The Cardinals pounded Atlanta’s Mike Foltynewicz for eight runs and seven hits last week, but the Braves’ righthander was undaunted when he faced them again at Busch Stadium on Friday night.
Foltynewicz held the Cardinals to an unearned run on five hits over six innings and the Braves hit three home runs to post a 5-2 win.
"He had his command working a little better tonight," Cardinals first baseman Paul Goldschmidt said. "We hit a couple of mistakes for homers last time. He didn’t make those mistakes. He’s a good pitcher and has a good arm and was mixing it up."
Dansby Swanson and Freddie Freeman hit back-to-back homers in the sixth, and Swanson hit his second of the game in the eighth with a runner aboard.
Other than the two homers he allowed, Cardinals starter Miles Mikolas (4-5) was sharp, striking out nine to match his career high and walking none in his seven innings.
The Cards again followed a big offensive game with a dud, collecting only seven hits and scoring their only run before the ninth inning on a pair of misplayed fly balls. They scored 10 in their previous game, a win against Kansas City on Wednesday night.
The second run came on a Matt Carpenter home run in the ninth estimated at 442 feet.
The game was tied until Swanson homered to lead off the sixth, and Freeman followed with his 13th of the season to center field. Swanson’s second homer and ninth of the year barely cleared the wall in center and required a review before it was confirmed.
The Braves got on the scoreboard first with a run in the third inning. The Cardinals tied the game in the bottom of the inning when Kolten Wong’s fly ball was dropped by left fielder Austin Riley and Harrison Bader had his triple misplayed in deep center by Ronald Acuna Jr.
They missed a chance to take the lead in the seventh when Carpenter and Yadier Molina opened the inning with singles, marking the end of the night for Foltynewicz (1-3).
The Braves then threw out Molina at second base on an attempted sacrifice bunt by Kolten Wong. Bader struck out. And Jose Martinez ended the inning pinch-hitting for Mikolas with a fly out.
Dexter Fowler was 0-for-3 and struck out three times in his first game hitting leadoff. Carpenter, who was dropped to the No. 5 spot, went 2-for-4.
Braves go back-to-back
Dansby Swanson hit the first pitch of the sixth inning for a home run and Freedie Freeman followed with a homer to center field to give the Braves a 3-1 lead over the Cardinals and Miles Mikolas at Busch Stadium.
Swanson had struck out in his first two at-bats and Freeman also was 0-for-2 before he hit his 13th homer.
The Cardinals have struggled against Atlanta starter Mike Foltynewicz, picking up only three hits in the first five innings with one of them being generously awarded on a misplayed fly ball.
The Cards scored eight runs on seven hits against Foltynewicz in 4 2/3 innings in Atlanta on May 14.
Cards tie Braves 1-1
Two misplayed fly balls allowed the Cardinals to score their first run and tie Atlanta 1-1 after three innings at Busch Stadium.
Kolten Wong started the inning with a fly ball to left-center field. As left fielder Austin Riley and center fielder Ronald Acuna Jr. approached each other, Riley made a play on the ball and had it flop off of his glove for a two-base error.
Harrison Bader followed with a long fly ball to center field. Acuna seemed to have a play but had to turn his body as the ball arrived and dropped it.
Wong scored and Bader raced to third base, being awarded a triple. When the throw sailed over catcher Brian McCann, Bader made a move toward the plate but was caught in a rundown.
The Braves scored in the third inning with three consecutive singles before a double play pushed McCann across against Miles Mikolas.
Wacha moves to bullpen
Michael Wacha will move to the Cardinals' bullpen effective immediately and become available to pitch in relief as of Saturday, manager Mike Shildt said Friday afternoon.
Wacha is coming off of a rough start that saw his record fall to 3-2 and his earned run average grow to 5.59.
“It was clearly a tough decision,” Shildt said. “He understandably was disappointed but understood and accepted it like a professional and challenged himself.”
Shildt will stick to the regular rotation through the weekend. The Cardinals have an off day on Monday. A replacement for Wacha's spot will be needed for Wednesday's game at Philadelphia.
"It's going to be for some period of time until Michael gets back to a version of himself that he knows he's capable of and we know he's capable of," Shildt said.
