Baseball / Sports

St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina celebrates a 7-1 victory over the Atlanta Braves with pitcher Seth Maness on Wednesday, May 7, 2014, in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/MCT)

Braves stymied by Cardinals' Wainwright; lose for eighth time in nine games

ATLANTA -- There have been games during Mike Minor's winless string of eight regular-season starts when the Braves left-hander pitched well enough to win but got no run support. Wednesday was not one of those nights.

In his second start of the season, Minor got rocked for 11 hits and six runs without making it out of the fifth inning of a 7-1 loss to the Cardinals and Adam Wainwright, who pitched like he usually does against the team that traded him away more than a decade ago.

The Braves lost for the eighth time in nine games, and Wainwright (6-2) allowed six hits and one run in eight innings, with one walk and six strikeouts. The big right-hander from Brunswick, Ga., improved to 8-2 with a 2.77 ERA in 10 starts against the Braves.

"It's tough when you got a little momentum going last night, and then you run into a brick wall in that guy," said third baseman Chris Johnson, who had the game-winning RBI Tuesday when the Braves snapped a seven-game skid with a 2-1 win against the Cardinals.

They fell behind 5-1 after four innings Wednesday and went 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position, making the Braves 9-for-68 (.132) in that department over nine games. But for one of the few times this season, the bigger problem Wednesday was the pitching. Specifically, the starting pitcher.

Minor (0-2) last won a regular-season start Aug. 25, 2013, when he beat the Cardinals. Since then he's 0-6 with a 4.74 ERA in eight regular-season starts.

"They battled some good pitches, and then I left some over the middle of the plate," said Minor, who had six strikeouts with two walks.

"I don't think we made very good pitches," said manager Fredi Gonzale, whose Braves are 1-5 on a nine-game homestand that concludes with a series against the Cubs starting Friday. "Mike's secondary pitches weren't -- the breaking balls weren't real sharp. They were kind of roly-poly over the strike zone, and you do that with a team like that, it can hurt you.

"And Wainwright was pretty good. So we had a not-so-good performance from our side and a real good performance from their side pitching-wise, and that's the kind of game you're going to get."

After beginning the season on the disabled list recovering from shoulder tendinitis, Minor made his debut Friday when he gave up two runs and seven hits in six innings of a 2-1 loss to the Giants. He allowed two solo homers in that game, and gave up a two-out homer in the second inning Wednesday to Peter Bourjos, who hit a first-pitch fastball for a 1-0 lead. Minor has been tagged for 10 homers in 49 1/3 innings over his winless streak.

St. Louis added a run on four hits in the third inning. After the Braves cut the lead to 2-1 on consecutive two-out doubles by Justin Upton and Freddie Freeman in the third, the Cardinals took a commanding 5-1 lead with three runs in the fourth.

"I'm not worried," Minor said. "There's going to be a lot of people that are going to speculate on, you know, 'What's the move now? Minor had a bad start.' Well, it's my second start up here and my first one I thought was pretty good, other than the home run. Two home runs the last game, and I gave up another one tonight. Which I've got to keep those down or (eliminate) them."

A parade of pitchers have recently manhandled the Braves, who've hit .204 and totaled 16 runs in their past 10 games, including one or no runs six times in that stretch.

They weren't much of a challenge for Wainwright, who was a Braves prospect back in 2003 when they traded him to the Cardinals in a five-player deal that brought J.D. Drew to Atlanta for one season.

"He had his stuff tonight," Braves center fielder B.J. Upton said. "That's the way it goes. He's that good for a reason, and when a guy like him has his stuff it's going to be tough. He got a lead, we got a couple of guys on base ... that's what good pitchers do. We took some pretty good swings off him, but he made some pitches when he needed to."

Wainwright has allowed 10 earned runs in 12 innings against the Cubs this season, and three earned runs in 46 innings of six starts against everyone else. No team other than the Cubs mustered more than five hits against him until the Braves did it Wednesday, and they trailed 6-1 before getting the last two hits against him in a scoreless sixth inning. He retired the last eight batters he faced.

Clearly, it was a bad night for Minor to have a bad night.

The National League Cy Young Award runner-up in 2013, Wainwright won 19 games and had a 2.93 ERA in 241 1/3 innings, then pitched another 35 innings in the postseason. He also collected his second Gold Glove last year, and this season he's 8-for-19 batting after getting two hits Wednesday including a third-inning leadoff double and a two-out single that extended the fourth inning.

Minor struck out two of the first three batters in the fourth inning, then gave up three singles and a walk to the next four as the Cardinals batted around in the inning. Matt Holliday's two-run, two-out bloop single was perhaps the quietest hit of the inning, but did the most damage.

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