ST. LOUIS -- If the rest of baseball is wondering how the Atlanta Braves keep winning with a pair of All-Stars, a fifth starter and a closer on the disabled list, look no further than Friday night's game for an answer.
A club that has found a different hero every game hasn't exhausted its supply yet.
Missing cleanup hitter Brian Jordan, the Braves waited until the last moment to extend their winning streak to eight games, using a ninth-inning rally capped by Bret Boone's two-out RBI hit to silence a sold-out Busch Stadium and take a 2-1 victory over the Cardinals.
Boone, whose struggles at the plate have mirrored the wildest ride Disney can imagine, delivered his biggest hit of the season at a most opportune moment. Following hits by Greg Myers and Gerald Williams in the ninth, he sent a 1-2 pitch from reliever Juan Acevedo into right field to score Jordan, pinch-running for Myers, with the winning run.
"This team is starting to get excited about things," said Boone, hitting .313 this month after a .218 July. "It's nice when you can be a big part of winning. It's been a fun stretch. We've been scoring just enough to win."
Boone also played a role in Atlanta's first-inning run, his deep fly ball allowing Williams to tag up and advance to third, where he scored on Chipper Jones' grounder.
Between the first and ninth, the Braves managed only five singles against Cards starter Garrett Stephenson, thus bringing their Atlanta-record doubles streak to an end at 51 games.
Boone's heroics overshadowed another solid performance by Terry Mulholland, who is making the trading-deadline deal that brought him and shortstop Jose Hernandez from the Cubs look like a steal. He took Greg Maddux's turn and worked six innings of one-run ball while striking out a season-high seven.
It was worth the price of admission just to watch the veteran left-hander skirt disaster. With a pair of runners on in the first he got the heart of St. Louis' lineup -- Mark McGwire, Fernando Tatis and Ray Lankford -- out on a pair of strikeouts and a fly, then dodged Joe McEwing's one-out double in the second.
Four singles produced a tie game in the third, but Mulholland left the Cardinals feeling frustrated by forcing a fielder's-choice grounder from Craig Paquette and McEwing's soft fly to leave the bases loaded.
"I think we're 3-1 in my starts and I'll take that," said Mulholland, who has a 2.19 ERA in his last six appearances. "They didn't get me over here to get me in the Hall of Fame; they got me over here to help them get into the postseason and the World Series."
Before Friday's game, Mulholland was 0-6 with a 5.36 ERA against the Cardinals in 12 games since last beating them in 1993.
With Mulholland gone after six, Atlanta's bullpen offered spotless relief. Mike Remlinger, Russ Springer and John Rocker combined to strike out seven of the nine hitters they faced, including the side in the ninth by Rocker for his 29th save.
Combined with Mulholland's seven strikeouts, Braves pitchers had 14 strikeouts and no walks, prompting Mulholland to say, "Things are snowballing a little bit. Our confidence is really up. It's tough to beat a team that's feeling this good mentally."
For eight games now, it's been downright impossible.
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