Braves walk to a winning record for first time this year, gain on Mets

Atlanta Braves' Joc Pederson is congratulated after hitting a home run during the fourth inning of the team's  game against the St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Joe Puetz)

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Atlanta Braves' Joc Pederson is congratulated after hitting a home run during the fourth inning of the team's game against the St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Joe Puetz)

Five takeaways from the Braves’ 8-4 win over the Cardinals in St. Louis on Thursday night:

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1. For the first time this season, the Braves have a winning record: 55-54, a winning percentage of .505. They carried a 54-54 mark into Thursday’s game and, for the seventh time this season, had a chance to get above .500 with a win. And this time, unlike on the other six occasions, they did it.

“I think (getting over .500) is huge because I think it was in all of our minds, every time we got to that mark and not being able to get over,” third baseman Austin Riley said. “Hopefully it builds that momentum that we definitely need to get this thing rolling, because we’re right there in the hunt.”

“I haven’t been here that long, but I’ve heard the (above) .500 thing has been quite the elusive number,” catcher Stephen Vogt said.

“I hope we can get a couple more above (.500) so I don’t have to talk about it any more, honestly,” manager Brian Snitker said. “I wish we were 10 over. We’re not, but I like where we are. We’re right there in the race.”

2. The breakthrough win was achieved with an implausibly improbable eighth-inning rally. Trailing the Cardinals 4-2 with two out in the inning, the Braves tied the score on a two-run homer to left field by Riley. Then the inning completely unraveled on the Cardinals’ bullpen, which ultimately issued four consecutive bases-loaded walks – three of them by closer Alex Reyes -- to turn the 4-4 tie into the 8-4 Atlanta win.

The Braves scored six runs in the inning on three hits, five walks and a hit-by-pitch. At one point, six consecutive batters reached base without a hit.

“That was really weird, I’m not going to lie,” Riley said of the inning.

3. The three-team race in the NL East tightened Thursday. The second-place Phillies completed a four-game sweep of the Nationals to move within a half game of the first-place Mets, who lost for the third time in four games to the Marlins. And the third-place Braves moved within 1-1/2 games of the Mets by completing a three-game sweep of the Cardinals.

“We’ve got a lot of baseball left,” Vogt said, “but the exciting part is we’ve put ourselves into a position where ... we feel really good about our chances.”

4. For the third time in the past two games, a recently acquired Braves outfielder hit a home run. Joc Pederson, obtained from the Cubs on July 15, drilled a solo homer to right-center in the fourth inning against veteran left-hander Wade LeBlanc to even the score at 2-2. The night before, Jorge Soler and Adam Duvall, both acquired at the trade deadline last week, homered.

5. Touki Toussaint made his fourth start of the season for the Braves, allowing three runs (two earned) on five hits in 5-1/3 innings. It wasn’t as good as his first two starts, in which he allowed two runs across 13-2/3 innings, but much better than his third, in which he allowed seven runs in 3-1/3. Tousssaint threw 94 pitches Thursday, 45 of them balls. He left with a 2-2 score and a runner on first base, and the runner eventually scored on a passed ball by catcher Kevan Smith.

Braves 8, Cardinals 4 (box score)

He said it

”It’s like, if we’re going to do anything, we’re going to have to be over .500. We’re not going to do anything under .500. So eventually we’re going to need to get this thing clicking, and hopefully this is the start of that.” -- Braves manager Brian Snitker on the significance of getting above .500

By the numbers

20-11: The Braves’ record vs. National League Central teams this season, including 6-1 vs. St. Louis.

Next up

The Braves start a six-game homestand Friday night with the opener of a three-game weekend series against the Washington Nationals at Truist Park. Rookie left-hander Kyle Muller (2-3, 2.43 ERA) is scheduled to start for the Braves and right-hander Erick Fedde (4-7, 5.01) for the Nationals.