ATLANTA _The Atlanta Braves were the only National League team Cardinals starter Michael Wacha never had beaten and Wacha played a big part in the Braves going ahead 1-0 in the third.

Ronald Acuna Jr., had much to do with it, too, as he stole second base after singling to left to lead off the inning. Wacha walked Freddie Freeman with one out and froze Josh Donaldson on a third-strike changeup for the second out.

But with the Cardinals’ defense shifted toward right for lefthanded-batting Nick Markakis, Acuna took off for third, Wacha stepped off the rubber and tried to lead third baseman Matt Carpenter, who was scrambling back to the bag. But Wacha threw the ball in the outfield and Acuna scored the first run.

The Cardinals had loaded the bases with one out on two walks, a sacrifice and a hit batter in the top of the inning but Paul Goldschmidt, after lining a ball foul to left, hit a sharp grounder to second baseman Ozzie Albies, who started an inning-ending double play.

Atlanta moved ahead 2-0 in the fourth as rookie Austin Riley, just brought up from Class AAA Gwinnett, drilled a 90 mph high fastball by Wacha 438 feet into left center field for his first hit and first homer in the majors. He had hit 13 homers in his last 18 games in Class AAA.

Yadier Molina is enjoying the most productive start of his career offensively, having driven in 30 runs in the Cardinals’ first 42 games. He hit his 150th homer on Tuesday and also stroked his 367th double, tying Hall of Famer Rogers Hornsby for fifth on the Cardinals’ career list.

“I’ve been working hard on my offense _ and it’s paying off,” Molina said.

But there is a part of the game that he misses. Opponents have tried to steal a major-league low seven bases on the Cardinals and have been successful only four times, also a major league low, with Molina having thrown out two of five.

“That’s my best part,” said Molina, a nine-time Gold Glover, said on Wednesday. “That’s my game.

“But,” promised Molina, “I’m going to ready for anybody who tries.”

The closest teams to the Cardinals in steal attempts are Miami at 14 and Arizona at 16. Each team has thrown out five runners.

Besides his world-class catcher, pitching coach Mike Maddux credited his pitching staff, from one to 12 or 13 as being the best collectively he’s had in his various stops restricting the running game of the opponent, whether it be a quick time to the plate or an ability to keep the runner unsure at first.

“We’re paying attention to detail,” Maddux said. “Any time we can save 90 feet just by paying attention to detail, we’re going to do it. It doesn’t take any talent to do it. It just takes effort.

“The last thing you want to do is not have somebody pay attention and have somebody pick your pocket.”

The advantage of keeping a runner at first is simple. It takes …read more

Source:: Daily times


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Wacha error leads to one run; then he allows HR to Braves rookie

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