Heyward's homer helps Braves sweep Cardinals
St. Louis's lead in NL Central down to one game
The Braves' loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League wild-card game last year still stings. At least Atlanta has a little measure of regular-season payback now.
The Braves strung together four consecutive two-out hits in the sixth inning to break a tie, and they completed a weekend sweep of the Cardinals with a 5-2 victory Sunday night before a crowd of 34,478 at Turner Field.
The Cardinals, who lead the National League in runs in batting average, scored just three runs in the three games and saw their lead in the National League Central over the second-place Pirates slip to a game with five-game series in Pittsburgh starting Monday night.
Chris Johnson had three hits, including a double, to take over the lead in the National League batting race with a .338 average. Jason Heyward added a homer and RBI single, and Andrelton Simmons had two hits for the Braves, who lead the Washington Nationals by 8 1/2 games in the National League East.
Kris Medlen, who lost the wild-card game last year, got the win to snap a personal three-game losing streak. Helped by three double plays, Medlen (7-10) allowed eight hits and two runs in six innings, striking out four and walking one.
Luis Avilan and Jordan Walden each pitched a perfect inning in relief for the Braves, who padded their lead with an unearned run in the eighth. Craig Kimbrel retired the Cardinals in order in the ninth for his league-leading 31st save and 21st conversion in a row.
Johnson started the sixth-inning rally with two-out single, forcing Shelby Miller (10-7) out of the game after 112 pitches. Seth Maness gave up singles to Simmons and pinch hitter Joey Terdoslavich, whose bloop hit broke the tie and gave him his first career RBI. Then lefty Kevin Siegrist, who came into face the left-handed-hitting Heyward, gave up a fourth straight hit to make it a two-run game.
Miller, who leads major league rookies in victories, gave up six hits and was charged with three runs (two earned). He struck out six and walked two.
The Braves jumped on top with an unearned run in the second inning. Cardinals right fielder Carlos Beltran misplayed Johnson's two-out single for a two-base error. Simmons, who had the game-winning double in the eighth inning Saturday, followed with a line-drive hit, knocking in Johnson.
Heyward, batting leadoff for the second straight game, opened the third inning with his ninth homer of the season and second of the series. Miller left a fastball in the middle of the plate, and Heyward drove the pitch into the seats in deep right-center field to put Atlanta up 2-0.
The Cardinals tied it the fifth as Miller helped himself. The pitcher, who singled in his first at-bat, followed a double by Pete Kozma with one of his own for an RBI. Beltran evened the score with a two-out bloop hit after breaking a 0-for-12 drought with a single his previous time up.
NOTES: St. Louis RHP Jake Westbrook (7-4, 2.95 ERA) opposes Pittsburgh LHP Francisco Liriano (10-4, 2.23) on Monday. ... The Cardinals are 2-3 against the Pirates this season, with all in the games in April. ... RHP Brandon Beachy will make his return from Tommy John surgery Monday night when the Braves begin a four-game home series against the Colorado Rockies. Beachy had a 2.00 ERA when he was hurt in June 2012. LHP Jorge De La Rosa (10-5, 2.97) is scheduled to start the series opener for the Rockies. ... The Braves and Cardinals will play a four-game series in St. Louis from Aug. 22-25. The Braves swept a three-game series there last year.
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