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Minor uses arm, bat to lead Braves past Cardinals

The SportsXchange

ATLANTA - With Tim Hudson gone for the season, the Atlanta Braves need Mike Minor to pitch like an ace. On Friday night, the left-hander did just that.

Minor out-shined National League wins-leader Adam Wainwright and the Braves defeated the St. Louis Cardinals 4-1 in a match-up of division leaders before a sellout crowd of 50,124 at Turner Field.

"He was tremendous," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "And it was on the big stage facing one of the best teams."

Minor (10-5) handcuffed the Cardinals except for a second-inning homer by Yadier Molina as he lowered his ERA to 2.89. He gave up four hits, walked none and struck out five, throwing 70 of his 103 pitches for strikes.

Minor is 16-9 since the All-Star break a year ago and has a 2.65 ERA in that stretch.

"He's been this good for a while," Gonzalez said. "You saw him grow up and he's getting better and better. ... Let's not put labels on him yet, but he's a darn good left-handed pitcher. ... He beat a heck of a team."

Minor retired 17 of the next 20 batters after Molina homered and didn't let the clutch-hitting Cardinals get a hit with a runner in scoring position.

"It's a big win," Minor said. "I felt really good."

Jason Heyward hit a home run and Minor helped himself with a two-out RBI in their first meeting between the teams since the Cardinals defeated the Braves in the National League wild-card game last season.

"It was a great atmosphere," said Heyward, who also made two hit-saving catches. "To go far, you have to beat good teams like that. It was a big test against a really good pitcher."

Wainwright (13-6) had his road winning streak snapped at eight and lost to the Braves for just the second time against six victories. Atlanta's first-round draft choice in 2000 allowed seven hits and four runs (three earned) over seven innings, walking one and striking out eight.

"I think I just have to tip my hat to them," Wainwright said. "They had a good approach from the start and hit some good pitches. I had pretty good stuff."

Other than one misplaced pitch to Molina, Minor was in charge.

"He deserved to win. He pitched great," Molina said.

The catcher picked on a first-pitch changeup from Minor in the second inning and smacked his eighth homer of the season into the seats in left-center field. It was the Cardinals' first home run since Molina connected at Chicago against the Cubs on July 14 in the last game before the All-Star break.

But the Braves scored twice in the bottom of the inning, with Minor driving in the lead run with a two-out single. Brian McCann led off the inning with a double and Chris Johnson followed a hit by Dan Uggla with an RBI single. Minor's RBI hit came after the Cardinals couldn't turn a double play on a grounder by Jose Constanza.

Then the Braves made it 3-1 in the fifth inning as Wainwright left an off-speed pitch in the middle of the plate and Heyward went the other way, driving his eighth homer over the fence in left-center field.

With the Braves' lead padded thanks to a three-base throwing error by Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma in the seventh inning, Jordan Walden pitched a perfect eighth and Craig Kimbrel struck out two around a walk in the ninth for his 29th save.

NOTES: Hudson, who suffered a season-ending broken right ankle in New York on Wednesday when stepped on covering first base against the Mets, had surgery Friday at Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta. He was 8-7 with a 3.97 ERA and has 205 career victories. ... Cardinals LHP John Gast, who was 2-0 in three May starts before being injured, underwent shoulder surgery Friday in Chicago and will need eight to 12 months of recovery time. ... Cardinals LF Matt Holliday, out since July 11 with a strained right hamstring, is set to come off the disabled list Saturday, the first day he is eligible. ... RHP Julio Teheran (7-5, 3.25) will start for the Braves in the middle game of the series against Cardinals RHP Joe Kelly (1-3, 3.88). ... The Braves and Cardinals will play a four-game series in St. Louis on Aug. 22-25.

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