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Error by Simmons, more clutch-hitting woes lead to another Braves loss; Cardinals win 4-3

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ATLANTA - For the Atlanta Braves, there were more woes with runners in scoring position.

That's becoming the norm.

There also was a botched play by shortstop Andrelton Simmons.

No one ever expects that from the Gold Glover.

It added up to another loss.

The Braves shook up their lineup in hopes of generating more offence, but Matt Carpenter's two-run double helped carry St. Louis to a 4-3 victory Monday night, handing Atlanta its seventh straight defeat.

"Teams are going to go on runs like this," said Braves starter Aaron Harang, who took the loss. "We're going to battle out of it. It's so early in the season. No one is stressing in here."

Well, maybe a little.

Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez made a drastic lineup switch, batting Harang eighth and putting second baseman Ramiro Pena in the ninth spot. It actually worked out pretty well. Pena had two hits, including a seventh-inning homer that brought the Braves within a run.

But Atlanta couldn't overcome a 4-0 deficit.

Justin Upton took a called third strike from Trevor Rosenthal to end the game with the potential tying run at second base — Upton's fourth strikeout of the night and extending Atlanta's woes with runners in scoring position.

The Braves were 1 for 12 in those situations and are 6 of 51 during their losing streak, though Freddie Freeman saw some encouraging signs.

"We hit some balls hard with runners on," he said. "We were in the game the whole game. We couldn't say that the past week."

Simmons had a couple of plays that could've been scored errors, including a third-inning grounder that was ruled a hit. With a runner on in the fifth, he appeared to take his eye off the ball trying to rush a force play, allowing Mark Ellis' grounder to skip past. Initally ruled a hit as well, it was changed to an E-6, resulting in a pair of unearned runs.

"Those things happen," Harang said. "I told him not to be too hard on himself. He's probably going to save my butt plenty of times this year."

The last time the Braves had such a lengthy skid was May 21-28, 2012, when they dropped eight in a row. Their longest losing streak last season was four straight.

Shelby Miller (4-2) got a shaky win, giving up six hits and two runs in five-plus innings. Rosenthal pitched out of trouble for his ninth save, giving up a leadoff single to Simmons. Jordan Schafer bunted the runner to second, but Pena flied out to right before Upton whiffed.

Harang (3-3) pitched much better than his previous start, when he was pounded for nine runs by the Marlins. This time, he gave up four runs in six innings but only two were earned.

The game was scoreless until the fifth. After Simmons' error, Miller bunted the runners to second and third, and Carpenter followed with double to right-centre. Matt Holiday made it 3-0 with a hard liner past third baseman Chris Johnson, bringing home Carpenter.

"It was big," Carpenter said. "Especially when we got out to a big lead, to be able to hold them off, that was big for us."

St. Louis added another run in the fifth on Bourjos' RBI single, but Gonzalez challenged a call at third base that had seemingly given the Cardinals a 5-0 lead.

Yadier Molina's bases-loaded grounder ricocheted off Harang's leg, right to Johnson at third. He caught it and blindly stepped back in search of the bag and managed to barely nick it, as the replay showed. The called was quickly overturned after a review of only 37 seconds.

The Braves knocked out Miller in the bottom half of the sixth, the first three hitters reaching safely. The Cardinals went to the bullpen after Evan Gattis' RBI single, and B.J. Upton followed with a sacrifice fly off Pat Neshek.

Neshek escaped the jam by striking out Simmons.

NOTES: The Cardinals sent pitcher RHP Joe Kelly back to St. Louis to continue his rehab from a strained left hamstring. "Joe just wasn't to the point where they thought they could push him, so keeping him around the rest of this road trip didn't make any sense," general manager John Mozeliak said. "I don't know I'd call it a setback as much as he just wasn't progressing as quickly as we wanted." ... Atlanta RHP Gavin Floyd will make his season debut when he starts Tuesday against LHP Tyler Lyons (0-2) of the Cardinals. Floyd is coming back from Tommy John surgery and will start in place of Ervin Santana, who has a bruised right thumb.

___

Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963

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