ATLANTA -- After a week in which they had nothing to celebrate, the Braves doubled down on satisfaction Tuesday night: They snapped a seven-game losing streak and got a big performance from a veteran pitcher in his first start since Tommy John surgery a year ago.
Chris Johnson's RBI single in the eighth inning lifted the Braves to a 2-1 win against the Cardinals at Turner Field, snapping the team's longest losing streak since an eight-game skid in May 2012.
A day shy of the one-year anniversary of his surgery, Gavin Floyd stepped into the rotation and turned in the kind of start the Braves have gotten used to this season, allowing one run in seven solid innings. Craig Kimbrel pitched a perfect ninth inning with two strikeouts for his ninth save.
Unfortunately for Floyd, pitching well enough to win but getting little run support is something else that Braves starters have gotten used to, especially lately. Still, there was nothing but smiles after the 31-year-old right-hander allowed six hits and two walks with five strikeouts, and threw 66 strikes in 104 pitches.
With the score 1-1 in the eighth inning, the Braves got consecutive one-out singles from Justin Upton and Freddie Freeman, the latter a screaming liner off the left of left-handed reliever Randy Choate. Right-hander Pat Neshek entered to face Johnson, who has struggled mightily but used an inside-out swing for a single to right that brought in the go-ahead run.
Justin Upton's long home run in the fourth inning was the first hit for the Braves and gave them a lead. The Cardinals tied the score on Matt Holliday's RBI single in the sixth inning, and the Braves wasted scoring opportunities in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings in what's become a familiar refrain.
Cardinals lefty Tyler Lyons limited the Braves to three hits and one run in six innings, with one walk and seven strikeouts. This after the he came in with an 0-2 record and 4.20 ERA this season and a 2-6 record and 5.34 ERA in 10 career major league starts.
After B.J. Upton's seventh-inning leadoff double against reliever Seth Maness, the Braves went down in order with Dan Uggla grounding out (and hearing plenty of boos), Floyd striking out, and Andrelton Simmons grounding out while hitting ninth as manager Fredi Gonzalez batted the pitcher eighth for the second consecutive game.
Simmons also struck out with two on to end the fifth inning, one of three strikeouts in the inning. Gerald Laird led off the inning with a single and B.J. Upton and Uggla struck out before Floyd reached on an infield single.
Simmons' last outs with in the fifth and seventh innings and Laird's strikeouts with with two on to end the sixth and eighth innings lowered the Braves' major league-worst average with runners in scoring position and two outs to .118 (13-for-111), including 8-for-101 (.079) by players other than Freddie Freeman.
After Johnson's go-ahead single in the eighth, the Braves had a chance to do more damage with runners on the corners and one out. But Laird missed a bunt attempt and Freeman was hung out to dry in a rundown between third and home for the second out. Laird then struck out to end the inning with Johnson on third.
The Braves snapped a skid and got a most encouraging performance from Floyd, who had to be activated Sunday after using up the maximum 30 days on his injury-rehab start.
With Ervin Santana nursing a bruised thumb after being jammed on a pitch two starts ago and having it swell in his most recent outing, the Braves plugged Floyd into Santana's turn in the rotation for one start. Floyd mixed mostly 91-93 mph fastballs (topping out at 94) with 83-87 mph cutters and a few curveballs.
The Braves will decide later what to do with Floyd, who could go to the bullpen for now and be available as a spot starter. who signed a one-year, $4 million contract this winter after posting double-digit wins in five consecutive seasons for the White Sox before 2013, when he was limited to five starts (0-4, 5.18 ERA) before blowing out his elbow.
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