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ATLANTA _That euphoric feeling ensuing from the Cardinals scoring 17 runs, or 14 runs, both of which they have done in the past week, apparently is of the 24-hour variety.

When the Cardinals scored 17 in beating Pittsburgh last Thursday, they scored two runs in the next two games, both losses. After the Cardinals scored 14 runs in beating Atlanta at SunTrust Park on Tuesday, they failed to score Wednesday, falling 4-0 to Braves righthander Mike Soroka, whom they were facing for the first time.

This was the 10th loss in 13 games for the Cardinals, who have scored one run or none in seven of those games.

Soroka, who hasn’t allowed more than one earned run in any of his six starts this season, allowed three hits, walked three and hit one over seven innings. Two of the walks and the hit batsman came in the third inning, an inning Soroka escaped when Paul Goldschmidt grounded sharply into a double play.

Righthander Dan Winkler relieved to throw seven straight balls to Matt Carpenter and Goldschmidt, with Winkler slipping and falling on ball three to Goldschmidt.

The grounds crew was summoned and spent five minutes adding dirt. When play resumed, Winkler threw another ball, walking Goldschmidt, too, and Atlanta manager Brian Snitker had seen enough.

Righhander Luke Jackson emerged and quickly closed down the inning by getting Paul DeJong to rap into a double play and fanning Marcell Ozuna.

The Braves were the only National League team Cardinals starter Michael Wacha never had beaten and he still hasn’t in three decisions. Wacha played a big part in the Braves going ahead 1-0 in the third.

Ronald Acuna Jr., had much to do with it, too, as he stole second base after singling to left to lead off the inning. Wacha walked Freddie Freeman with one out and froze Josh Donaldson on a third strike changeup.

But with the Cardinals’ defense shifted toward right for lefthanded-batting Nick Markakis, Acuna took off for third, Wacha stepped off the rubber and tried to lead third baseman Carpenter, who was scrambling back to the bag. But Wacha threw the ball in the outfield and Acuna scored the first run.

Atlanta moved ahead 2-0 in the fourth as rookie Austin Riley, just brought up from Class AAA Gwinnett, drilled a 90 mph high fastball by Wacha 438 feet into left center field for his first hit and first homer in the majors. He had hit 13 home runs in his last 18 games in Class AAA.

Charlie Culberson cracked a two-run homer off John Gant in the eighth, matching the number of runs Gant had given up in his first 24 innings this year.

A fan running onto the field _ and all around it _ gave the Cardinals a reprieve with two out in the ninth. And then Jackson closed out the game with a Dexter Fowler groundout after fanning the first two men in the inning. 

SIROKA STOPS CARDS 

Righthander Mike Siroka, who hadn’t allowed more than one earned run in any of his five starts this season, blanked the Cardinals on one hit, Jose Martinez’s single in the fourth, for the first five innings. The Cardinals had not faced the 21-year-old before.

A single by Paul DeJong following a one-walk to Goldschmidt gave the Cardinals a chance in the sixth. But Marcell Ozuna tapped to Siroka and Martinez fanned on a high fastball.

John Brebbia relieved Wacha for the bottom of the sixth.

MOLINA MISSES THROWING

Yadier Molina is enjoying the most productive start of his career offensively, having driven in 30 runs in the Cardinals’ first 42 games. He hit his 150th homer on Tuesday and also stroked his 367th double, tying Hall of Famer Rogers Hornsby for fifth on the Cardinals’ career list.

“I’ve been working hard on my offense _ and it’s paying off,” Molina said.

But there is a part of the game that he misses. Opponents have tried to steal a major-league low seven bases on the Cardinals and have been successful only four times, also a major league low, with Molina having thrown out two of five.

“That’s my best part,” said Molina, a nine-time Gold Glover, said on Wednesday. “That’s my game.

“But,” promised Molina, “I’m going to ready for anybody who tries.”

The closest teams to the Cardinals in steal attempts are Miami at 14 and Arizona at 16. Each team has thrown out five runners.  

