ST. LOUIS — What was viewed by many as a critical juncture of the season is going the St. Louis Cardinals' way.
The Cardinals completed their third consecutive victory over National League East powerhouse Atlanta on Saturday, dispensing a 6-2 beating on the Braves before 43,633 at Busch Stadium.
In the first three games of the series, the Cardinals have outscored Atlanta 15-5. With seven wins in their last eight games, they're looking more and more like a team with designs on playing deep into October.
Veteran Carlos Beltran led the offense by going 3-for-5 with two RBIs, including his 23rd homer of the season.
"I feel the same (as last year)," said Beltran, who is batting .311 --one of four Cardinals over .300. "Right now, I'm just getting better results."
Beltran certainly doesn't feel like he has to carry the load. Matt Carpenter had two more hits Saturday and led off the first with his 10th homer, a blast that tied the game at 1.
Matt Holliday continued to click with a two-run double in the seventh that broke open the game, and Shane Robinson came off the bench as a pinch-hitter in the seventh and wound up with two singles and two runs scored.
"It was great," Beltran said. "To me, the best part was being able to see Shane coming off the bench and getting two hits. When you see the guys from the bench producing like that, it's a great thing.
"They don't get the opportunity to play every day. Right now, (Robinson) seems like he feels good at the plate. As an offense, as a team, we're putting good at-bats together, especially with guys in scoring position."
The Cardinals were 4-for-10 with runners in scoring position and are batting .328 in the clutch this season.
Shelby Miller followed up Adam Wainwright's gem Friday with one of his own. Miller (12-8) allowed just one run, Freddie Freeman's first-inning homer, on three hits in seven innings.
Miller used 101 pitches and benefited from outstanding defensive plays by center fielder Jon Jay in the seventh and shortstop Daniel Descalso in the eighth.
"My main goal tonight was to keep my focus the entire game and just attack the (strike) zone," Miller said. "That's kind of what I've been lacking a little bit. Today, I just tried to keep my focus the whole entire time and attack hitters the whole entire game. And the defense, all-around, was great."
Miller, relying on a cutter that he didn't begin throwing until his previous start Monday, walked none and struck out six.
"I started throwing the cutter last game and we really threw it a lot tonight," Miller said. "I feel like I've got a feel for it quick. Yadi (Molina) likes to call it a lot. Especially if we're executing it, it's a really good pitch. You get in the hitters' heads to let them know you've got something extra there.
"I threw it where I wanted to, for the most part. I pulled a couple, but at the same time, I think it's going to be a really good pitch for me in the future. If it keeps progressing from where it is right now, it's going to be one of my better pitches. 'Waino' and all these guys have cutters, and they're amazing pitchers."
Miller said he was motivated by Wainwright's performance Friday. Wainwright went the distance and struck out nine in a 3-1 win.
"He threw a great game," Miller said. "He's the ace of the staff. He's an amazing pitcher. You try to go out there and back up what he does, but it's pretty tough. He almost does it every single start."