With a day off on Monday, St. Louis manager Mike Matheny tried to squeeze one more outing from closer Trevor Rosenthal on Sunday.
Rosenthal, who had pitched in four straight games with three saves, came in to start the ninth with a one-run lead against the Atlanta Braves.
Rosenthal managed to get two outs, but then forced in the tying run with a bases-loaded walk to Jordan Schafer.
Reliever Carlos Martinez followed Rosenthal and his wild pitch allowed the winning run to score in a 6-5 loss.
Matheny went back and forth on whether to make Rosenthal available. But Rosenthal appeared to feel fine after warming up before the game, and Matheny gave him the chance.
"He's a tough kid," Matheny said. "He wanted the ball. I pushed him today and it didn't work."
Schafer said that Rosenthal still was tough.
"He was throwing hard," Schafer said. "He didn't lose much."
The blown save was the second for Rosenthal (0-2), who just missed striking out Schafer on a 3-2 borderline pitch.
I thought it was close," Rosenthal said. "It's vbefore. In the heat of the moment, you always want it to go your way."
Had Rosenthal gotten the save, it would have made the winner out of Cardinals starter Jaime Garcia, who pitched seven innings in his first outing in more than a year.
Garcia, who underwent surgery in May 2013 to repair a torn labrum and rotator cuff in his pitching shoulder, allowed four runs and five hits with five strikeouts. The outing was Garcia's 100th appearance in the majors, but first since May 17, 2013.
"He threw the ball well," Matheny said. "When he was down, he was making very good pitches and getting quick outs."
Dan Carpenter (3-0) pitched 1 1-3 innings of scoreless relief for the win. Craig Kimbrel pitched a scoreless ninth for his 11th save in 13 chances. The save was the 150th of Kimbrel's career.
Kolten Wong drove in three runs with a bases-loaded double in the second inning.
Freddie Freeman went 3 for 3, including a solo home run in the first and a two-run single in the sixth.
Justin Upton homered leading off the fourth for the Braves. The homer was the 10th for Upton, who also doubled and scored two runs.
"It's big," Freeman said. "I don't know if you can say a must win, but it's definitely nice to get one."
The Braves failed twice to close out innings due to defensive miscues with two outs. That allowed the Cardinals to score four runs.
With two outs in the seventh and Yadier Molina on first, Jhonny Peralta hit a high fly ball to center field. Schafer lost the ball in the sun and it fell just to his right side. Peralta was credited with a double and Molina scored to give the Cardinals a 5-4 lead.
But the ball got away from catcher Gerald Laird for a passed ball, allowing Bourjos to reach first. A hit by Garcia and a walk to Matt Carpenter loaded the bases and Wong cleared them with a double down the line in left to make it 3-1.
Atlanta rallied to tie the game 4-4 on Freeman's two-run single with one out in the sixth.
NOTES: Molina extended his hitting streak to seven games with a fifth-inning single. ... Atlanta's Dan Uggla went 0 for 3, dropping his average to .178. Uggla has just two hits in his past 29 at-bats. ... Pat Neshek got one out in the eighth inning to extend his scoreless streak to 13 2-3 innings.
Link to box score: Atlanta (23-19) 6 at St. Louis (23-21) 5
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