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STL@CHC: Lynn holds Cubs to two runs over six frames

The last time the Braves played the Cardinals, manager Fredi Gonzalez was desperate to shake things up offensively. Atlanta had lost five straight games, scoring only 10 runs during that span.

The Braves elected to bat the pitcher eighth on May 5 when St. Louis came to Turner Field, and they did so in every game since then until Wednesday. Atlanta's offense continued to drag for the next few games before finally coming to life Sunday against the Cubs.

Wednesday marked the third time in the past four games the Braves scored four runs or more. The club has averaged four runs per game since Sunday after plating only 1.9 runs per game in the previous 11 contests.

"I don't think we've clicked on all cylinders yet," Ryan Doumit said Saturday, the night before the Braves' offense picked up. "From an offensive standpoint, defensive standpoint and pitching standpoint, we haven't all clicked together yet. I think we're starting to show that we can. Once we do, it's really going to be scary."

On Friday, Lance Lynn will take a crack at a Braves lineup that the Cardinals rotation limited to only four runs in 19 innings. After surrendering only eight earned runs in his previous five starts spanning 30 innings, Lynn yielded half that total in six frames Saturday.

In order to return Atlanta to the doldrums of its recent offensive struggles, Lynn will need to avoid big innings. A four-run fourth against Pittsburgh doomed him on a night Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said the hurler had "the kind of stuff that should have taken him through a complete game without any runs."

"That's a tough inning," Lynn said following the game. "You give up four runs with only one ball leaving the infield in the air. I thought I made some good pitches to get out of the inning, and it just didn't work out. That happens. There are going to be some games where I throw the ball right down the middle three straight times and I get three straight outs. Tonight it just didn't happen when I made my pitch."

Even if the Braves regress back to their barren batting ways against Lynn, they can rely on right-hander Ervin Santana, who dominated Saturday in his first start since he was skipped in the rotation as he recovered from a right thumb bruise.

He limited the Cubs to only five hits in seven scoreless innings, striking out seven and walking one as he lowered his ERA to 1.99. After Julio Teheran's rough outing Wednesday, Santana now sports the best ERA among Braves starters.

Making Santana's turn even more impressive was its longevity and effectiveness despite a rain delay between the second and third innings lasting an hour and seven minutes.

"Santana was terrific, better than terrific, really, when you throw in an hour-plus rain delay," Gonzalez said. "We were about five, 10 minutes from shutting him down. It was that long. He did a terrific job."

Braves: B. Upton first ejection of 2014
Center fielder B.J. Upton became the first Atlanta player or coach ejected from a game this season when he was tossed Wednesday in San Francisco. Umpire Lance Barrett ejected Upton for arguing balls and strikes after a sixth-inning strikeout.

Upton struck out eight times in three games against the Giants. Six of those strikeouts saw Upton look at a called third strike.

Upton hit safely in four of six games against San Francisco this season, reaching base safely in every contest until his ejection Wednesday. He is batting .238 (5-for-21) with a homer, two doubles, three RBIs and three walks against the Giants in 2014.

Cardinals: Wong healthy, ready to contribute
Kolten Wong, recovered from a stomach illness, returned to Busch Stadium on Thursday and is likely to be back in the Cardinals' lineup for Friday's series opener against the Braves. Wong, recalled after a 15-game demotion to Triple-A Memphis, was available only off the bench on Thursday as Matheny wanted to give the second baseman one more day to recover physically.

With Atlanta starting three right-handers in the series, the left-handed-hitting Wong will most likely start all three games. The Cardinals want to help Wong maintain the momentum started with his swing change and then offensive success in Memphis. Wong batted .344/.382/.484 with 14 runs scored, 10 RBIs and five stolen bases there.

"It got me right back into where I need to be," Wong said of his time in the Minors. "I'm the kind of player that I need to play as much as possible. I love being in every game. When I got the amount of repetitions that I got down there, it just makes me always on time with everything I'm doing."

Worth noting
• Mark Ellis is batting .216 (11-for-51) and Jhonny Peralta is batting .120 (3-for-25) as the two Cardinals who have faced Santana the most.

• Current Braves are batting .240 (12-for-56) against Lynn.

• Matt Holliday has reached base safely in all 15 home games the Cardinals have played this season.

• Jaime Garcia threw a bullpen session without issue on Thursday, leaving him in line to pitch Sunday's series finale. Garcia has been on the disabled list all season recovering from shoulder surgery and a bout of bursitis during Spring Training.

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