A foiled sacrifice bunt that became a double-play ball in a 4-1 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday was a chance the Braves’ scuffling offense couldn’t afford to miss.
“What are you going to do?” said Gonzalez, who was booted in the fifth by home plate umpire Ron Kulpa. “We still scored one run.
“We score a run on a throwing error and pretty much that’s all we had to go on.”
The Braves scored two or fewer runs for the 19th time in 41 games, and got beat by an opponent that did the little things. The Cardinals had four bunt singles, two each by rookie Kolten Wong and Peter Bourjos, and three of them led to runs in support of Shelby Miller’s strongest outing of the season.
“We were absolutely in the game,” Jason Heyward said. “But you have to execute the small things.”
Wong scored on Yadier Molina’s shallow sacrifice fly just beyond the infield to tie it in the fourth, and bunted for a hit and drew a wild throw in the go-ahead, two-run rally off Aaron Harang (4-4) in the sixth.
Wong got the go-ahead to tag up after second baseman Tyler Pastornicky backpedaled into shallow right to make the catch, and Heyward, the right fielder, arrived too late.
“By the time I realized I could get there, it would have been tough to call him off,” Heyward said. “Heads-up play on their part by sending the runner.
“He kind of caught it off-balance, and I felt like I would have caught it the same way.”
The Cardinals matched a season high with their fourth straight win.
Miller (6-2) allowed a run and five hits in seven innings, one inning longer than his previous high this season. He matched his season best with seven strikeouts, fanning B.J. Upton three times.
Trevor Rosenthal fanned two in the ninth inning, with Upton striking out a fourth time, to earn his 13th save in 14 chances.
Andrelton Simmons had three hits for Atlanta, which lost its third in a row.
“You check the temperature of the club every single day and guys are upbeat,” Gonzalez said. “Nobody likes to lose, but I haven’t seen anybody put their head down.”
Bourjos bunted twice for hits, the second time squeezing home a run in the seventh to make it 4-1.
Miller has won six straight decisions in seven starts after losing his first two of the season. The last three St. Louis starters have worked seven innings.
In the fifth, Harang stayed in the batter’s box after his attempt to sacrifice Simmons to third didn’t go far. Molina pounced on the ball and threw to third, with shortstop Jhonny Peralta covering, for a tag play. Peralta had an easy relay to first to finish the double play.
Gonzalez vigorously protested home plate umpire Ron Kulpa’s ruling of a fair ball and was ejected. Seconds after leaving the field, Gonzalez bounded out of the dugout again and was headed off by first base umpire Eric Cooper, hustling to the plate.
After the game, he judged the ball was “5-6 inches foul.”
“They’ve got to make the call and there’s no help, really,” Gonzalez said. “That’s’ what I kept asking, ‘Can we get some help from one of the guys on the line?’”
Molina’s sacrifice fly was a pop-up just outside of the infield. Pastornicky backpedaled to make the catch, and Wong raced home ahead of the relay.
The Braves capitalized on shoddy defense to take the early lead.
Simmons scored from first on Harang’s two-out single — the pitcher’s first hit of the year. Harang took third after left fielder Matt Holliday threw behind him, then trotted home after Wong’s wild throw from second.
NOTES: Cardinals lefty Jaime Garcia will make his first start since injuring his shoulder last May in today’s series finale, with Gavin Floyd (0-1, 2.70) starting for Atlanta. ... The attendance of 44,981 was the Cardinals’ eighth sellout. ... B.J. Upton made a nice running shoe-top catch in center field on Allen Craig’s sinking fly ball to start the second. ... The Braves are 1-4 against the Cardinals and 8-1 against the rest of the NL Central.