Besides his world-class catcher, pitching coach Mike Maddux credited his pitching staff, from one to 12 or 13 as being the best collectively he’s had in his various stops restricting the running game of the opponent, whether it be a quick time to the plate or an ability to keep the runner unsure at first.

“We’re paying attention to detail,” Maddux said. “Any time we can save 90 feet just by paying attention to detail, we’re going to do it. It doesn’t take any talent to do it. It just takes effort.

“The last thing you want to do is not have somebody pay attention and have somebody pick your pocket.”

The advantage of keeping a runner at first is simple. It takes a double or two singles to score him, rather than just one single if the runner swipes second. Even better if the runner is cut down trying to steal.

But, though stolen bases may be down, athleticism is up, Maddux said. “Today’s athlete is so explosive. They’re all fast,” he said. “Even the slow guys are fast.”

The process begins in spring training and continues into the season, “almost to the point of harping on it,” said Maddux.

Jack Flaherty, who hasn’t given up a stolen base this season, particulary has improved in this aspect of his game, Maddux said. And so has Miles Mikolas, who has permitted just one theft.

Maddux said that base coaches Pop Warner and Stubby Clapp have been “great assets,” in that they’re watching other teams’ pitchers closely. “The work they do on the opposition they have done on our guys for quality control,” said Maddux.

“When they see something that some of our guys are doing, it’s brought to their attention and we can nip it in the bud right away. Through their hard work and communication with our guys, it’s made us even better at it.

“Our team defense is something we pride ourselves in and we’re ready for all those double steals. But we love for Yadi to pick us up when we slip.”

Although there is so much attention to detail from the coaches, Maddux said the pitchers do have the autonomy to throw over to first when they want, or when Molina wants. “It’s a collective process,” Maddux said.

C. MARTINEZ ON THE WAY?

Carlos Martinez, who had been programmed early this spring as being in the rotation, may soon be pitching for the Cardinals, but out of the bullpen.

Martinez threw two innings of relief for Class AA Springfield on Wednesday afternoon in what is believed to be the last minor league rehab outing for his right shoulder. Martinez, reported to have thrown in the low-to-mid-90s, allowed one run on four hits and he hit a batter but he threw just 20 pitches as he also got two double plays. He basically was efficiently inefficient.

“A little bit of everything,” said manager Mike Shildt. “But he’s ready to go.”

After he is re-evaluated in St. Louis, Martinez seems likely to join the Cardinals this weekend in Texas, where he would be able to pitch as early as Saturday. He has had three rehab outings at Memphis and one at Peoria, giving up one run in 5 2/3 innings.

C. MARTINEZ ON THE WAY?

Carlos Martinez, who had been programmed early this spring as being in the rotation, may soon be pitching for the Cardinals, but out of the bullpen.

Martinez threw two innings of relief for Class AA Springfield on Wednesday afternoon in what is believed to be the last minor league rehab outing for his oft troublesome right shoulder. Martinez allowed one run on four hits but needed just 20 pitches, 14 of them strikes. 

After he presumably is re-evaluated in St. Louis, Martinez may well join the Cardinals this weekend in Texas. He has had three rehab outings at Memphis and one at Peoria, giving up one run in 5 2/3 innings.

CARDINALS’ LINEUP

1. Matt Carpenter 3b

2. Paul Goldschmidt 1b

3. Paul DeJong ss

4. Marcell Ozuna lr

5. Jose Martinez 1b

6. Yadier Molina c

7. Dexter Fowler cf

8. Kolten Wong 2b

9. Michael Wacha p

ATLANTA LINEUP

1. Ronald Acuna Jr. cf

2. Dansby Swanson ss

3. Freddie Freeman 1b

4. Josh Donaldson 3b

5. Nick Markakis rf

6. Austin Riley lf

7. Ozzie Albies 2b

8. Tyler Flowers c

9. Mike Soroka p


Rick Hummel

@cmshhummel on Twitter

rhummel@post-dispatch.com

This article originally ran on stltoday.com.

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