Surging Cardinals beat Braves behind DeJong, Grichuk

(Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

(TSX / STATS) -- ST. LOUIS -- According to the St. Louis Cardinals, it's all coming together just as they thought it would all along.

"I think the change everyone has seen is that the team is more unified," pitcher Carlos Martinez said through an interpreter. "Everyone's healthy, and everyone's supporting each other. I think that's how we're going to keep it going through the end of the season, and hopefully into the postseason."

Martinez did his part to keep St. Louis' longest winning streak in two years going, working six effective innings as the Cardinals won their eighth in a row by holding off the Atlanta Braves 6-5 on Saturday night at sold-out Busch Stadium.

Randal Grichuk and Paul DeJong walloped solo homers for the Cardinals (61-56), who moved into a virtual first-place tie in the National League Central with the Chicago Cubs. Chicago lost 6-2 at Arizona, but maintains a winning-percentage edge of .001 in the standings because it has played two fewer games.

Still, this has been an impressive stretch for St. Louis, fueled mostly by offense. Consider that its output Saturday night was its lowest in a game since starting this winning streak with a 4-1 decision on Aug. 5 in Cincinnati.

But Martinez, who squared his record at 9-9, and two relievers pitched well enough to extend two streaks -- the Cardinals' winning streak and Atlanta's five-game skid. Martinez permitted seven hits and three runs, walking one and fanning seven.

Kurt Suzuki touched Martinez for a two-run single in the first, but the only hit of consequence he allowed after that was Brandon Phillips' two-out solo homer in the fifth. Working efficiently after the first, Martinez retired nine of 10 batters in one stretch.

"I think all the hard work is paying off," he said. "I have all the confidence in the world in our team."

A two-run deficit was nothing for an offense that has rolled up a whopping 68 runs during their winning streak. By the second inning, the Cardinals had already equalized. Dexter Fowler's single to right scored Matt Carpenter in the first, and Grichuk ripped his 15th homer to right-center with one out in the second.

Rookie right-hander Lucas Sims (0-3) skated out of two-out trouble in the second, but couldn't escape the next jam in the fourth. St. Louis did a lot of little things correctly in a three-run inning that shaped the game's remainder.

After Kolten Wong was plunked to start the inning, Grichuk doubled off the glove of Phillips at third. Greg Garcia grounded to second with the infield conceding a run, scoring Wong to make it 3-2.

Martinez grounded a single through a drawn-in infield, plating Grichuk for a 4-2 advantage. After Carpenter was hit by a pitch, Tommy Pham laced a single up the middle and Martinez sprinted home to cap the outburst.

"Seeing what guys expect from themselves, watching them take those grinding at-bats ... that excites me as much as anything," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said.

DeJong finished St. Louis' scoring in the seventh with his 17th homer, a 405-foot shot to left-center. Counting his 13 homers at Triple-A Memphis before he was recalled on June 15, DeJong now has 30 for the season.

"I was looking for that number and now I got it," he said. "It's on to the next number. I really don't have a particular one in mind. Last year it was 20, this year it was 30."

The Braves (51-63) nearly ruined things in the ninth. Deriving a fourth out because of Carpenter's error that enabled Danny Santana to reach base, they pulled within a run on Freddie Freeman's two-out, two-run single.

But on his 32nd pitch of the ninth, Trevor Rosenthal fanned Nick Markakis with a high changeup to secure his seventh straight save and 11th overall.

"These guys give you a hard 27 outs. They're never out of a game," Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said.

Sims was charged with 10 hits and five runs, four earned, over 5 1/3 innings. He walked one and whiffed three.

NOTES: St. Louis 3B Jedd Gyorko (right knee irritation) was scratched from the lineup less than two hours before the game and replaced by Greg Garcia. Kolten Wong, who was scheduled to get the night off while Garcia played second, was inserted into the lineup so that Garcia could move to third. ... Atlanta RHP Luke Jackson Friday night became the first pitcher since New York Yankees RHP Dellin Betances to throw 2 1/3 perfect innings out of the bullpen and fan six hitters. Betances did it on May 15, 2014. ... The Cardinals Friday night became the first team since the 2006 Braves to win six straight games and score at least eight runs in each victory.

Updated August 12, 2017