Braves split doubleheader with Cardinals

Braves pitcher Drew Smyly (center) hands the ball to manager Brian Snitker (43) in the sixth inning of the second game of a doubleheader against the St. Louis Cardinals, Sunday, June 20, 2021, at Truist Park in Atlanta. (Ben Margot/AP)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Braves pitcher Drew Smyly (center) hands the ball to manager Brian Snitker (43) in the sixth inning of the second game of a doubleheader against the St. Louis Cardinals, Sunday, June 20, 2021, at Truist Park in Atlanta. (Ben Margot/AP)

The Braves managed only two runs across 14 innings Sunday, but it was good enough for a doubleheader split with the Cardinals. After dropping Game 1, 9-1, the Braves defeated St. Louis 1-0 in Game 2. Both games were seven innings.

Overall, they took three of four from the Cardinals.

The Braves won Game 2 behind starter Drew Smyly and slugger Ronald Acuna. Smyly had his best start as a Brave, carrying a no-hitter for 5-2/3 innings. Acuna hit a solo homer in the third for the game’s only run. It was his 100th career home run.

Smyly kept the Cardinals off balance throughout his outing. He finally surrendered a hit when Paul Goldschmidt hit a tricky ball between first and second base. Second baseman Ozzie Albies extended to field the ball, spun and fired an imperfect throw to first baseman Freddie Freeman that wasn’t in time. The play was ruled a hit.

Snitker lifted Smyly after Goldschmidt’s at-bat. He walked off the mound to a standing ovation from the 36,977 at Truist Park.

“For most of the game, I was just pounding the strike zone and getting ahead of guys,” Smyly said. “Putting them in defense mode. My fastball had some good life on it. I’ve been working quite a bit with Kranny (pitching coach Rick Kranitz) on using my legs more and driving it to the plate versus falling off at third base, which I think I was doing. When I have my whole body going in line towards home plate, it makes everything better.”

Acuna became the sixth-fastest individual to reach the 100-homer mark. He did so in his 378th career game. Only Ryan Howard (324 games), Gary Sanchez (355), Aaron Judge (371), Ralph Kiner (376) and Joe Gallo (377) reached 100 home runs quicker.

“I was aware (I was one away from 100) right after I hit the 18th home run in Philly,” Acuna said via team interpreter Franco Garcia. “But my mind was never on that. It wasn’t a primary focus of mine. I went something like 10 games without a home run, but that didn’t matter to me. I was playing well. The team was playing well. And that’s my main priority.”

Manager Brian Snitker added: “He’s a threat and he’s that guy, don’t go get popcorn when he comes up because he might do something special. Congratulations to him on his 100th homer. That’s a big milestone for a kid that young, too. He’s going to have a few more of those 100-homer milestones too. So that’s pretty cool. And a 100th homer to win a game, that’s even more special for him.”

In Game 1, veteran Cardinals righthander Adam Wainwright dominated the Braves in Game 1 of Sunday’s doubleheader, leading to a 9-1 loss. Wainwright, the 39-year-old former Braves farmhand and Brunswick native who’s had a decorated career in St. Louis, was spectacular. He pitched a seven-inning complete game, holding the Braves to one run on three hits. He struck out 11 and walked three.

“He’s hard to get ahold of,” Snitker said of Wainwright. “He doesn’t give you a lot to hit. He changes speeds really well. ... It’s amazing. He’s bouncing around there like he’s 20 years old. He’s done a great job of keeping himself together through a lot of adversity, injuries, the Achilles, elbow, whole thing. I told him five or six years ago, I hate it when he pitches against us but it’s fun to watch him.”

The second game ended a skid for the Braves. Game 1 was the third consecutive doubleheader contest at Truist Park in which the Braves’ opponent pitched a complete game. In late April, the Braves were swept in a doubleheader against Arizona. Zac Gallen logged a one-hit complete game. Madison Bumgarner followed with a seven-inning no-hitter.

St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright works against the Atlanta Braves in the first inning of the first game of a doubleheader Sunday, June 19, 2021, at Truist Park in Atlanta. (Ben Margot/AP)

Credit: Ben Margot

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Credit: Ben Margot

Before Game 2, in the Braves’ past three doubleheader games at home, they collectively posted four hits. Gallen, Bumgarner and Wainwright have combined to strike out 24 and hold the Braves to one run over 21 innings.

Also in the first game, Braves righty Bryse Wilson allowed five runs on eight hits in four innings during his first major-league start since May 22. Nolan Arenado greeted him with a two-run homer in the second that gave the Cardinals a lead they never relinquished. The Cardinals score four more runs off Josh Tomlin (one) and Sean Newcomb (three).

“I wanted to come out and go five, hopefully six (innings),” Wilson said. “Team has a tough stretch coming up, 14 games in 12 days. I just wanted to give the bullpen a break. ... It’s frustrating I wasn’t able to do that for the team.”

Wainwright held the Braves hitless through three innings. Freddie Freeman led off the fourth with a single and moved to third on Ozzie Albies’ ensuing hit, positioning the Braves for their first scoring opportunity.

Braves outfielder Ronald Acuna celebrates after hitting a home run off St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Kwang Hyun Kim in the third inning of the second game of a doubleheader on Sunday, June 20, 2021, at Truist Park in Atlanta. (Ben Margot/AP)

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Credit: AP

Freeman scored when, after Abraham Almonte struck out, Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina fired to second trying to nab Albies. Wainwright responded by striking out Austin Riley on a 75-mph curveball and getting Dansby Swanson to ground out to leave the Braves with just one run.

Ehire Adrianza’s pinch-hit double with two outs in the fifth was the Braves’ only other opportunity with a runner in scoring position. Wainwright struck out Ronald Acuna to end the frame.

“It’s fun to watch (Wainwright); I wish he didn’t do it against us,” Wilson said. “It’s cool watching him pitch and how he and (catcher) Yadi (Molina) work together, the history they have together. They have a plan and execute the plan about every time. That’s why he’s been able to do it for so long.”

The Braves won the two first games of this series by a collective 13-1 score. Their offense couldn’t solve Wainwright, who entered the day with a 3.63 ERA in 19 games (14 starts) against his home-state team, but they did enough to take the second game and, ultimately, three of four.

Sunday was the first two of four games in two days for the Braves. They’ll now travel to New York and face the Mets in a doubleheader Monday to begin a four-game series. Ian Anderson and Kyle Muller will start the Monday’s games.