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STL@ATL: Laird puts the Cards on top with a triple

ATLANTA -- If you're coming to watch the 2011 Cardinals, don't leave early, or you're probably going to miss something.

Late-inning drama was again the story of the day for the Redbirds on Saturday, and for the second straight day, it was the good kind. Gerald Laird's ninth-inning RBI triple capped a 3-2 Cards comeback win over the Braves at Turner Field.

It was the eighth time on the young season that a Cardinals game has been decided in a team's final turn at bat, and St. Louis' sixth come-from-behind win overall. Both of the Cardinals' wins against Atlanta this weekend have come in their last at-bat.

"These last two games have just been exciting, because the baseball has been so good -- not just because we won the games," manager Tony La Russa said. "They've been really good competitions -- a lot of high-quality stuff. I think we enjoy being a part of that."

St. Louis had trailed, 2-0, entering the eighth inning before rallying against starter Brandon Beachy and the Atlanta bullpen. Beachy had absolutely stifled Cardinals hitters until allowing two baserunners to open the eighth, after which he was removed for Jonny Venters. David Freese's two-out, two-run single off Venters tied the score and put the Cards in position to win against closer Craig Kimbrel.

Matt Holliday started the rally against Kimbrel with a leadoff single to right. After Colby Rasmus struck out, Holliday took second on a passed ball. Laird drilled a line drive into the left-center-field gap with one out and kept motoring all the way to third, giving St. Louis its eighth win in the past 10 games.

"It was a fastball away that he missed [on the] inner half," said Laird. "I was just looking for something out over the plate, because he's got such good stuff. First time seeing him, I just wanted to stay short because he throws so hard. He supplies all the power. Just put something hard in play."

Miguel Batista picked up the win in relief, with two huge assists from third baseman Daniel Descalso in a shutout eighth. Batista was reached for a double, but Descalso snagged a hard ground ball down the line for the first out, then finished the inning by snagging Dan Uggla's rocket of a line drive to keep Atlanta off the board.

"I don't think we could have hit the ball any harder and got nothing out of it," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said.

Fernando Salas allowed a walk but no runs in the ninth, closing it out for his second save.

Starter Jake Westbrook settled for a no-decision, but he certainly pitched well enough to win. He allowed two runs over six innings in his second consecutive solid start, and a case could have been made that the runs should have been unearned.

The only rally against Westbrook began in the bottom of the fifth when Alex Gonzalez hit a chopper to shortstop. Tyler Greene could not corral the ball, and it rolled into the outfield. The play was ruled as a hit, though it could easily have been an error. Westbrook walked Nate McLouth, and a sacrifice bunt moved the runners over to set up Martin Prado's two-run double.

"I wasn't quite as sharp [as in my last start]," Westbrook said. "But I still had a good sinker, had a real good cutter today. I was able to utilize that with all their lefties. I was really one out away, one pitch away from having a really good ballgame as far as numbers go, putting up zeroes."

The Braves' lead stood until the eighth. Beachy allowed a double and a walk to open the inning before handing the ball over to his bullpen -- and watching his win slip away when Freese connected against Venters.

"With a guy like Venters on the mound, you get too big, you're not going to succeed," Freese said. "He's nasty. He obviously left something out over for me to hit, and I got the job done. But that wouldn't have been possible without the outing that Jake had."

Beachy threw nearly 70 percent of his pitches for strikes and issued just one walk to a team that had been working opposing starters extremely hard. He was the first starter to last more than 6 1/3 innings against the Cardinals since April 17.

"He just was excellent," La Russa said.

St. Louis improved to 16-11 on the year after a 2-6 start. The Cards are 4-1 on their current road trip with one game remaining before they head back home. They have won six straight series. Comments