ATLANTA (AP) — The St. Louis Cardinals' bats fell flat in Atlanta during a three-game series between NL division leaders.
That leaves little margin for error in their upcoming four-game showdown for the Central lead.
The Cardinals were swept in three games at Atlanta for the first time in 10 years Sunday night as Jason Heyward homered and drove in two runs to help the Braves beat St. Louis 5-2.
St. Louis still boasts baseball's best record but leads Pittsburgh by only 1½ games in the NL Central. The Cardinals open a four-game series at the Pirates on Monday night.
"You never want to go into a place and get swept," said Cardinals rookie Shelby Miller, who gave up three runs, two earned, in 5 2-3 innings.
"We were battling the whole time. I don't think we had a terrible series, we just didn't come out on top in any of the games. ... We just couldn't finish it off. But we have to put this series behind us and go on to the next one and see if we can't win some games in Pittsburgh."
The Cardinals, who lead the NL in batting average and scoring, were held to three runs in the series against the NL East-leading Braves.
"Their guys threw well," manager Mike Matheny said. "I think we probably weren't as locked in as we've been a good portion of this season either, so that makes for a tough combination."
The Braves broke a 2-all tie with two runs in the sixth inning off Miller (10-7) and two relievers. Pinch-hitter Joey Terdoslavich drove in Chris Johnson with the go-ahead run. Heyward added another run-scoring single.
The Cardinals were swept in a road series for the first time this season.
Heyward hit leadoff for the second straight night and only the third time this season. He has nine homers, including two in the series.