Jason Heyward got the swing that really counted, hitting a two-run homer in the 12th inning of a 9-7 victory Friday night, putting a damper on the Cardinals' celebration honoring former manager Tony La Russa.
"I thought Beltran was going to beat us every time he came to the plate, and he almost did," Heyward said. "I just got enough of it. I tried to stay simple, not try to do too much."
"Anytime you're seeing it well, it's a good feeling," Beltran said. "Unfortunately, we just couldn't finish them off."
A sellout crowd was on hand to watch the Cardinals retire La Russa's No. 10 in a pregame ceremony that included several of the manager's former players. But seven Atlanta relievers combined for 7 1/3 innings of one-run ball, helping the Braves end a seven-game losing streak in St. Louis that included a three-game sweep last September that propelled the Cardinals past Atlanta for the NL wild card on the way to their second World Series championship in five years.
"They've had a good team here for years, and they have another good team," Heyward said. "Our pitchers hung in there; our defense hung in there."
St. Louis loaded the bases in the 10th and 11th but came up empty against Livan Hernandez (1-0). Pinch hitter David Freese grounded into an inning-ending double play to end the 10th, and Craig popped out to second to end the 11th.
"We had some opportunities to finish it off," manager Mike Matheny said. "We just couldn't make it happen."
Chipper Jones, who got a standing ovation before his first at-bat to begin his final scheduled series in St. Louis, walked against Kyle McClellan (0-1) to start the 12th. Heyward followed with his fifth homer to the power alley in left-center, close to the wall decal of La Russa unveiled several hours earlier.
Beltran tied it at 7 in the eighth, driving Jonny Venters' pitch to the visitors' bullpen in left-center. Beltran's team-high 12th homer was the first of the year off Venters, who hit his first batter of the year later in the eighth.
Beltran had a grand slam and six RBIs in a two-homer game at Arizona on Tuesday. He now has 33 career multihomer games, including three this season, and has 10 homers and 31 RBIs in 91 career at-bats at 7-year-old Busch Stadium.
He's 11-for-26 (.423) during a six-game hitting streak.
"From the eighth inning on, it seemed like Beltran hit every inning," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "I was looking to see if somebody was batting out of order over there.
"Every time we left a mistake out over the plate, he hurt us."
The Cardinals are the majors' second-highest scoring team and the Braves are third, and the matchup lived up to that billing.
The Braves scored twice on passed balls in the first when Yadier Molina couldn't track down Jaime Garcia pitches that darted. Atlanta then doubled four times in a span of five at-bats in the third to give Mike Minor a 5-1 lead.
Beltran and Craig homered in a span of three pitches in the fourth for St. Louis, which chased Minor with four consecutive two-out hits in the fifth. Beltran's 11th homer was estimated at 454 feet, the second longest at Busch, and his triple in the fifth put the Cardinals up 6-5.
Minor's past three outings have been the worst of his short career. He surrendered six runs in 4 2/3 innings, his shortest outing of the season, and has an 11.81 ERA the past three while giving up 21 earned runs in 16 innings.
Garcia has been just as ineffective lately, allowing 12 earned runs in 10 2/3 innings his past two starts with a pair of no-decisions. Garcia gave up five runs, four earned, in 5 2/3 innings against Atlanta.
Carpenter started at 3B in place of Freese, who got a day off aside from the pinch-hit appearance. ... The Cardinals had targeted Friday to activate 1B Lance Berkman (calf) off the 15-day disabled list, but he remains day-to-day. ... Braves pinch hitter Eric Hinske was ejected after striking out in the eighth and arguing that he had checked his swing. Hinske is 3-for-18 as a pinch hitter, and the Braves are 8-for-51 overall (.157). ... Craig has four homers in five games.