After blip, Cards' bullpen holds Braves in win

After blip, Cards' bullpen holds Braves in win

ATLANTA -- In order to get to Tommy Pham's 14th-inning heroics and a 6-4, series-sweeping win over the Braves, the Cardinals first had to pull off an escape act. Three of them, actually.

Already having erased a four-run deficit against starter Michael Wacha and two Cardinals relievers, the Braves advanced the potential winning run to third base in three successive innings, beginning in the 10th. But a bullpen that entered the day 12th in the National League with a 4.72 ERA did some of its best work on Sunday when given no room to budge.

"Our bullpen did a great job coming in and getting out of some serious jams," first baseman Matt Carpenter said. "There were a couple times where they thought they had the game in hand and our guys came in and made some pitches and were able to keep it right there."

The tight-rope walking began in the 10th, the first of four consecutive innings in which Atlanta's leadoff hitter would reach. Two productive outs moved Brandon Phillips to third, and manager Mike Matheny opted to have Jonathan Broxton face Matt Kemp instead of Freddie Freeman, who had earlier tied the game with his 11th home run.

After sending Freeman to first with an intentional walk, Kemp, 2-for-5 in his career against Broxton, whiffed on a high 97-mph fastball to extend the game.

Broxton K's Kemp

The situation an inning later was even more precarious, as Seung Hwan Oh found himself stuck in a mess after walking pinch-hitter Tyler Flowers to load the bases with two out. He fell behind Ender Inciarte, 2-0, before eventually inducing a grounder to first.

The play, however, would hardly be routine.

Carpenter fielded the ball and flipped to Oh, who hustled to cover first. He reached the base about the same time as the speedy Inciarte, and the Cardinals got the out call from first-base umpire Bill Miller. It was immediately challenged by the Braves.

"Kind of iffy," Oh acknowledged afterward, when asked how confident he was that the call would stand. "I had a feeling it was going to be an out."

It was, as the video review could not provide conclusive evidence to overturn and give Atlanta the rare replay walk-off win.

Oh beats Inciarte to first

"Obviously, that's the game," Matheny said. "I was worried when I saw it in real time. Hats off to an umpire making a tough call against the home team."

"It's too bad we couldn't get the call to be safe, because I think it could have gone either way," added Inciarte. "We had a lot of opportunities."

Yet another rolled around in the 12th, when reliever Sam Tuivailala allowed the first two batters he faced to reach. A nifty double-play turn alleviated some of the pressure, and an inning-ending strikeout of Kurt Suzuki left another Braves runner stuck 90 feet from home. All combined, the Cardinals relievers stranded seven runners in a three-inning span.

Tuivailala K's Suzuki

"Tui picked us up," Pham said. "I thought for a second we might [be losing] the game right there in that situation. But he got the double play, and that was huge."

Tuivailala returned to pitch another scoreless inning, putting him in line for his first win of the season. Kevin Siegrist followed with a perfect 14th inning to notch his first save of the year. In all, the Cardinals' bullpen covered eight innings and allowed one earned run.

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. 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.