Braves fend off Cardinals, halt slide at eight

Braves fend off Cardinals, halt slide at eight

Braves fend off Cardinals, halt slide at eight
ATLANTA -- It lasted longer and proved more agonizing than the Braves could have imagined when they were rolling just a couple weeks ago. But for at least one day, they were able to escape the frustration that has surrounded them for more than a week. Michael Bourn showed some more surprising power and Dan Uggla sparked a slumbering offense with a three-run third inning home run that helped the Braves snap an eight-game losing streak with a 5-4 win over the Cardinals on Tuesday night at Turner Field.

"It's a sigh of relief every time we win a game," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "It doesn't matter if we win 15 in a row or lose eight in a row. It's tough to win Major League games."

One day after falling from first to last in the National League East race in a span of a week, the Braves moved out of a last-place tie with the Phillies and to within three games of the front-running Nationals in the early stages of a tightly-contested division race. In other words, the losing streak proved to be far more agonizing than destructive.

"We just take it one game at a time," Bourn said. "When you're going through a funk, you just want that one game to get out of the way. We know we have a good team. We know we don't have everybody at full strength. But we're still good enough to win games."

There is no doubt the Braves spent much of this past week missing the production that had been previously provided by the injured Chipper Jones and ill Brian McCann and Freddie Freeman, who has suffered through vision problems.

But as this week arrived, it became apparent it was time for the pitching to improve and for somebody to step up in the manner that Uggla did with his three-run home run off Jake Westbrook with two outs in the third.

"That was a big blow right there," Gonzalez said after his team avoided matching the nine-game losing streak the 2010 club endured at the end of April.

Uggla's eighth home run of the year and fifth in his past 22 games provided the Braves a 4-0 lead -- their first four-run advantage since May 17. While this proved to be the big blast, the deciding run in the club's first win since May 20 came with the assistance of Jose Constanza's legs.

Constanza, who was promoted from Triple-A Gwinnett earlier in the day, began the fifth with a single and advanced to second base on an errant pickoff attempt. He advanced to third base with Bourn's long fly ball to center and scored on a wild pitch.

"That extra run was a tough one," Westbrook said. "That's pretty much all on me."

While Constanza was providing a spark like he had last August before turning his ankle, Bourn was giving starter Randall Delgado an early lead with his no-doubt home run in the first. The speedy center fielder has hit each of his five home runs in his past 72 at-bats. His five homers match the career-best total he produced with the Astros in 2008.

"We played good baseball today," Gonzalez said. "We didn't break. We bent a little bit, but we didn't break."

Delgado allowed the Cardinals to tally two fourth-inning runs immediately after he had gained a four-run lead. Delgado surrendered a sixth-inning solo homer to Yadier Molina, then walked Matt Adams before handing the ball to Chad Durbin.

Extending his own recent success, Durbin recorded two key strikeouts and left two runners stranded at the end of the inning. Eric O'Flaherty also notched two key strikeouts in a scoreless eighth.

But the Braves experienced some suspense before winning for the first time in nine days. Jonny Venters retired the first two batters he faced in the seventh, then allowed the Cardinals to cut their deficit to one run with three consecutive two-out singles. But the struggling left-hander, who has a 6.75 ERA this month, ended the inning with a big strikeout of Adams.

Fortunately for Venters, the Braves provided some cushion by showing some signs of offensive life. They recorded just five hits, but this marked just the fourth time in their past 12 games that they scored as many as four runs.

"We haven't really scored any runs for anybody lately," Uggla said. "Everybody knows how bad we've been scuffling -- [it] ain't no secret. Just to get this first one, to kind of ease the tension, ease the pressure a little bit and remember what this feels like. I think it was obviously a big night."

Mark Bowman is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.