ST. LOUIS (AP) — Austin Riley homered and Ehire Adrianza drove in the go-ahead run with the first of four straight bases-loaded walks as the Atlanta Braves scored six times in the eighth inning to complete a three-game sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals with an 8-4 victory Thursday night.
Atlanta’s rally came against a Cardinals bullpen that couldn’t hold a lead for the second straight night. The third-place Braves (55-54) moved above .500 mark for the first time this season and sit just 1 1/2 games behind the NL East-leading New York Mets.
“I hope this kind of gets us that momentum that we need to kind of push to finish up this season strong,” Riley said. “We’re right there in the hunt, so it’s huge.”
Riley’s two-out, two-run homer off Giovanny Gallegos in the eighth tied the game at 4 and denied Cardinals starter Wade LeBlanc his first win in more than a year. The homer came one night after Gallegos gave up three runs in two-thirds of an inning while taking the loss.
“That was a really good at-bat,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “He fouled off a pitch or two and I’m just sitting there thinking it’s like, ‘Man, he’s seeing this guy pretty good right now.’”
Gallegos (5-5) was pulled for Alex Reyes after giving up a double to Dansby Swanson. Reyes hit the first batter he faced with a pitch and then walked four straight, including Adrianza, Stephen Vogt and Ozzie Albies with the bases loaded to stretch the lead. Justin Miller took over, only to walk Jorge Soler and force in another run.
“The reason we’ve been as competitive as we are is because of Giovanni Gallegos and Alex Reyes,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said. “Those guys are hurting, but I can tell you this: I would put them in that situation any day of the week and take my chances, and it just wasn’t their night.”
It was the worst outing of the season for Reyes, an All-Star who has converted 24 saves in 25 opportunities this year.
“We showed great patience and made him come over the plate and fortunately we were able to take advantage of that and give ourselves a pretty good cushion from it,” Vogt said.
The Braves had 18 baserunners on just seven hits.
“Just guys not trying to do too much, taking their at-bat, not expanding the strike zone, was the biggest key in that inning,” Snitker said.
Edgar Santana (1-0) got the win despite allowing an RBI single to Paul Goldschmidt that gave the Cardinals a 4-2 lead in the seventh.
Touki Toussaint pitched 5 1/3 innings for the Braves. He allowed three runs — two earned — and five hits.
LeBlanc’s last major league win came on July 26, 2020, with the Baltimore Orioles against Boston. He pitched six innings and allowed just three hits, but two of them turned into runs on Freddie Freeman’s single in the third and Joc Pederson’s homer in the fourth.
Andrew Knizner’s leadoff homer and Nolan Arenado’s RBI single gave the Cardinals a 2-1 lead in the third.
“That was really weird, I’m not going to lie,” Riley said of the comeback. “Bases loaded, then walk three guys, that doesn’t really happen very often. Just very fortunate and thankful that we were able to get three in a row and hopefully get this momentum that we need.”
Braves: RHP Ian Anderson (right shoulder inflammation) threw 47 pitches over 2 1/3 innings in a rehab start at Triple-A Gwinnett. He gave up two runs on two hits and three walks, striking out two.
Cardinals: RHP Jack Flaherty (left oblique strain) will make this third rehab start Friday night for Double-A Springfield. Shildt expects Flaherty to throw around 75 pitches.
Braves: LHP Kyle Muller (2-3, 2.43 ERA) starts a six-game homestand against RHP Erick Fedde (4-7, 5.01) and the Washington Nationals on Friday night. Muller got a no-decision while allowing one run in five innings during his last start against Milwaukee on July 31.
Cardinals: RHP Adam Wainwright (9-6, 3.53 ERA) gets the start as St. Louis hosts LHP Mike Minor (8-9, 5.31) and the Kansas City Royals in the first of three on Friday night. The 39-year-old Wainwright went seven innings for a third straight start and earned his first career win over Minnesota on Sunday.
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Joe Harris, The Associated Press