Braves rally late but lose to Cards in 14 innings

Braves outfielder Nick Markakis makes a sliding catch during Sunday's game at SunTrust Park.

caption arrowCaption
Braves outfielder Nick Markakis makes a sliding catch during Sunday's game at SunTrust Park.

The Cardinals, like so many Braves opponents lately, raced out to an early lead on Sunday afternoon. This time the Braves came back but it still wasn’t enough.

Capping a frustrating day for the Braves, St. Louis outfielder Tommy Pham’s second home run of the game, a two-run shot the 14th inning, lifted the Cardinals to a 6-4 victory. The Cardinals swept the three-game series and sent the Braves to their fourth consecutive loss.

The Braves tied the game on Freddie Freeman’s home run in the eighth inning before dropping to 1-5 on the homestand. After sweeping a four-game series against the Padres to open SunTrust Park, the Braves have lost eight of their last nine games at their new home.

The Braves nearly won the game in the 11th inning.

With two outs and the bases loaded, Braves center fielder Ender Inciarte hit a ground ball to first baseman Matt Carpenter. He tossed the ball to pitcher Seung Hwan Oh, who stepped on first base as Inciarte arrived.

Umpire Bill Miller called Inciarte out and the call stood after the review.

“I thought I beat him,” Inciarte said. “It could have gone either way. It’s too bad I couldn’t get a call safe. I was hoping we could win the game. It’s frustrating to (play) so many innings and you don’t get that win.”

Pham hit his second homer against right-hander Josh Collmenter, the Braves’ eighth relief pitcher of the day. The home run scored Magneuris Sierra, who had reached base on an error by second baseman Jace Peterson with one out.

Braves relievers had pitched 7 1/3 scoreless innings before Pham’s go-ahead homer.

“They gave us a chance,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “They gave us an opportunity to stretch the game and we had opportunities. (The Cardinals) got a big hit, and we didn’t.”

After Freeman tied the game, the Braves went down in order in the ninth inning and stranded base runners in all of the next three innings. They left two runners on base in the 10th, couldn’t score after loading the bases in the 11th and stranded two more in the 12th.

Braves outfielder Matt Kemp struck out to end the 10th inning after Cardinals manager Mike Matheny intentionally walked Freeman. Kemp grounded into a double play in the 12th before the Cardinals intentionally walked Nick Markakis to get to Kurt Suzuki, who struck out.

“We had the guys up there that you would want up there,” Snitker said. “Sometimes it happens, and sometimes it doesn’t.”

The Braves (11-18) used every member of the bullpen. They’ll have an off day on Monday before beginning a seven-game trip on Tuesday at Houston.

The Cardinals (16-14) got to Braves starter R.A. Dickey for four runs over six innings with eight hits, including solo home runs by Carpenter and Pham. Pham’s home run just cleared the right-field wall.

Dickey has surrendered eight home runs in six starts and they account for 10 of the 21 runs he’s allowed. He’s given up seven home runs in four home starts.

“The ball carries a lot here, I think a lot more than any of us ever anticipated,” Dickey said. “So you are going to give up some home runs that might seem like ‘cheapos,’ but you have got to make sure they are solo shots and fight tooth-and-nail to get out of jams. Just keep it as close as you can because this field is going to yield some runs for both sides.”

The Braves trailed 1-0 after Carpenter’s solo home run in the first inning and that’s nothing new. The Braves trailed after their opponents’ first at-bat in all six official games of the homestand and also during Thursday’s game that got wiped off the books by rain.

The Cardinals went ahead 4-0 in the third inning with Pham’s first-pitch, lead-off homer and RBI doubles by Randal Grichuk and Jedd Gyorko. That also followed a recent trend for the Braves, who trailed by at least four runs during all five losses during the homestand.

The Braves couldn’t do much against Cardinals right-hander Michael Wacha until they broke through with two runs in the sixth. Freeman hit an RBI double and Kemp knocked a run-scoring single.

The Braves pulled within 4-3 on Dansby Swanson’s RBI single in the seventh inning. Freeman tied it in the eighth with a two-out, solo home run against relief pitcher Brett Cecil.

In his career, Freeman has eight game-tying or go-ahead home runs in the eighth inning or later.

“After having to do it for so long, they never quit,” Snitker said of his players. “It’s tough. It’s hard. But we did it and gave us ourselves a chance and did a lot of things really good.”