Shildt would not comment on who might take Wacha's spot in the rotation other than to say it would not be Alex Reyes, who had a strong outing for High-A Palm Beach on Thursday, when his fastball hit 99 mph.
Candidates for the Wednesday start include Jake Woodford, who is 3-1 with a 2.44 ERA at Memphis and Daniel Ponce de Leon (4-2, 3.48).
Wacha's ERA at home this season jumped to 8.24 when he allowed seven runs on seven hits in 4 2/3 innings against Kansas City in his last start.
Shildt reiterated that he thought Wacha actually looked better against the Royals that he had recently.
"You evaluate what you see and not the result," Shildt said. "What I saw in his last outing was a lot better stuff. The velocity was still down a little bit. He was locating pitches better and a lot of smaller misses. The reality is six runs scored (in one inning) on 18 pitches."
Wacha's move to the bullpen allowed Lane Thomas to stay with the Cardinals while Ryan Helsley returned to Triple-A Memphis.
Lineup change is about Fowler
Shildt said the decision to move Matt Carpenter out of the leadoff spot and use Dexter Fowler at the top of the lineup has more to do with Fowler’s performance.
“The better takeaway is what Dex is doing and the skill sets he brings,” Shildt said. “He’s getting on base, doing a lot of different things different ways. So it’s definitely not an individual thing about Carp as much as it is about Dexter doing well.”
Carpenter and his .203 average and .324 on-base percentage will move to No. 5 in the order to face Atlanta.
Carpenter has hit .162 since May 7. After finally climbing over .200, he has struggled to stay above that mark. It was mid-May last season when he started getting hot.
“I want to make sure I’m clear that we all feel on our staff, and most importantly Carp feels, that he’s as close as he’s been in a while to having the consistency he expects,” Shildt said.
Asked if there had been any talk about moving Paul Goldschmidt out of the No. 2 spot, Shildt said that hadn’t become a serious topic. Goldschmidt has seen his average drop to .253. He said he doesn’t remember having a change in his position in the lineup help him break out of a slump.
“I really haven’t but you’ve seen it happen,” Goldschmidt said. “When you’re going good as a team or individual, you’re doing pretty much the same thing. Then some days it works and others it doesn’t. It’s hard to explain. I haven’t had a time where things completely clicked by switching spots, but you never know.”
'Great reports on Alex'
Although Shildt said Reyes was not an option for next week, he indicated that he remains an option to join the team at some point. For now, he is limited because he can’t grip a bat well as he recovers from a broken pinky.
But the strides Reyes has made since suffering that injury continue to be impressive, including his strong outing at High-A Palm Beach.
“I got great reports on Alex,” Shildt said. “I texted Alex today and he felt good. It looks like his stuff is more consistent. I think the slider was his better secondary pitch and his fastball command looks like it was good and got better as the game went on.
“You always have to consider Alex’s ability, absolutely. He’s a big-league talent.”
Fowler to lead off
Dexter Fowler will make his first appearance of the season in the Cardinals' leadoff spot Friday night against Atlanta and Matt Carpenter will hit fifth at Busch Stadium.
Manager Mike Shildt hopes to take advantage of Fowler's team-leading .413 on-base percentage. Carpenter is at .324 with a .203 batting average and is not at the top of the order for only the second time in a game he has started. He has led off 44 of the Cardinals' 49 games. Fowler has started in the 5-hole once, 11 times at No. 6 and 26 times at No. 7.
Harrison Bader will play in center field and bat eighth with Jose Martinez getting the night off.
Miles Mikolas (4-4, 4.88 ERA) will start and face Mike Foltynewicz (0-3, 6.91).
1. Dexter Fowler, RF
2. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B
3. Paul DeJong, SS
4. Marcell Ozuna, LF
5. Matt Carpenter, 3B
6. Yadier Molina, C
7. Kolten Wong, 2B
8. Harrison Bader, CF
9. Miles Mikolas, P
1. Ronald Acuna Jr., CF
2. Dansby Swanson, SS
3. Freddie Freeman, 1B
4. Josh Donaldson, 3B
5. Nick Markakis, RF
6. Austin Riley, LF
7. Brian McCann, C
8. Ozzie Albies, 2B
9. Mike Foltynewicz, P