Andrelton Simmons came into Saturday’s game with an .068 average with runners in scoring position. But he delivered in a big way with a two-out RBI single in the bottom of the eighth inning to break a 0-0 tie and beat the Cardinals, 2-0.
ATLANTA — Dropped from first to eighth in the batting order, Andrelton Simmons was in exactly the right spot Saturday.
The shortstop turned on a 99 mph fastball from reliever Trevor Rosenthal for a two-out double in the eighth inning that gave the Atlanta Braves a 2-0 victory against the St. Louis Cardinals.
A crowd of 48,312 watched at Turner Field as the Braves were assured of a series victory against the team that ended their season in the National League wild card game a year ago.
“They got us last year and we owe them some,” Simmons said.
The Cardinals, who lead the National League in runs and batting average, lost the opener, 4-1, on Friday while mustering only four hits against Mike Minor and were limited to two this time by Julio Teheran in seven innings.
“We lost our horse and they have stepped up,” Atlanta’s Chris Johnson said of the efforts by Teheran and Minor after Tim Hudson suffered a season-ending broken ankle Wednesday.
After Teheran retired 19 of the last 20 batters he faced, winner Luis Avilan (3-0) and Craig Kimbrel, who picked up his 30th save, retired the Cardinals in order in the last two innings to complete the shutout.
The Braves were held in check themselves until Simmons came through against Rosenthal.
“He throws hard and I was looking for it,” Simmons said. “He threw a pitch were I could reach it.”
Freddie Freeman walked leading off the eighth inning and Brian McCann singled with one out against loser Randy Choate (1-1).
“Freeman laid off some pitches that were pretty close and I jammed McCann,” Choate said. “I don’t really feel bad with the way I pitched; it’s just disappointing we lost the game.”
Rosenthal came in to strike out Dan Uggla, but Johnson walked before Simmons came through with his double on a 2-and-1 pitch.
“It felt good. I’ve been struggling with runners in scoring position this year,” Simmons said. “It’s nice to see results.”
Johnson had two singles for his 31st multi-hit game and raised his average to .332.
“We have a good home record and we want to keep that going,” Johnson said. “It’s big any time you beat a team like that.”
The starters were both in command, with Teheran giving up only two doubles and St. Louis’ Joe Kelly working around seven hits in 6 1/3 innings.
“I knew it wasn’t going to be easy,” Teheran said of facing the Cardinals for the first time. “I knew I had to makes pitches from the first inning all the way through.
Teheran walked one and struck out six, retiring 11 straight batters in one stretch and eight in a row during another. He threw 88 pitches, 53 of them strikes, before being lifted for a pinch hitter.
“I didn’t want to come out of the game,” Teheran said. “I wanted to stay in.”
Kelly wasn’t as dominant as Teheran but held the Braves scoreless with the help of reliever Sam Maness, who used a double play to get out of a seventh-inning jam. Kelly walked three, one intentionally, and struck out three, throwing 57 of his 86 pitches for strikes.
Matt Holliday, who had missed 10 games because of a tight right hamstring, returned from the disabled list for the Cardinals with a first-inning double off Teheran and Allen Craig walked.
But Yadier Molina hit a soft liner back to the pitcher to end the inning and the Braves right-hander ran his streak of consecutive retired batters to 11 before John Jay doubled in the fifth.
Teheran again was up to the challenge, striking out Daniel Descalso and Kelly. Then the rookie fanned Matt Carpenter leading off the sixth for his sixth strikeout in eight batters and ended up retiring the final eight batters he faced.
It was the 13th quality start in 20 outings for Teheran, who lowered his ERA to 3.07.
“He kept us in the game and then we got the big hit,” Johnson said.
Kelly, who hadn’t pitched since giving up three hits and a run in 5 1/3 innings of a victory over the Cubs in Chicago on July 12, was making his fourth start compared with 21 relief appearances. He made 16 starts last year as a rookie.
“I didn’t feel I missed a beat, even with the time off,” Kelly said.
NOTES: Still searching for a leadoff hitter, the Braves tried RF Jason Heyward in the spot for the second time this season. … 1B-OF Brock Peterson was returned to Triple-A Memphis by the Cardinals to clear a roster spot for Holliday. Peterson, making his major league debut, was 1-for-7 with two RBIs in five games. … RHP Shelby Miller (10-6, 2.77) will start for the Cardinals against RHP Kris Medlen (6-10, 3.78) in the series finale on Sunday night. Medlen has allowed 24 hits and 16 earned runs in 14 2/3 innings while losing his last three starts.