Cards follow drought in Pittsburgh with feast in Atlanta

Cards follow drought in Pittsburgh with feast in Atlanta

ATLANTA -- A three-game losing streak in Pittsburgh that generated small-sample-size overreaction and heightened scrutiny of the offense seemed old news by the time the Cardinals departed Atlanta on Sunday night.

A group that mustered seven runs in its opening series offered an avalanche of run support against the Braves. It scored a dozen runs in each of its two weekend games, needing much of that output Sunday to atone for another so-so start by Adam Wainwright. Seven runs in the final two innings Sunday lifted the Cardinals to a 12-7 victory.

"The fight," manager Mike Matheny said when asked what stuck with him most after a high-scoring weekend. "When we get down, we keep coming back. Just relentless. That's what we're going to have to do."

Though the Cardinals scored 31 runs in a series for the first time since Aug. 2-4, 2013, it's not as if they ran away with all three games. The series was bookended by come-from-behind wins in which the Cardinals took the lead in the eighth inning. On Sunday, it was two-out RBI singles by Jeremy Hazelbaker and Stephen Piscotty that nudged the Cardinals back in front.

A five-run ninth -- highlighted by Aledmys Diaz's two-run triple and a three-run Matt Carpenter blast -- made the outcome more lopsided than it felt.

"This was more par for the course," said Carpenter, who reached base eight times from the leadoff spot this weekend. "We got pitched tough in Pittsburgh as a group. We had some better at-bats this weekend. Now we can get on a roll."

These last two games marked the first time since August 2013 that the Cardinals had scored at least 12 runs in back-to-back games. They hadn't done so in consecutive games of the same series since 2003.

Notable, too, was the diversity of contributors. On Saturday, eight players drove in at least one run. Six players tallied an RBI on Sunday. Over the two days, Cardinals hitters drew 18 walks, including three by Randal Grichuk after his mid-game entrance Sunday. It was a particularly good sign for someone who struggled with pitch recognition while striking out in eight of his first 14 season at-bats.

The offense showed more power -- clubbing six home runs in these three games -- and also fewer swing-and-misses. After striking out 37 times in 101 at-bats against the Pirates, the Cardinals whiffed 28 times in 114 at-bats in Atlanta. Sixteen of their runs came in the final three innings.

"It's nice to go back home and have a few games under our belt where the guys showed a lot of life and showed a lot of energy staying in it and believing in each other," Matheny said. "Having a lead and losing it, that can, a lot of times, take the wind out of a team. But to figure out how to get back in it and just keep grinding through at-bats, that's the kind of team we need to be."

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB, like her Facebook page Jenifer Langosch for Cardinals.com and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.