ATLANTA — Manager Mike Shildt almost always looks for a positive spin he can put on a Cardinals defeat, if there is one. And there have been plenty lately, 11 losses in 14 games, which would test even college graduate Shildt’s ample vocabulary.
There was little upside apparent to the naked eye Thursday night, for instance. Poor starting pitching. Equally as unsteady relief pitching. Scant offense. A couple of grounders that could have been had scooted by for run-scoring singles.
There was that jumping catch that center fielder Harrison Bader made near the wall to end the eighth. But most of the aforementioned amounted to a 10-2 loss to the Atlanta Braves and a fourth consecutive series loss for the Cardinals, something that didn’t come close to happening last year.
Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright walked five in four innings. Two of the walks were intentional but two others were leadoff walks and both scored, one each in the second and third.
Veteran reliever Luke Gregerson was cuffed for four singles in a span of five hitters in a three-run sixth. Dominic Leone allowed two more runs, including Freddie Freeman’s homer.
The offense consisted of Marcell Ozuna’s 13th homer in the sixth and Matt Carpenter’s fifth homer in the eighth.
And the Cardinals were on their way to Arlington, Texas, for an interleague matchup with the Texas Rangers where one or two runs probably aren’t going to be enough.
OZUNA HITS 13TH HR
ATS NMarcell Ozuna hopped on a slider from Atlanta reliever Jacob Webb and blasted his 13th homer of the season high and deep to left field in the sixth inning Thursday night at SunTrust Park. But it came after a Paul DeJong double-play ball and counted as only one run as the Cardinals still trailed the Braves 5-1.
And that four-run gap lasted only a few minutes as the Braves touched Tyler Webb and Luke Gregerson for three runs in the sixth as they upped the lead to 8-1. Gregerson was particularly ineffective, allowing four singles and a deep fly ball to the first five men he faced.
It became 9-1 with a run off Dominic Leone in the seventh.
WAINO HURT BY LEADOFF WALKS
Native Georgian Adam Wainwright was pitching in his 31st major league stadium, including Monterrey, Mexico, Thursday night when he made his first appearance in SunTrust Park.
The Cardinals' righthander was 4-1 at Atlanta’s Turner Field but he will be winless so far at SunTrust, lasting just four innings as the Braves took a 5-0 lead, due in large part to control issues for Wainwright.
Wainwright fell behind 2-0 in the second inning, with rookie Austin Riley, doubling off the top of the right-center-field brick wall, delivering the key hit.
Wainwright walked the leadoff man, Nick Markakis, which usually is a recipe for harm. Riley, who homered in his big-league debut on Wednesday, nearly got No. 2 but the ball missed by inches from going over the wall although the umpires had a review of the play, which stayed as a double.
But the Braves got those two runs anyway on a sacrifice fly by Brian McCann and pitcher Julio Teheran’s safety squeeze bunt on which Riley got a good break from third.
BRAVES SCORE THREE MORE IN THIRD
Wainwright walked another leadoff hitter in the third. And the Braves scored three more runs.
Markakis doubled in one run and Riley singled for his second RBI. Wainwright knocked down Brian McCann’s hard grounder and had a play only at first as Riley took second.
Wainwright issued his fifth walk _ second intentional _to Ozzie Albies, and Teheran, who entered the game hitless in 17 at-bats with 10 strikeouts, singled home Riley and it was 5-0.
Wainwright was coming off a strong seven-inning performance against Pittsburgh last Friday when he gave up just one run in seven innings but got a no-decision in a 2-1 Cardinals loss. The 37-year-old struck out eight, walked nobody and gave up just five hits in that game.
C. MARTINEZ WILL JOIN TEAM IN TEXAS
The Cardinals will stay with 13 pitchers when they play an interleague series against the Texas Rangers at Arlington, Texas this weekend and one of them will be righthander Carlos Martinez.
Martinez returned to St. Louis after pitching two innings on a minor league rehab outing Wednesday, was examined Thursday and was to fly to Dallas to meet the team which was to arrive after midnight Friday morning.
Since Martinez, recovering from a shoulder strain, was slated to have two days off, he isn’t likely to be activated until Saturday, which was the first day he would be able to pitch, general manager Michael Girsch said Thursday night.
The Cardinals probably have four bullpen options with whom to make a pitching move to accommodate Martinez’s removal from the injured list.
Righthander Giovanny Gallegos might have been that guy a couple of weeks ago but he has struck out 29 hitters in 17 innings since being brought up and is gaining favor. Dominic Leone, who has an option left, has gained some traction by striking out six in his last three scoreless innings after a horrid couple of games before that.
Veteran righthander Luke Gregerson, just off the injured list, hasn’t been scored on in his past three games. And lefthander Tyler Webb has held lefthanded hitters to an .091 average (two for 22) but manager Mike Shildt, perhaps indicating that two lefthanded relievers might not be necessary, noted that Martinez gets lefthanded batters out.
“He’s got a lot of different weapons for both sides of the plate and he can get the ball on the ground, so he can come in with runners on base and get a ground-ball double play,” said Shildt.
For the last 15 games of the 2018 season, Martinez, because of his weak shoulder, pitched strictly in relief, gaining five saves and posting a 1.47 ERA.
Martinez had three rehab outings at Memphis, one at Springfield and one at Peoria and was scored on in only one of them, covering 6 2/3 innings.
“He’s checked all the boxes,” said Shildt. “He’s a two-time All-Star that proved he could do the job out of the bullpen last year. You always want to shorten games.”
Martinez, who is near the middle of a five-year contract which takes him through 2021, has said he wanted to start before the season was over although Shildt said that the bullpen will be where he will pitch for now.
“I don’t want to pigeon-hole ourselves and say, ‘No, (starting) will never happen,’ because you never know. But (starting) is not in our immediate plans,” Shildt said.
Thirty pitches might be a ceiling now for Martinez, who could pitch on back-to-back days, if needed, Shildt said.
THIRTY-ONE PARKS FOR WAINWRIGHT
Native Georgian Adam Wainwright will pitch in his 31st major league stadium, including Monterrey, Mexico, on Thursday night when he makes his first appearance in SunTrust Park against the Atlanta Braves.
Wainwright, who was 4-1 at Atlanta’s Turner Field, is coming off a strong seven-inning performance against Pittsburgh last Friday when he gave up just one run but got a no-decision in a 2-1 Cardinals loss. The 37-year-old Wainwright struck out eight, walked nobody and gave up just five hits in that game.
The Cardinals, losers of 10 of their last 13 games and scoring one run or none in seven of them, are keeping the same lineup they employed for the first two games of the series.
Matt Carpenter, down to .199, will remain hitting leadoff. He walked and was hit by a pitch in Wednesday’s 4-0 loss to Atlanta. But in the seven games of one run or no runs in this stretch, Carpenter has been on base only four times and has no hits in 24 at-bats in those games.
1. Matt Carpenter 3b
2. Paul Goldschmidt 1b
3. Paul DeJong ss
4. Marcell Ozuna lf
5. Jose Martinez rf
6. Yadier Molina c
7. Dexter Fowler cf
8. Kolten Wong 2b
9. Adam Wainwright p