With just one game remaining Sunday here in the season series between two almost certain playoff clubs each team has held serve.
The Atlanta Braves dispatched the Cardinals three straight games a month ago in Atlanta. The Cardinals have returned that favor by taking the first three games of this weekend’s series at Busch Stadium evening the count with a 6-2 win before a sellout house of 43633 Saturday night.

The victory was the Cardinals’ seventh in their last eight games and enabled them to catch Pittsburgh atop the National League Central with 76 wins. The Braves have 77 victories tops in the majors and though there will be 32 games remaining for each team after Sunday’s last meeting between them the winner will have a 4-3 edge which could come into play as a tiebreaker for potential home-field advantage in a playoff series involving division winners.

Two of the league’s top rookie hurlers Shelby Miller of the Cardinals and Atlanta’s Julio Teheran allowed just five hits between them three by Teheran through the first six innings.

The only difference was that the Cardinals had two solo homers by Matt Carpenter and Carlos Beltran while Miller surrendered only one to Freddie Freeman.

But Miller featuring a newly minted cut fastball which he threw some 15 times escaped the seventh by allowing just one more hit and being rescued by center fielder Jon Jay’s leaping catch. The Cardinals meantime knocked out Teheran in the seventh as pinch hitter Shane Robinson who has had six hits in his last three games and Carpenter both singled with Robinson aggressively going to third on right fielder Justin Upton.

David Carpenter relieved to fan Beltran but Matt Holliday tagged the Atlanta righthander for a two-run double his fourth in his last six games. That double extended the Cardinals’ streak to 15 games with at least one double tying their team high this year.

Allen Craig and Yadier Molina followed with singles to hike the lead to 5-1. Beltran who had three hits singled in the final run in the eighth scoring Robinson who had singled and stolen second as he got plenty accomplished for playing just three innings.

Edward Mujica making his first appearance since Wednesday as he has had treatment for muscle tightness behind his right shoulder and near his neck got plenty accomplished by throwing just three pitches all strikes to Elliot Johnson to end the game and notch his 34th save in 36 tries.

Miller raising his record to 12-8 with his first win in three weeks struck out six and walked nobody.

Manager Mike Matheny noted with enthusiasm that Miller had been pitching more down in the strike zone a suggestion which has been imparted to him on several occasions.

“That’s probably about as good as we’ve seen him in a long time” said Matheny. “It was a different style.

“His stuff was electric but he was in the lower part of the zone more than we’ve seen him.

“This led him to having some shorter innings. I think it’s a great lesson for him. That high pitch that he has is definitely a big part of his arsenal but being able to hit the bottom (of the strike zone) and make them put the ball in play is going to be real important.”

Matheny said he and his staff hadn’t been “trying to jam down his throat” the concept of low strikes. “You don’t want to flood his whole thought process on what’s made him successful up to this point. But I think they catch on after a while” said Matheny.

“They see what Waino (Adam Wainwright) does and then (Miller) realizes he’s got to make small adjustments to stay later in the game. But I think that’s part of his natural growth without us forcing it on him.”

Miller said he had been encouraged by the veteran pitchers on the staff to make more use of his cutter which he began doing in his last start.