ATLANTA • Veteran relievers Randy Choate and Pat Neshek were unable to preserve a tie game for the Cardinals in the eighth inning tonight as the Atlanta Braves nicked them for three singles and the go-ahead run, snapping a losing streak at seven games with a 2-1 triumph at Turner Field.
Lefthander Choate opened the inning by striking out lefthanded-hitting Jason Heyward for the fourth time in four career at-bats. But he allowed a single up the middle to righthanded-hitting Justin Upton. Next was lefthanded-batting Freddie Freeman, who had fanned four times in five at-bats against Choate.
But this time Freeman hit a hard grounder off Choate's left leg, with the ball caroming to third base where Matt Carpenter had no play.
Righthander Neshek, who had held righthanded batters to a .114 average, then allowed Chris Johnson's game-untying hit to right field.
The Braves' rally was short-circuited when Gerald Laird bunted through a pitch on a squeeze play that turned out to be suicide for baserunner Freeman coming down the line from third.
But no matter to Braves ace closer Craig Kimbrel, who nailed down his ninth save with a perfect ninth, fanning two.
For the third time, Tyler Lyons pitched six innings as the Cardinals' starter and this one was his best as he permitted just three hits, including Justin Upton's homer, and one walk by fanning seven.
But Lyons' only support was Matt Holliday's run-scoring single in the sixth. The Cardinals have scored a total of only two runs for Lyons while he has been on the mound in his three starts.
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Holliday's hit ties game
Matt Holliday's second single of the game scored Matt Carpenter with the tying run as the Cardinals caught up to the Atlanta Braves at 1-1 in the sixth inning tonight at Turner Field.
Carpenter coaxed a walk on a 3-2 pitch from Gavin Floyd and then moved on to second on Yadier Molina's hit-and-run groundout. Holliday, batting .424 with men in scoring position, delivered a single to right center.
The run was just the second the Cardinals had scored for starter Tyler Lyons in 18 innings this season. Lyons, completing six innings for the third time in three starts, fanned seven in that time, including Gerald Laird with two on and two out in the sixth.
Lyons, who walked only one and gave up three hits, left for a pinch hitter, Randal Grichuk, in the seventh. Grichuk bounced out for the final out of the inning, leaving Daniel Descalso at second base. Descalso had singled and advanced on a short wild pitch by Floyd.
Cardinals righthander Seth Maness, unused since April 28, pitched around a leadoff double by B. J. Upton in the seventh and the game went to the eighth tied at 1-1.
J. Upton's HR gives Braves 1-0 lead
Cardinals lefthander Tyler Lyons, starting for the third time in place of injured Joe Kelly, set down the first 10 Atlanta Braves he faced before Justin Upton ended a nothing-for-12 dive in a big way with one out in the fourth inning. Upton lifted his ninth homer deep into the left-center-field seats to break a scoreless tie at Turner Field.
It was the first time the Braves, losers of seven straight, had led since May 1.
The Cardinals had four singles and a walk against Atlanta righthander Gavin Floyd in the first five innings. But Floyd, making his first major league start after missing most of last season with Tommy John elbow surgery, stifled the Cardinals each time.
The best early chance came in the third when Lyons walked with one out and Matt Carpenter singled. But Yadier Molina and Matt Holliday both grounded out.
Jay in CF, Descalso at 2B
Another day, another change in center field for the Cardinals.
Jon Jay returns to the starting lineup tonight for the first time since Saturday. Randal Grichuk started in center on Sunday, and Peter Bourjos came from deep off the bench to play there Monday.
Daniel Descalso, who has four hits all season and is batting .121, will start at second base against Atlanta's Gavin Floyd, who is making his Braves debut after coming off Tommy John surgery in 2013. Descalso is two for three against Floyd while Mark Ellis, who is sitting tonight, is one for 14 against Floyd.
"We're going to need all these guys," said manager Mike Matheny. "We keep saying it over and over again but you hate to go too long without giving (Descalso) a chance to get in there more consistently than just one at-bat.
"Daniel has had a couple of hits and Mark has had some trouble with (Floyd)."
Matheny also moved shortstop Jhonny Peralta to the No. 5 slot on the strength of his .385 surge (15 for 39) in the last 10 games. Allen Craig, in a two-for-16 skid after his four-hit game last Wednesday, drops to No. 6.
"I'd love to have a lineup that we'd just write in and, 162 games later, we'd be right where we want to be," said Matheny. "But we've been struggling to figure it out."
Matheny, commending righthanded-hitting Peter Bourjos for a two-hit game on Monday, said Bourjos likely would play against Atlanta lefthander Mike Minor on Wednesday.
"But we've got to find a way to get Jon Jay locked in," said Matheny. "We've got to get him clicking."
Keep an eye on the bullpen tonight. Carlos Martinez has worked three days in a row but Matheny said it was possible Martinez could go. Less probable, Matheny suggested, was closer Trevor Rosenthal, who has thrown 39 pitches in working back-to-back days.
Lefthander Kevin Siegrist also might be shut down tonight. Matheny said he was hoping tonight's starter, Tyler Lyons, could solve some of those bullpen issues by going deep into the game.
Matheny said scoring for Lyons also would help. The Cardinals scored a total of one run for Lyons in his first two starts, both of which lasted six innings.