ST. LOUIS — When Braves second baseman Tyler Pastornicky backpedaled into shallow right field to catch the popup and Jason Heyward didn’t arrive fast enough to take charge, Kolten Wong got the green light.
The rookie raced home with the tying run on surely the shortest sacrifice fly of Yadier Molina’s career, one of many big plays the St. Louis Cardinals made with their legs in a 4-1 victory over the slumping Atlanta Braves on Saturday.
“By the time I realized I could get there, it would have been tough to call him off,” Heyward said. “Heads up play on their part by sending the runner.”
Wong and Peter Bourjos each had a pair of bunt singles, three of them fueling rallies. Bourjos got picked off after beating out a bunt leading off the third, but squeezed home an insurance run in the seventh.
“I think today was probably one of the best representations of what speed can do for us,” manager Mike Matheny said. “A lot of guys made things happen, getting on base and creating havoc.”
Wong set up the tying run by beating out a bunt to lead off the fourth. He squared around for another hit in the sixth and drew a wild throw from catcher Evan Gattis while stealing second, producing the go-ahead run.
Shelby Miller (6-2) allowed a run and five hits in seven innings. He matched his season best with seven strikeouts, and called it his best outing of the year “for sure.”
“I felt like we did a really good job of keeping the hitters off-balance and getting ahead in the count,” Miller said.
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez was ejected in the fifth inning for arguing a call that led to a bunt double play. He could face a fine for charging out of the dugout a second time and thought the ball was “maybe 5, 6 inches foul.”
“That’s what I kept asking: Can we get some help from one of the guys on the line?” Gonzalez said. “What are you going to do?
“We still scored one run. But that would have been a nice opportunity to try again to advance a runner.”
Andrelton Simmons had three hits for Atlanta, which lost its third in a row and scored fewer than three runs for the 19th time in 41 games this season.
Miller has won six consecutive decisions in seven starts after losing his first two of the season. The past three St. Louis starters have worked seven innings.
In the fifth, Harang stayed in the batter’s box after his attempt to sacrifice Simmons to third didn’t go far. Molina pounced on the ball and threw to third, with shortstop Jhonny Peralta covering, for a tag play. Peralta had an easy relay to first to finish with second baseman Wong covering for an unusual 2-6-4 double play.
“What stinks is sometimes it’s those little plays that change the tempo of the game,” Harang said. “If it’s called foul, then I can get another one down. It’s tough, you know.”
The Braves capitalized on shoddy defense to take the early lead.
Simmons scored from first on Harang’s two-out single – the pitcher’s first hit of the year. Harang took third after left fielder Matt Holliday threw behind him, then trotted home after Wong’s wild throw from second.