The back-and-forth National League Central race should gain a little more clarity over the next two weeks, when the Cardinals play 13 games against the Pirates and Reds, with all three teams jockeying for playoff seeding. A series sweep of the Braves, who entered the weekend with the best record in baseball, could prove to be quite the confidence boost ahead of that pivotal stretch.
"We know what the schedule is like ahead of us, but we just try to simplify. We don't put any more focus on one team than another team," St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said on Saturday. "As soon as you start falling into that trap, you set yourself up for some serious heartache."
The Cardinals can deal the Braves their first four-game losing streak since mid-June if they come away with a victory on Sunday afternoon at Busch Stadium, but starter Lance Lynn will need to avoid the big inning if he wants to safely navigate an Atlanta offense that has struggled in three games without right fielder Jason Heyward, who suffered a broken jaw after he was hit by a pitch on Wednesday.
In each of his last three starts, Lynn has had his outing wrecked by one bad frame: a three-run seventh in an Aug. 9 loss to the Cubs, a four-run second inning on the way to a no-decision the next week against Pittsburgh, and most recently, a five-run fourth in the Cardinals' 6-3 loss to Milwaukee on Tuesday.
Atlanta starter Mike Minor will be pitching on three extra days' rest when he takes the mound on Sunday afternoon. He was initially scheduled to get two additional days off thanks to Paul Maholm's return to the rotation, but his start was bumped up to Sunday after Brandon Beachy hit the 15-day disabled list with right elbow inflammation.
With the Braves nursing a comfortable division lead, Minor was the first of the team's young arms to have his spot skipped in the rotation after stumbling to the shortest start of his career last Saturday against the Nationals. The 25-year-old left-hander allowed four runs on four hits and four walks before being pulled with two outs in the second inning.
"I felt good going into the game, but I felt like they were really patient," Minor said after taking a no-decision in Atlanta's 8-7, 15-inning loss. "I got a lot of the guys with two strikes, 1-2, 2-2 counts, and they just took. I wouldn't say they were very good pitches, but they were a lot more patient tonight, and I couldn't locate on the inner half, couldn't throw any sharp breaking balls, so a lot of those were hangers."
Cardinals: Wainwright passing Carpenter in record books
• Starter Adam Wainwright passed teammate and mentor Chris Carpenter for third place on the all-time franchise strikeout list with nine strikeouts on Friday to push his career total to 1,090, which is only five behind Dizzy Dean for second place in team history. Wainwright also recorded the 95th victory of his career, matching Carpenter's total as a Cardinal.
"I just have to get some postseason numbers like he has and then we'll start talking about comparable careers," Wainwright said on Saturday. "He's been such a horse for so many years that it's just an honor to be in the same conversation."
• After sitting out the first two games of this weekend's series with upper right back discomfort, closer Edward Mujica recorded the final out of Saturday night's 6-2 victory after entering with two on and two out in the ninth inning. It was just the third time Mujica has pitched since Aug. 15.
Braves: Medlen smooths over postgame comments
• In the aftermath of Friday night's 3-1 loss, Kris Medlen expressed his displeasure at being pulled for reliever Scott Downs after putting runners on the corners with no outs in the seventh inning of what was at the time a one-run game.
"I got taken out with 78 pitches," Medlen told reporters on Friday. "I was just starting to have to battle. I didn't have to battle yet. But I wasn't given the opportunity. I guess I'm voicing the fact that I didn't appreciate that. I don't know what kind of mentality we're trying to create for our starters. But I feel like I should be able to work out of some jams."
Before Saturday's game, Medlen apologized to manager Fredi Gonzalez for publicizing his frustration, and Gonzalez declared the matter closed and declined to discuss it further.
"Obviously I wanted to stay in the game," Medlen said on Saturday. "There is something wrong with you if you don't want to stay in the game, whatever the situation is. But I was in a situation where I didn't have much leeway."
• Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina struck out twice on Saturday night, marking just his seventh multi-strikeout game this year. Molina leads the NL with a .336 batting average.
• Braves starter Julio Teheran set a career high with five walks allowed in Saturday night's loss.
Eric Single is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.