Braves sweep Cardinals 6-0 and 2-0 as Miller stops skid
ATLANTA (AP) — Shelby Miller and Matt Wisler gave the Atlanta Braves strong reasons to hope for a better finish in 2016.
Shelby Miller’s drought-breaking win made the fourth-place Braves feel like celebrating on the final day of their disappointing season. Then Wisler added to the excitement as he capped his rookie season with his third straight win.
Wisler came within one out of his first shutout as he combined with Edwin Jackson on a four-hitter to beat St. Louis 2-0 and complete a doubleheader sweep on Sunday.
Miller ended his 24-start winless streak in the first game, holding his former Cardinals teammates to three hits through eight innings in a 6-0 win.
Wisler’s win provided encouragement. Wisler (8-8) won each of his last three starts, allowing a total of three runs.
Miller’s win provided relief that he was able to free himself from the streak.
“As a team, we haven’t been this excited in a long time,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said.
Miller’s drought was the longest in the majors since Chris Volstad’s 24-game streak from July 17, 2011 to Aug. 19, 2012. It was the longest streak by a Braves starting pitcher since the team moved to Atlanta in 1966.
“You don’t expect to go out there and finish that well,” Miller said, adding he couldn’t avoid talk of his streak.
“You obviously know what’s going on. ... It’s fine to put that behind us, absolutely. I’m glad I got a win today and glad we got a win.”
Miller (6-17) struck out seven and walked three. He had been 0-16 since winning at Miami on May 17 despite a 3.83 ERA in that span. He finished with a 3.02 ERA, best among Atlanta starters, and topped 200 innings for the first time.
“He’s pitched some of the best baseball I’ve ever seen pitched and not get credit for it,” Gonzalez said. “We got him the win today and he doesn’t have to worry about answering all these questions in spring training.”
Miller, who had a 7.11 ERA in five September starts, was acquired from the Cardinals in a December deal that sent outfielder Jason Heyward to St. Louis.
St. Louis was held to seven hits in the doubleheader.
“We hate to lose every game,” manager Mike Matheny said.
St. Louis, which won its third straight NL Central title, opens the Division Series at home Friday against the Chicago Cubs or Pittsburgh.
Pinch-hitter Brandon Moss doubled with one out in the ninth to become the Cardinals’ first runner in scoring position off Wisler. Jon Jay hit a groundout to first, Tommy Pham walked and Jackson struck out Randal Grichuk to end the game.
LESS IMPRESSIVE 100
The Braves finished last in the majors in homers. Adonis Garcia hit two homers and Andrelton Simmons added a two-run drive in the first game, giving Atlanta 100.
Atlanta finished with 67 wins, under 70 wins in a full season for the first time since 1990, when it was 65-97. The Braves were 68-46 in the strike-shortened 1994 season. The attendance of 31,441 left the season total at 2,001,391, allowing the Braves to barely avoid finishing below 2 million for the first time since 1990. The 2014 total was 2,354,305.
Braves: C Ryan Lavarnway started both games because of injuries to catchers Christian Bethancourt (thumb) and A.J. Pierzynski (knee shin). Despite his injury, Pierzynski emerged from the center-field wall during the tool mascot race between the fifth and sixth innings of the second game. He leveled the paint brush and hammer characters with body blocks. Seeing this, the smallest character, “Phil the bucket,” turned around and ran back to the start line in the right-field tunnel.