Cardinals lose 9-7 to Braves in 12 innings
By R.B. FALLSTROM
ST. LOUIS (AP) Carlos Beltran has punished right-handed pitchers all season. It turns out the switch hitter feels just as good batting against lefties.
Beltran homered twice for the second time in three games, but the St. Louis Cardinals lost 9-7 to the Atlanta Braves in 12 innings on Friday night. He also had a two-run triple during a four-hit performance.
Both of Beltran's homers came batting right-handed, his second and third of the season to go with nine from the left side.
"Right now, every time I step into the batter's box I feel like I have a chance," he said. "It's fun, I had a good day. But it didn't mean anything."
Jason Heyward hit a two-run homer in the 12th inning for Atlanta, which put a damper on the Cardinals' celebration honoring former manager Tony La Russa.
A sellout crowd was on hand to watch the Cardinals retire La Russa's No. 10 in a pregame ceremony that included several of the manager's former players. But seven Atlanta relievers combined for 7 1-3 innings of one-run ball, helping the Braves end a seven-game losing streak in St. Louis that included a three-game sweep last September that propelled the Cardinals past Atlanta for the NL wild card on the way to their second World Series championship in five years.
St. Louis loaded the bases in the 10th and 11th but came up empty against Livan Hernandez (1-0). Pinch-hitter David Freese grounded into an inning-ending double play to end the 10th and Craig popped out to second to end the 11th.
"We had some opportunities to finish it off," manager Mike Matheny said. "We just couldn't make it happen."
Chipper Jones, who got a standing ovation before his first at-bat to begin his final scheduled series in St. Louis, walked against Kyle McClellan (0-1) to start the 12th. Heyward followed with his fifth homer to the power alley in left-center, close to the wall decal of La Russa unveiled several hours earlier.
Beltran tied it at 7 in the eighth, driving Jonny Venters' pitch to the visitors' bullpen in left-center. Beltran's team-high 12th homer was the first of the year off Venters, who hit his first batter of the year later in the eighth.
Beltran had a grand slam and six RBIs in a two-homer game at Arizona on Tuesday. He now has 33 career multihomer games, including three this season.
"He tried to throw it all on his shoulders, and almost did it," Matheny said.
The Cardinals are the majors' second-highest scoring team and the Braves are third, and the matchup lived up to that billing.
The Braves scored twice on passed balls in the first when Yadier Molina couldn't track down Jaime Garcia pitches that darted. Atlanta then doubled four times in a span of five at-bats in the third to give Mike Minor a 5-1 lead.
It's just the second time in Molina's career that he had two passed balls in one inning, and first since the eighth on June 30, 2005, against the Rockies.
"I do know Jaime's ball moves a lot, that's part of what makes him so good," Matheny said, adding that people get spoiled because Molina is so steady behind the plate. "The ball was just moving a little more tonight."
Beltran and Craig homered in a span of three pitches in the fourth, and St. Louis chased Minor with four consecutive two-out hits in the fifth. Beltran's 11th homer into Big Mac Land in the third deck in left was estimated at 454 feet, second-longest at 7-year-old Busch Stadium, and his triple in the fifth put the Cardinals up 6-5.
"I'm just seeing the ball, making good contact and getting results," Beltran said. "You have good days and bad days, so you have to take advantage of the days you feel good."
Minor's last three outings have been the worst of his short career. He surrendered six runs in 4 2-3 innings, his shortest outing of the season, and has an 11.81 ERA the last three while giving up 21 earned runs in 16 innings.
Garcia has been just as ineffective lately, allowing 12 earned runs in 10 2-3 innings his last two starts with a pair of no-decisions. Garcia gave up five runs, four earned, in 5 2-3 innings against Atlanta.
"I didn't get the job done," Garcia said. "It's just frustrating because I want to do better than just battle."
NOTES: Carpenter started at 3B in place of Freese, who got a day off aside from the pinch-hit appearance. ... The Cardinals had targeted Friday to activate 1B Lance Berkman (calf) off the 15-day disabled list, but he remains day to day. ... SS Tyler Pastornicky was the only Braves player or coach who didn't have some sort of on-field connection to La Russa. ... Braves pinch-hitter Eric Hinske was ejected after striking out in the eighth and arguing that he had checked his swing. Hinske is 3 for 18 as a pinch hitter and the Braves are 8 for 51 overall (.157). ... Craig has four homers in five games.
Updated May 12, 2012