Braves-Cardinals Preview

The Associated Press

Sometimes it's better to be more lucky than good.

Shelby Miller has been living that axiom as he tries once more to overcome his control issues and win a career-high fifth consecutive start Saturday when the St. Louis Cardinals host the Atlanta Braves.

A 2013 NL Rookie of the Year finalist after winning 15 games, Miller (5-2, 3.22 ERA) has battled himself as much as opponents. He has walked 5.44 batters per nine innings - the worst ratio in the majors - and has yet to last more than six innings in any of his eight starts since he has walked at least three in seven of them.

The right-hander's last outing typified his season thus far, giving up two runs and walking four in 5 1-3 innings Sunday before sweating out a 6-5 victory at Pittsburgh. He also drew the ire of manager Mike Matheny during his sixth-inning visit to the mound.

"It was figuring out a way to get him right and figuring out a way to get us through that," Matheny told the team's official website. Miller referred to the visit as "classic Mike...spitting the truth."

Miller has won three starts during his streak by one run, including one earlier at Atlanta - improving to 2-1 lifetime against the Braves after yielding two runs and six hits with two walks in five-plus innings of a 4-3 victory May 5.

Matheny, meanwhile, displayed another flash of temper in Friday's series opener, getting ejected along with center fielder Peter Bourjos after the fourth inning of the Cardinals' 5-2 win for arguing balls and strikes with Sean Barber. It seemed to light a spark under St. Louis (22-20), which snapped a 2-all tie with a three-run fifth for its third straight win.

''I loved to see the fire and the fight that Peter showed there,'' Matheny said. ''Frustrated and knew a couple of pitches didn't get called to what he thought was the strike zone in big situations. You can't take the emotions out of these guys.''

Aaron Harang (4-3, 2.98) gets his second crack at Miller after giving up four runs - two earned - and nine hits in six innings. The right-hander bounced back with six solid innings Sunday versus the Chicago Cubs, allowing two runs while striking out nine in a 5-2 victory to end a three-start losing streak.

A late addition to the Braves' injury-ravaged rotation, Harang has given up more than two runs just twice in eight starts but also has not been well-supported - he has gotten only 18 runs in his outings. Harang's 14 losses to the Cardinals are his most against any opponent, and he has lost five consecutive decisions to them since a 2009 victory with Cincinnati.

Chris Johnson had two hits Friday to continue his torrid May - he's batting .377 this month - but his teammates have not followed suit. Atlanta (22-18), which has lost six of seven on the road and 11 of 16 overall, dropped to 6-12 when scoring two or fewer runs.

''We get one or even two guys hot and they're so far apart in the lineup that we don't get it going,'' manager Fredi Gonzalez said. ''Sooner or later we'll start swinging like we're capable of.''

Bourjos is 6 for 13 with a double, triple and homer versus Harang, but Matt Holliday has been limited to three singles in 26 at-bats while striking out eight times.

Freddie Freeman is 4 for 9 with a double and a homer lifetime against Miller.

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