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Friday September 4th, 2015 6:29AM

Braves struggle again in 5-2 loss to Cardinals

By The Associated Press
ST. LOUIS -- Atlanta Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez has started hitting his pitcher in the No. 8 spot in the batting order to try and generate offense.

After watching his team held to two runs or fewer for the 18th time in a 5-2 setback to St. Louis Cardinals on Friday night, Gonzalez joked that he may have to revert to more extreme measures.

"Well, we can hit the pitcher fourth," Gonzales said when asked what he could do to help his team score more runs.

Kidding aside, Gonzalez does feel that the pieces are in place for the offense to be successful.

"We've got a talented club and teams go through this stuff," Gonzalez said. "We haven't even started busting like we're capable of. Sooner or later, we'll start swinging."

The Braves' Chris Johnson went 2 for 4 with a run scored. Johnson is batting .377 (20 for 53) in May.

While Johnson has been hot, his teammates have not. The Braves have lost 11 of 16.

"We've just got to keep going," Johnson said. "It's tough. Obviously, we're frustrated and we want to put some crooked numbers up there. We can't force it. We have to stay the course and keep working."

Allen Craig had three hits, drove in a run and scored twice and Lance Lynn allowed two runs over seven innings to lead the Cardinals.

Lynn (5-2) allowed seven hits walked two and struck out three. He seemed to get stronger as the game went on.

Carlos Martinez retired the Braves on four pitches in the eighth and Trevor Rosenthal set down the side in order for his 12th save in 13 opportunities.

Matt Carpenter and Kolten Wong had two hits each and scored a run for St. Louis. Matt Holiday, Matt Adams and Yadier Molina all drove in a run for the Cardinals.

St. Louis finished the game without manager Mike Matheny and center fielder Peter Bourjos, both of whom were ejected by home plate umpire Sean Barber at the end of the fourth inning for arguing balls and strikes

"I loved to see the fire and the fight that Peter showed there," Matheny said. "Frustrated and knew a couple of pitches didn't get called to what he thought was the strike zone in big situations. You can't take the emotions out of these guys."

Ervin Santana (4-1) took his first loss as a member of the Braves. Santana lasted five innings and allowed five runs and 10 hits with one walk and three strikeouts.

St. Louis broke open a 2-2 tie by scoring three times in the fifth. With one out, Carpenter and Wong singled. Holliday followed with an RBI double down the right field line to score Carpenter. Wong scored on Craig's single to left and Molina made it 5-2 with a sacrifice fly.

The Braves took a 1-0 lead in the second on a two-out RBI single by Tyler Pastornicky, but the Cardinals tied it in the bottom of the inning on Adams' RBI double. After the Braves took a 2-1 lead in the fourth on Andrelton Simmons' 6-4-3 double play ball, the Cardinals tied it in the bottom of the frame when Craig scored from third on Santana's wild pitch with two outs.

"It's frustrating because every time we had the lead, we have to put zeroes on the board," Santana said. "It's frustrating and it's my fault."

NOTES: Jhonny Peralta stole second in the fourth inning for his first stolen base as a member of the Cardinals. ... Santana had two wild pitches, giving him a total of five, one behind Arizona's Wade Miley for the most in the National League. ... Atlanta's Aaron Harang (4-3) will oppose Shelby Miller (5-2) in the second game of the series Saturday. ... Friday was the first time that Santana has allowed five or more earned runs since Aug. 9, 2013, in a 9-6 win over Boston when he was with Kansas City.
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