The Cardinals have had a different reliever save each of their last four victories. On Friday night, the saver was an unlikely one.
Left-handed reliever Trever Miller, 38, hadn't retired any of the five hitters he had faced over his last five outings (three walks, two hits), but manager Tony La Russa called on him with Atlanta center fielder Nate McLouth representing the tying run and the Cardinals ahead by two runs in the 11th inning. The reason? McLouth was 1-for-13 with four strikeouts against Miller in his career.
On this occasion, Miller didn't exactly fool McLouth, but left fielder Matt Holliday ran down McLouth's drive at the warning track, and the Cardinals had a 5-3 win, their third in four games on their six-game trip.
Miller relieved right-hander Jason Motte, who also would have been the fourth different reliever to get a save in that span of four wins. Right-handers Mitchell Boggs, Eduardo Sanchez and Fernando Salas had recorded saves since Sunday.
Boggs and Sanchez
combined for three hitless innings Friday before Motte, who fanned two hitters,
and Miller took care of the 11th. The save was Miller's first since 2008, when
he was with
"Jason would be charging with fastballs, and McLouth has proved to us over the years he can turn on a fastball," La Russa said. "He did it to (Chris) Carpenter. Trever's got a couple more weapons."
As it turned out, Miller threw a fastball to McLouth, too, but the out was made.
The only downside for the Cardinals was that ace right-hander Carpenter will finish April winless. Carpenter worked seven innings, giving up three runs. In five of his six starts in April, Carpenter allowed three runs or fewer, but he still is 0-2.
2B Nick Punto didn't have any spring training at-bats and still is finding himself. But after going 0-for-5 to start Friday's game, Punto delivered a two-run, game-winning triple in the 11th inning. Punto has just five hits for the Cardinals, but four of them have come in 10 at-bats with men in scoring position. "He just plays with a calm," manager Tony La Russa said. "He's got a terrific approach to playing this game, and he's really fun to watch."
RHP Chris Carpenter hurt his right hand when batting in the top of the seventh inning but refused to come out of the game. On his second pitch in the bottom of the inning, Carpenter allowed a tiebreaking home run to CF Nate McLouth but escaped further damage later in the inning by getting a double-play ball with the bases loaded. "He got jammed and his fingers were ringing," manager Tony La Russa said. "He said he was starting to get his feeling back after about the second hitter."
RHP Ryan Franklin, taken out of the closer's role after blowing four saves in five opportunities, proved ineffective in several subsequent short-relief outings. He will be the Cardinals' "long man" for a while. "Somebody's got to fill that role," manager Tony La Russa said.
RF Lance Berkman extended his hitting streak to nine games, going 1-for-4 with a walk. In that time, he is 19-for-35, raising his average to .402.
BY THE NUMBERS: 1 - Games the Cardinals have won out of the six starts made by RHP Chris Carpenter this year. The one win came Friday.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I hit the ball off the end of the bat three times. It didn't feel real good."
- RHP Chris Carpenter, whose right hand stung for a while in the seventh inning, perhaps bothering him enough that he gave up a go-ahead homer to Braves CF Nate McLouth.
2B Skip Schumaker (strained right triceps) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 16.
OF Allen Craig (left groin strain) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 17. He began a rehab assignment with Class AA Springfield on April 29.
LHP Bryan Tallet (fractured right hand) went on 15-day disabled list April 13. He had screws inserted in his hand. He was scheduled to throw side sessions every other day in late April. Tallet, who is scheduled to have stitches removed from his hand May 1, hopes to return in early May.
RHP Bryan Augenstein (strained right groin) went on the 15-day disabled list April 13.
RHP Adam Wainwright (Tommy John surgery in February 2011) went on the 60-day disabled list March 25. He will miss the entire 2011 season.
Apr. 30 at BRAVES: Jake Westbrook (2-2, 7.40) vs.