Friday’s Game Report: Braves 5, Cardinals 2
By Rob Rains
Hoping to find a solution to the Cardinals’ struggles this month, manager Mike Shildt changed the lineup on Friday night – inserting Dexter Fowler into the leadoff spot and dropping Matt Carpenter to fifth.
The only dividend from the move came too late to prevent a loss to the Braves in the opener of a three-game series at Busch Stadium as the Cardinals offensive production still resembled many of their games this month.
The Cardinals have now lost 15 of their 21 games so far this month and have been limited to two runs or less in 10 of those losses. They still have failed to win back to back games since April 30-May 1. The loss dropped the Cardinals back to .500 for the season with a 25-25 record.
In his four plate appearances, Fowler struck out three times and was hit by pitch. It’s the first time he has struck out three times in a game this season. Carpenter, starting a game hitting fifth for the first time since Sept. 5, 2012, was 1-of-3, getting a leadoff single in the seventh, before leading off the ninth with his seventh homer of the year.
Dansby Swanson hit two homers, the first Braves player with a multi-homer game in St. Louis since Andruw Jones homered twice on July 18, 2006.
Here is how the game broke down:
At the plate: Harrison Bader had two hits, including an RBI triple in the third that produced the Cardinals’ first run, but he was caught in a rundown after running too far past third after an overthrow to the plate and was tagged out … Paul Goldschmidt also had two hits, but they were both infield singles. He has two extra-base hits, a homer and a double, in his last 26 games … Paul DeJong was 0-of-4, snapping his on-base streak at 17 games … The Cardinals did not draw a walk and struck out 11 times, the same totals as the Braves’ batters.
On the mound: Miles Mikolas tied his career high with nine strikeouts but saw the Braves snap a 1-1 tie with back-to- back homers from Ronald Acuna Jr. and Swanson leading off the sixth inning. Mikolas has now allowed a team-high 12 homers in 62 innings this season after giving up 16 in 200 innings last season … Swanson also hit a two-run homer off Giovanny Gallegos in the eighth … It was the seventh time in 26 games at home that the Cardinals have allowed three or more home runs. They have now allowed 75 for the season; opponents did not hit their 75th homer off the Cardinals last year until June 30.
Key stat: The Cardinals have now lost 15 games this month with six games left before the calendar flips to May. In the last 23 years they have lost more than 15 games in the month of May only once, losing 16 in 2012, when they finished the month with a 13-16 record. The last time they lost more than 16 games in May was when they went 12-17 in 1995.
Worth noting: Giving up six runs in the span of 18 pitches in his last start convinced the Cardinals to move Michael Wacha to the bullpen, where he will be “for the foreseeable future,” according to Shildt. In his last seven starts, Wacha allowed 27 earned runs in 35 innings. “If Michael Wacha is at his best he is an elite pitcher,” Shildt said. “He just hasn’t been able to execute consistently this year.” Wacha will be available to pitch in relief starting on Saturday … Shildt said the Cardinals will promote a pitcher from Memphis to make the start next Wednesday in Philadelphia, which would have been Wacha’s next turn in the rotation. That pitcher will most likely be either Daniel Ponce de Leon or Jake Woodford, who walked six and allowed five runs in five innings Friday night at Nashville … The day-after reports from Alex Reyes’ five scoreless innings for Palm Beach on Thursday night were very favorable. He will make at least one more start in Palm Beach, then move back up to Memphis. The Cardinals want to be sure he can swing the bat before considering bringing him back to the majors … After being sent back to Memphis on Thursday because of the decision to move Wacha to the bullpen, Ryan Helsley’s role – starter or reliever – is still being determined, according to Shildt.
Looking ahead: Dakota Hudson will get the start in the second game of the series, set for a 6:15 p.m. first pitch on Saturday night.
Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains
POSTGAME AUDIO by Mike Reeves
Mike Shildt and Miles Mikolas