ATLANTA — With Tim Hudson gone for the season, the Atlanta Braves need Mike Minor to be an ace. On Friday night, the left-hander looked the part.
Minor out-pitched National League wins-leader Adam Wainwright, and the Braves defeated the St. Louis Cardinals 4-1 in a match-up of division leaders before a sellout crowd of 50,124 at Turner Field.
Minor (10-5) handcuffed the Cardinals except for a second-inning homer by Yadier Molina as he lowered his ERA to 2.89. He gave up four hits, walked none and struck out five, throwing 70 of his 103 pitches for strikes.
Jason Heyward hit a home run and Minor helped himself with a two-out RBI in their first meeting between the teams since the Cardinals defeated the Braves in the National League wild-card game last season.
Wainwright (13-6) had his road winning streak snapped at eight and lost to the Braves for just the second time against six victories. Atlanta’s first-round draft choice in 2000 allowed seven hits and four runs (three earned) over seven innings, walking one and striking out eight.
With the Braves’ lead padded thanks to a three-base throwing error by Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma in the seventh inning, Jordan Walden pitched a perfect eighth and Craig Kimbrel struck out two around a walk in the ninth for his 29th save.
Molina picked on a first-pitch changeup from Minor in the second inning and smacked his eighth homer of the season into the seats in left-center field. It was the Cardinals’ first home run since Molina connected at Chicago against the Cubs on July 14 in the last game before the All-Star break.
But the Braves scored twice in the bottom of the inning, with Minor driving in the lead run with a two-out single. Brian McCann led off the inning with a double and Chris Johnson followed a hit by Dan Uggla with an RBI single. Minor’s RBI hit came after the Cardinals couldn’t turn a double play on a grounder by Jose Constanza.
Then the Braves made it 3-1 in the fifth inning as Wainwright left an off-speed pitch in the middle of the plate and Heyward went the other way, driving his eighth homer over the fence in left-center field.
NOTES: Braves RHP Tim Hudson, who suffered a season-ending broken right ankle in New York on Wednesday when stepped on covering first base against the Mets, had surgery Friday at Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta. He was 8-7 with a 3.97 ERA and has 205 career victories. … Cardinals LHP John Gast, who was 2-0 in three May starts before being injured, underwent shoulder surgery Friday in Chicago and will need eight to 12 months of recovery time. … Cardinals LF Matt Holliday, out since July 11 with a strained right hamstring, is set to come off the disabled list Saturday, the first day he is eligible. … RHP Julio Teheran (7-5, 3.25) will start for the Braves in the middle game of the series against Cardinals RHP Joe Kelly (1-3, 3.88). … The Braves and Cardinals will play a four-game series in St. Louis on Aug. 22-25.