night.
Relying on pinpoint location and a freshly-developed cutter to augment his 95 MPH per hour fastball, the St. Louis rookie dominated suddenly-struggling Atlanta for seven innings in a 6-2 win at sold-out Busch Stadium.
Miller (12-8) allowed just three hits, including Freddie Freeman
's two-out solo homer in the first, and walked none while fanning six in an efficient 101-pitch effort. It was his first win since Aug. 2 and his longest outing since working seven shutout innings against San Francisco on June 1, a span of 14 starts.
After watching staff ace Adam Wainwright
carve up the Braves with his cutter in a 3-1 complete game win Friday night, Miller adopted the same strategy with much success.
"That's a pitch he didn't start the season with," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said of Miller's cutter. "Being able to add that to the pitches he already has, he's going to get a lot of swings and misses."
Miller tried the cutter in a game for the first time on Monday night in Milwaukee. With All-Star catcher Yadier Molina
calling it frequently in this one, Miller picked up a couple of strikeouts with it and also used it to get ahead of hitters.
"I got a feel for it real quick," Miller said. "Yadi likes to call it a lot. It's a really good pitch. It lets the hitters know you've got something else. You just keep it simple and throw it in good situations."
Miller also got seventh inning help from center fielder Jon Jay, whose leaping catch near the wall denied Brian McCann an extra-base hit that would have put the tying run into scoring position in a 2-1 nailbiter.
Given momentum from that play and a spark from a pinch-hit leadoff single by Shane Robinson, St. Louis knocked Julio Teheran (10-7) out in a three-run seventh. Matt Holliday's two-run double to right-center made it 4-1 and he scored two batters later on Molina's line drive single to center.
Robinson made it two hits and two runs in as many at-bats in the eighth, singling, stealing second and scoring on Carlos Beltran
's RBI single.
"You just go out there and stay basic," Robinson said of contributing off the bench.
It was the fourth straight win for the Cardinals (76-53), which have won nine of 12. They pulled within a half-game of National League Central leader Pittsburgh, pending the result of the Pirates' game in San Francisco.
Atlanta (77-52) got an RBI double from pinch-hitter Gerald Laird in the ninth, forcing Matheny to wave in closer Edward Mujica with men at second and third, and the tying run in the on-deck circle. Mujica fanned Elliot Johnson on three splitters for his 34th save in 36 chances.
It was the fourth loss in five games for the Braves, which have managed just five runs in the series. St. Louis starters have worked 22 innings, allowing only 16 hits and four runs.
"Good pitching will stop good hitting every time," Freeman said. "We just have to go out there and keep battling."
Teheran gave up four runs off five hits and five walks in six innings, striking out eight. But two of the hits were long solo homers by Matt Carpenter -- his second leadoff homer of the year -- and Beltran that gave the Cardinals the lead for good.
NOTES: Atlanta RF Jason Heyward underwent surgery on Friday to repair his fractured jaw, suffered when he was beaned Wednesday in the sixth inning of a game at the New York Mets. Atlanta surgeon Dr. Glenn Maron placed two plates -- one at each fracture site -- in Heyward's jaw. Heyward could be out for the regular season's remainder. ... St. Louis leads the majors in doubles during August with 64, 13 more than Minnesota. The Cardinals also pace the National League with 124 runs. ... St. Louis has belted 21 homers this month, more than twice as many as it managed in July (9). The Cardinals also have 11 in their last eight games.
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