By Mark Bowman and Nick Suss
MLB.com |@mlbbowman |
ATLANTA -- Shelby Miller ended a maddening four-month winless streak and frustrated his former Cardinals teammates over the eight scoreless innings he completed while helping the Braves claim a 6-0 win in the first game of Sunday's doubleheader at Turner Field.
Miller scattered three hits and needed just 110 pitches to complete his eight innings, which were supported by Adonis Garcia's first multihomer game. This marked the third time the Braves right-hander received at least six runs of suppor and first since he had last earned a win on May 17.
"You don't expect to go out there and finish that well," Miller said. "I've obviously been struggling with my mechanics near the end of this rough stretch. This game I felt good. I was telling some of the guys, this was the best I've felt in a while. It was a good way to end the season."
Making his final preparations for the National League Division Series, Cardinals starter John Lackey allowed three earned runs and five hits over four innings. St. Louis manager Mike Matheny provided most of his regulars just two plate appearances before emptying his bench.
"I never want to disrespect the game, first," Matheny said. "[Braves manager] Fredi [Gonzalez] gets it. We're not disrespecting the opposition by how we're using our team. We talked about that. We're just trying to get our guys ready. And it looks different from how it has all year because we have put the pedal down since Day 1."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED On a mission: Miller made it obvious that he did not want to enter the offeason carrying the weight of his winless streak that was filled with misfortune and meager run support. He notched just six wins despite allowing two earned runs or fewer in 22 of his 33 starts. He finished with a 3.02 ERA, making him just the 10th pitcher in Major League history (min. 25 starts) to record six wins or fewer with a sub-3.05 ERA. The most recent to do so had been St. Louis' Jose DeLeon in 1991. More >
Garcia's power: After receiving a two-run first inning lead courtesy of RBI singles by Nick Markakis and Cameron Maybin, Miller received comfort courtesy of the solo homers Garcia hit in the fourth and sixth. Garcia has 10 homers through his first 186 career at-bats. He joins Bob Tillman (1969) as the only players in Braves history to record at least 10 homers with 200 or fewer at-bats in a season.
"We've talked about it going into next year and going forward that he's a guy that at the very least could give you an option against left-handed pitching," Gonzalez said. "He can play third or the outfield. He could be a formidable guy off the bench."
Piscotty returns: After a collision with teammate Peter Bourjos on Monday kept him out for almost a full week, outfielder Stephen Piscotty returned to the Cardinals' lineup for Game 1r. The 24-year-old, who came into the game batting .310, started in right field, shifted to left field for a few frames then returned to right field until he was pulled before the bottom of the eighth. Piscotty was unable to produce at the plate, going 0-for-4 with a strikeout.
"I didn't see anything that gave me any pause," Matheny said. "Even talking with him, I knew how badly he wanted to get back out there. He's been out there so many times and had so many similar plays to that that it's not an issue." More >
Waino looks sharp again:Adam Wainwright made his third appearance out of the bullpen since returning off the disabled list with an Achilles injury. The veteran right-hander faced four batters and struck out one in a scoreless eighth, walking one batter but not allowing him to advance past first base. This was Wainwright's second scoreless outing of this series.
"There's no doubt that he's going to step up when we need him as long as his body is cooperating, and it looks like his body is cooperating," Matheny said. More >
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
When the Braves tallied two first-inning runs, they provided Miller more run support than he received in 20 of his 32 starts. Miller ended this season with a 2.54 run support average, making him just the ninth pitcher in Major League history to make at least 30 starts and receive an average of less than 2.6 runs of support. Tom Candiotti had been the most recent to do so with the 1993 Dodgers.
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez issued an unsuccessful challenge after home-plate umpire Alan Porter conferred with first-base umpire Anthony Johnson and ruled Randal Grichuk was hit with a pitch in the fifth. The ruling was confirmed after a replay showed the pitch hit both Grichuk's left hand and the knob of the bat.
WHAT'S NEXT Cardinals: The wait between games 161 and 162 is as short as possible, as the Cardinals and Braves turn around after the conclusion of this one to finish off their regular-season schedules. On the hill for the Cardinals will be Lance Lynn and he will face Matt Wisler of the Braves. Eighteen Cardinals played in game one of the doubleheader and Matheny indicated he planned to get both starters and bench players reps in both Sunday games.
Braves: In the club's final game of the season, Wisler gets the nod as Atlanta looks to finish the season on a high note with a doubleheader sweep.