ST. LOUIS — Tyler O'Neill hit a three-run homer to break an eighth-inning tie and the St. Louis Cardinals rallied past the Atlanta Braves 6-3 on Sunday night.
Tommy Edman pulled the Cardinals even with a leadoff homer in the eighth against A.J. Minter (5-4), who also gave up O’Neill’s two-out drive to straightaway center field. Lars Nootbaar went deep with two outs in the sixth for the first hit off Braves starter Jake Odorizzi.
O’Neill entered on defense in the seventh and delivered the decisive blow his first time up – immediately after Minter struck out sluggers Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado with two runners aboard. St. Louis’ rally was aided by third baseman Austin Riley‘s error.
“Hitting homers is always fun, but in a situation like that, I just wanted to do my job and enjoy it,” O’Neill said. “See a good pitch to hit, see it fly (out) that way, it’s all good feelings.”
O’Neill also drew a game-ending walk Saturday in a 6-5 victory for the Cardinals, who have won 12 of 15. They stayed six games in front of second-place Milwaukee in the NL Central.
O’Neill hit just .194 in July, but is slowly rounding back into form.
“Everybody knows what kind of talent he has, what kind of tools he has,” St. Louis pitcher Adam Wainwright said. “He’s just a big part of our team. It’s good to see him get back going again.”
St. Louis manager Oliver Marmol has stuck with O’Neill throughout his struggles.
“He’s swinging with more confidence,” Marmol said. “We feel like he’s trending in the right direction.”
It was O’Neill’s third go-ahead homer this season, all since July 23.
“I’m just trying to stay in the strike zone, trust my ability there,” O’Neill said. “Not a lot of good is going to happen outside the (strike) zone.”
Atlanta remained three games behind the first-place New York Mets in the NL East.
Dansby Swanson put Atlanta ahead 3-2 with a three-run homer off reliever Ryan Helsley in the seventh. But the Braves couldn’t hold on and lost two of three in St. Louis after winning their previous five series.
Atlanta rookie Michael Harris II went 4 for 4.
Helsley (9-1) struck out three in 1 1/3 innings. Giovanny Gallegos pitched a scoreless ninth for his 13th save.
Nootbaar slammed a line drive down the left-field line to break a scoreless tie in the sixth, and Odorizzi never got another out. Three more hits in a row followed, and Nolan Arenado chased the right-hander with an RBI single.
Eddie Rosario and Harris singled in the seventh off Wainwright before Swanson went deep. Wainwright was charged with two runs and eight hits over 6 2/3 innings. He struck and five and did not walk a batter.
The 40-year-old righty made his 18th career start on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball, the most of any active pitcher.
Odorizzi, acquired from Houston on Aug. 1 for reliever Will Smith, gave up two runs on four hits over 5 2/3 innings in his fifth start with the Braves.
“There’s no reason why we should hang our heads from this game,” Minter said. “That’s as close as you can get to a World Series game. It’s just going to make us that much better.”
The start of the contest was delayed 59 minutes by rain.
Wainwright and catcher Yadier Molina made their 322nd start together, second in major league history behind the Detroit battery of Mickey Lolich and Bill Freehan, who amassed 324 starts together from 1963-75.
Braves: OF Ronald Acuna Jr. was held out of the starting lineup for a second successive night to rest his sore right knee.
Cardinals: RHP Jack Flaherty will likely make his fifth and final rehab start Wednesday at Triple-A Memphis. He has been sidelined since June 27 with a right shoulder strain.
Braves: LHP Max Fried (12-4, 2.52 ERA) faces Colorado RHP Jose Urena (2-5, 5.98) in the first of a three-game series Tuesday in Atlanta. Fried is 1-1 with a 2.86 ERA in four career appearances against the Rockies.
Cardinals: RHP Miles Mikolas (10-10, 3.35) takes on Reds RHP Chase Anderson (0-0, 0.00) in the opener of a three-game series Monday in Cincinnati. Mikolas is 3-4 with a 5.37 ERA in 14 games against the Reds and has not won in Cincinnati since April 4, 2018.
O’Neill’s 3-run HR in 8th lifts Cardinals over Braves 6-3 originally appeared on NBCSports.com