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Matt Wisler strong again as Atlanta Braves beat St. Louis Cardinals

By Bucky Dent, The Sports Xchange   |   July 27, 2015 at 12:29 AM
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ST. LOUIS -- When pitcher Matt Wisler was acquired by the Atlanta Braves as part of the six-player trade with the San Diego Padres on April 5 that sent ace closer Craig Kimbrel west, many fans viewed it as yet another salary dump for a rebuilding team.

Not only has the trade saved Atlanta a lot of money, it might have also landed it a future rotation cornerstone.

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Wisler improved to 5-1 Sunday with seven solid innings, helping the Braves edge the St. Louis Cardinals 3-2 at sold-out Busch Stadium.

Scattering seven hits in his 100-pitch stint, Wisler gave up both runs while walking three and fanning three. Not overpowering by any means, Wisler showed the ability to pitch to all quadrants of the plate and demonstrated good poise.

"Obviously, I was a little nervous," Wisler said. "I mean, it's the best team in baseball. They've got a very good lineup, they're very talented. They can put up runs in a hurry. I was trying to attack guys the same way I would normal hitters."

Throwing 68 of 100 pitches for strikes, Wisler won his third straight start and enabled Atlanta (46-52) to avoid a sweep at the hands of the team with the best overall record (63-35) and best home record (36-13).

Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez has been impressed with Wisler's composure in his seven big league starts.

"He competes," Gonzalez said. "He does a lot of things right. He fields his position. Really impressive for a young pitcher to be able to do that in a major league environment and be successful. He gave us a great outing."

Third baseman Adonis Garcia supplied the tie-breaking run for Atlanta, belting a leadoff homer in the sixth off Michael Wacha (11-4). It was the first major league homer for Garcia, a 30-year-old Cuban who cracked only three long balls in 331 at-bats this year at Triple-A Gwinnett before being called up Saturday.

Gonzalez admitted to not knowing much on Garcia prior to his second stint with the Braves.

"He's got seven or eight at-bats in the big leagues but I like the at-bats he's given us," Gonzalez said of Garcia. "He's made some nice plays at third base so that's a nice addition. We've just got to find a way to keep him in the lineup somehow."

The result snapped a five-game winning streak for St. Louis, which failed to take advantage of a spate of scoring chances. The Cardinals stranded nine men on base, six in scoring position.

Wacha rebounded from a shaky first two innings in which he threw 51 pitches to record a quality start, yielding five hits and three runs over six innings with three walks and five strikeouts.

"His outing was a little better than it looked," manager Mike Matheny said of Wacha. "There were a couple of things which added to his pitch count. One fly ball which carried uncharacteristically far cost him and we couldn't get much going offensively."

Atlanta scored twice in the second. Catcher Ryan Lavarnway's RBI double down the left-field line gave Atlanta its first lead of the series, and center fielder Cameron Maybin added a two-out, two-strike, run-scoring single to left.

St. Louis got on the board in the fourth when rookie first baseman Stephen Piscotty singled home right fielder Jason Heyward. Originally called out at the plate, Heyward was ruled safe after a five-minute, eight-second replay review.

Left fielder Matt Holliday evened the score in the fifth, grounding an RBI double down the right-field line that scored second baseman Kolten Wong.

NOTES: St. Louis 1B Mark Reynolds (hand) was available to play but didn't start Sunday and did not get into the game after getting hit by a 94-mph fastball by Atlanta's Shelby Miller in the third inning Saturday night. ... Atlanta 1B Freddie Freeman (wrist) made his first start Sunday after being activated from the 15-day DL Saturday. Freeman flied out in the seventh inning Saturday night as a pinch hitter. ... Cardinals LHP Jaime Garcia (groin) is penciled in to come off the 15-day DL and start Tuesday night against Cincinnati. RHP John Lackey will move back a night to Wednesday.

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