ST. LOUIS (AP) — Freddie Freeman and the Atlanta Braves hammered Jon Lester in his first start for the St. Louis Cardinals, scoring five runs in the first inning and cruising to a 6-1 victory Tuesday night.
The 37-year-old Lester (3-6), acquired from Washington last week, allowed the first seven hitters to reach and did not record an out until his 27th pitch.
Jorge Soler, picked up from the Kansas City Royals for pitcher Kasey Kalich last week, hit a two-run homer to start the scoring. It was his first homer for the Braves and his 14th of the season. Freeman and Austin Riley followed with singles before Dansby Swanson and Joc Pederson added run-scoring hits.
Freeman hit his 24th homer in the second off Lester, who gave up nine hits and six runs over five innings.
Max Fried tossed six shutout innings for the Braves, who have won seven of their last eight games in St. Louis. Fried (8-7) gave up just four hits over six innings and did not allow a runner past second base. He struck out seven and walked one.
St. Louis has lost five of nine and dropped back to .500 (53-53).
Tyler O’Neill had three hits and reached base four times for the Cardinals. Yadier Molina drove in the lone run with a two-out single in the ninth.
IT GETS EASIER
The Braves will play their next 17 games against teams with a combined 241-288 record. They recently finished an 18-game stretch against opponents who sport a combined 297-236 mark.
Braves: C Travis d’Arnaud is close to a return from a left thumb injury. He made his third rehab appearance at Triple-A Gwinnett on Tuesday. He has been out since May 2.
Cardinals: RHP Miles Mikolas allowed one run on four hits over 4 2-3 innings in a rehab start at Double-A Springfield on Tuesday. He was placed on the 60-day injured list with right forearm tightness on May 23 and could return sometime this month.
LHP J.A. Happ (5-6,6.77) will face LHP Drew Smyly (7-3, 4.40) in the second game of the three-game set on Wednesday. Happ will be making his first start for St. Louis. He was acquired from Minnesota in exchange for RHP John Gant and LHP Evan Sisk at the trade deadline on Friday. Smyly tossed 5 2/3 scoreless innings in a 1-0 win over the Cardinals on June 20.
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Steve Overbey, The Associated Press