published Saturday, April 30th, 2011

Braves, Gearrin lose in 11th

ATLANTA — Nick Punto drove in two runs with an 11th-inning triple after St. Louis rallied in the ninth, giving the surging Cardinals a 5-3 victory over the Atlanta Braves on Friday night.

Braves rookie Cory Gearrin (0-1) from Rhea County dug his own hole, plunking Ryan Theriot in the left leg and walking pinch-hitter Mark Hamilton. The right-hander was one out away from escaping, but Punto drove one into the right-field corner for the first big-league hit allowed by Gearrin in 4 2/3 innings since being called up.

Eduardo Sanchez (1-0) earned his first major league win with two scoreless innings. Trever Miller got the final out for his first save.

In the ninth, Yadier Molina and Ryan Theriot reached on singles against Braves closer Craig Kimbrel before Daniel Descalso tied it with a sacrifice fly, his second RBI of the game.

The Cardinals got an extra chance for the go-ahead run when first baseman Freddie Freeman botched a slow roller. But shortstop Alex Gonzalez picked up his teammate with a brilliant defensive play, going to one knee to snare Colby Rasmus’ bullet up the middle.

It didn’t matter. St. Louis won it two innings later, its 13th win in 18 games since starting 2-6.

Jason Heyward homered in the first inning and Nate McLouth put the Braves ahead 3-2 with a tiebreaking shot in the seventh, his first homer of the season. Atlanta couldn’t hold the lead, capping a tough day with a tough loss and missing a chance to go above .500 for the first time since April 5.

A win would’ve helped the Braves feel a bit better after Derek Lowe was arrested the previous night on a drunken-driving charge and pitching coach Roger McDowell was placed on administrative leave while the team investigated allegations that he made homophobic slurs, lewd gestures and threatened a fan with a bat before a game last weekend.

The Braves jumped on Chris Carpenter in the very first inning.

Heyward got it started, lining a 1-1 pitch into the right-field seats for his seventh homer of the season. Chipper Jones followed with a double, and then Dan Uggla came through with two outs, going the opposite way for a run-scoring double into the right-field corner.

Carpenter settled down after that, not allowing a runner past first base until McLouth struck in the seventh. He drove a 1-0 pitch into the Braves’ bullpen, his first homer since Sept. 18.

Atlanta had a chance to break it open, loading the bases with one out. But after walking Jones intentionally, Carpenter got Brian McCann to hit into an inning-ending double play. The Cardinals starter pitched around 10 hits in seven innings.

Braves starter Tim Hudson, who came within one out of a complete game in his previous start at San Francisco, pitched six strong innings. He couldn’t hold the 2-0 lead, giving up four singles in the fourth. Molina had a sacrifice fly, and Descalso tied the score with a two-out, run-scoring hit to right.

Dave Wallace, the Braves’ minor league pitching coordinator, took over for McDowell. The Braves brought up infielder-outfielder Joe Mather from Triple-A Gwinnett and optioned pitcher Jairo Acensio to the minors. Mather came up as a pinch-hitter in the ninth, failing to get down a bunt on two tries, then taking a called third strike.

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