Cardinals encounter two firsts in 7-4 loss to Braves

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Braves handed Lance Lynn his first loss to complete a sweep of St. Louis

ST. LOUIS -- One pitch cost Lance Lynn a chance at franchise history.

It also put the St. Louis Cardinals in a hole they couldn't escape.

The rookie right-hander who's been standing in for the injured Chris Carpenter took care of the Braves aside from Jason Heyward's bases-clearing double in the third.

But the Cardinals were just 2 for 11 with runners in scoring position and stranded 10 in a 7-4 loss to the Braves, who handed St. Louis its first sweep of the season Sunday.

"I wish I could have gotten [a win] today," Lynn said. "The past is the past now. I'm looking for the next start and trying to get better."

Lynn had been bidding to become the franchise's first pitcher to win his first seven starts of the season dating to 1920.

Heyward's hit ended a 10-pitch at-bat and put the Braves up 3-0 in the third. Tommy Hanson (4-3) allowed one run in five innings with nine strikeouts, and Martin Prado, Freddie Freeman and Dan Uggla each had an RBI in a three-run seventh.

"Looking back on it, I'd probably throw him something different," Lynn said about the pitch to Heyward. "When you hit a double down the line, you want that one back. I stuck with what's got me here and that was a fastball, and he made a good swing on it."

The Braves had lost seven consecutive games in St. Louis before Friday.

"Honestly, they played better baseball than us," Carlos Beltran said. "They pitched better. They played better defense. They came through when the team needed them the most, and we couldn't do that.

"But you know what? We have to turn the page."

Beltran homered for the sixth time in six games with his league-leading 13th of the season. It also was his first hit in 14 career at-bats against Hanson. Allen Craig hit a three-run homer off Cristhian Martinez in the ninth for his third hit of the game.

"It felt good," Craig said. "I wish it would have happened earlier in the game, but it's always nice to hit a home run."

Rafael Furcal had three hits, including a pair of infield singles, and a walk, and is 25 for 49 (.510) during a 12-game hitting streak.

The NL Central leaders struck out 14 times and stranded 10 runners.

The Braves totaled 56 runs during a 7-2 trip, including a pair of extra-inning victories, and also swept a three-game series at Colorado. Atlanta is a major-league best 22-9 with four road series wins since it lost its first four games of the season.

The Cardinals had runners on first and second with none out in the first before Hanson found his stride. He struck out five of the next seven batters. Hanson fanned cleanup hitter Craig twice and permitted just one runner in scoring position the next four innings before he tired in the sixth.

Lynn threw a season-high 121 pitches in six innings and retired his last eight in order. He's among three Cardinals to win their first six starts in a season along with Bob Tewksbury (1994) and Max Lanier (1946).

"I was missing a lot of spots and they were making me fight for the outs I got, and that lineup will do that to you," Lynn said.

Lynn needed 26 pitches to escape unscathed in the first after the Braves put the first two on, and he threw 39 more in the third. Heyward, whose 12th-inning two-run homer was the go-ahead hit Friday, fouled off three pitches on a full count before his bases-clearing double.

Lynn struck out seven and has 27 strikeouts in 25 2/3 innings his past four starts.

Beltran led off the sixth with his 13th homer, and Craig and Lance Berkman followed with singles to chase Hanson. Eric O'Flaherty struck out pinch hitters Matt Holliday and Tyler Greene, the last with the bases loaded, to end the inning.

The Cardinals were outscored 14-6 the last two games of the series

"Their pitching staff this whole series did a nice job of pitching around the zone and getting us to chase a little bit and making good pitches when they had to," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "They were speeding us up, slowing us down, raising the eye level."

Berkman, activated by the Cardinals from the 15-day disabled list from a calf injury before the game, was 1 for 5 with two strikeouts.

"I hadn't played in a month, so I felt like I was pretty pleased with the at-bats for not having been in there," Berkman said. "It's just going to take some time."

Chipper Jones entered in a double switch in the sixth and was 0 for 1 with a walk in his final regular season appearance in St. Louis. The 40-year-old Jones is retiring after the season.


* Furcal and Braves leadoff man Michael Bourn, who had two singles and an RBI in the eighth, have 51 hits apiece. Bourn entered the day leading the league in hits.

* Greene is 2 for 17 for his career as a pinch hitter and Holliday is 4 for 20.

* A standing room crowd of 45,729 lured by a David Freese bobblehead giveaway, with hundreds standing in line 2 1/2 hours before game time, was the Cardinals' seventh sellout.

* Beltran is 9 for 25 with six homers, a double, a triple and 13 RBIs over his past six games.

* Lynn's previous pitch high was 110 at Chicago on April 25.

* Craig's homer was the first allowed by Martinez in 10 appearances.

* The last time the Cardinals were swept at home was Aug. 22 to 24 against the Dodgers.

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