When the Braves traded Adam Wainwright to the Cardinals 10 years ago, they knew there might be nights like this.
Wainwright pitched a six-hit complete game in a 3-1 St. Louis win Friday night at Busch Stadium, which gave the Braves their first back-to-back losses in more than a month.
Wainwright (15-7) had nine strikeouts with no walks in the 16th complete game of his career and fifth this season.
“We’ve seen him do that a lot,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “He’s a special guy when he gets on the mound and can do what he did to us today.”
The Braves’ Justin Upton was thrown out for a comment that he said home-plate umpire Paul Nauert misinterpreted when Upton was leaving the batter’s box on a sixth-inning ground out, and Kris Medlen pitched six solid innings and had sharp words concerning Gonzalez’s decision to replace him with runners on the corners and none out in the seventh.
Yes, it was an eventful night for the Braves, who’ve lost both games since Jason Heyward was knocked out for likely at least the rest of the season with a broken jaw.
“It’s only two games, but Jason was a huge loss,” said Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman, whose two-out single in the sixth inning tied the score, 1-1. “He’s a non-replaceable player, what he does in the outfield and what he does (at the plate). He’s pretty much been carrying us the last three weeks, doing everything he does offensively. But we’re going to have to tread water without him and hopefully come out tomorrow and put some runs on the board.”
The Braves have dropped the first two games of the four-game series, and need to win Saturday and Sunday to avoid their first series loss in nine, since they lost the last two games of a July 19-21 road series against the White Sox. They won seven consecutive series before splitting a two-game set with the Mets to begin this six-game trip.
Medlen (10-12) gave up a two-out Matt Holliday homer in the sixth inning to put the Cardinals back ahead, 2-1, and was taken out after allowing a Yadier Molina double and Jon Jay single to start the seventh. Reliever Scott Downs gave up a one-out walk and a sacrifice fly by Wainwright to push the lead to 3-1 before the inning was through.
“I got taken out with 78 pitches,” said Medlen, who was charged with six hits, three runs and one walk. “I was just about to start battling. I didn’t have to battle yet, but I wasn’t given the opportunity. I guess I’m voicing the fact that I didn’t appreciate that, but I don’t know what kind of mentality we’re trying to create for our starters.
“I feel like I should be able to work out of some jams. I know we have a good bullpen and it’s easy to go to them… But I felt like I was doing well enough to where I was a strikeout and a double play from getting out of the inning.”
The Braves played the last three innings without Upton, who hit his eighth homer of August in Thursday’s 6-2 loss. He was ejected immediately when Nauert heard Upton curse after hitting a grounder for the second out of the sixth, with Medlen at second base and the Cardinals ahead 1-0.
Upton looked surprised and became furious after realizing he was tossed by Nauert.
“I got about halfway down the line and I thought I heard him behind me, say that I was ejected,” said Upton, who then strode toward the umpire and began shouting and pointing at him, before Gonzalez interceded and first-base coach Terry Pendleton restrained Upton and muscled him to the dugout.
Upton said Nauert thought he said something he didn’t say, but wouldn’t elaborate.
“If I can’t get frustrated with myself and say what I want to myself, it’s sad,” Upton said. “It’s really sad. We play this game and we come out here and work hard every day, and we get frustrated with ourselves.
“(On) the pitch before we had a disagreement, and he was immediately upset with me for complaining about the call. I think he was still a little upset about that, and he heard what he wanted to hear. And I was ejected from the game.”
Gonzalez said: “I don’t want to get into the details of the whole thing, but I didn’t think it was a good ejection. I don’t think there’s a right time or a wrong time to eject people, but I don’t think when the guy’s running away from you (toward first base), whatever was said or wasn’t said, it’s not a good ejection. Especially arguably your best player, middle-of-the-lineup type…. My opinion only, it wasn’t a good time to eject a player. Especially a player of that caliber, for really nothing that was extravagant”
Medlen lost his second start in a row after a four-start winning streak, and the Braves didn’t get a runner to second base until he singled to start the sixth inning and advanced on a sacrifice bunt. Upton’s grounder moved him to third, and Freeman’s RBI single raised his majors-leading average with runners in scoring position to .448.
That was the extent of the offense against Wainwright, a 6-foot-7 right-hander who threw 128 pitches, including 88 strikes.
“He was good; real good,” Freeman said. “That cutter looks so good (to hitters), and you just can’t do anything with it. He starts in middle-in to us lefties, and it just buries in at the last second. You can’t get your arms extended. You saw how many foul balls we hit into their dugout today. And with that big curveball … he had a good mix going tonight.”
Wainwright, a Brunswick native, was drafted in the first round by the Braves in 2000. They traded him to the Cardinals in December 2003, along with pitchers Ray King and Jason Marquis, in exchange for J.D. Drew and Eli Marrero.
“Yeah, he was on tonight,” Upton said. “He was locating all his pitches. Obviously everybody knows he has good stuff, and he beat us. There’s nothing we can do about it. We can’t dwell on that. We’ve got to come back tomorrow and try to get ourselves a win.”
After the Cardinals took a 1-0 lead on consecutive doubles by Molina and Jay to start the second inning, Medlen retired the next 12 batters, including seven ground outs. Matt Carpenter ended the streak with a leadoff walk in the sixth, then was erased in a double play before Holliday homered on a 1-2 change-up that Medlen left over the plate.
“Med was good,” Gonzalez said. “Gave us six innings. We run him back out there in the seventh and he gets in a situation where you’re trying to leave it right there at a one-run game. But he did a nice job, he really did.”
While Medlen buzzed through the Cardinals’ lineup in the middle innings, Wainwright did the same against the Braves. After B.J. Upton snapped a personal 0-for-25 skid with a two-out single in the second inning, the next 10 Braves went down in order before Medlen’s leadoff single in the sixth.