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STL@ATL: Miller fans five, allows two earned runs

ST. LOUIS -- Cardinals right-hander Shelby Miller had a list of things he wanted to work on after laboring through his most recent start Sunday against Pittsburgh. 

Though Miller has accumulated a 5-2 record despite not reaching the seventh inning in any of his eight starts this season, he aimed earlier this week for a more focused approach while fine-tuning his mechanics by studying video from both this season and last. 

"Even though I'm not pitching as good as I want to, winning those games, even though I'm struggling a little bit, are the ones that matter," said Miller, who will start Saturday's 1:15 p.m. CT game at Busch Stadium. "Obviously, I want to go seven innings and help the bullpen out by going as deep into the game as possible, but my job is just to battle as much as I can and that feels like what I've been doing lately."

Miller has walked 27 batters in 44 2/3 innings this season but said the pitches aren't far off and is aiming to fix his command. He used 95 pitches against the Pirates on Sunday in 5 1/3 innings, walking four and allowing two runs in a 6-5 win.

His manager is on board with any steps Miller is taking.

"Whatever he's working on, I'll support it, because I know it's things we've been talking about," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "A lot of it has to do with just the consistency in his mechanics and the focus and staying with one consistent approach to using his stuff."

While Miller seeks to perfect his form, he'll be contending with a 36-year-old veteran who has found his groove in Braves right-hander Aaron Harang. Harang moved to 4-3 with a 2.98 ERA with a six inning, two-run performance against the Cubs on Sunday. 

Harang has pitched at least six innings and allowed two or fewer runs in seven of his eight starts this season, the lone blemish coming when he allowed nine runs at Miami on April 30. He posted a 5.40 ERA last season in 26 starts between the Mariners and Mets. 

The Cardinals accounted for one of Harang's losses this season, when St. Louis won, 4-3, on May 5 in Atlanta. Harang allowed two runs over six innings in the loss and hasn't beaten St. Louis since 2009.

"It's fun catching the veteran guys just because they're a wealth of knowledge," Braves catcher Evan Gattis said after Harang's last start. "They've been in so many games and so many situations. If it's not this, it's that. He's been through so many games out there."

As for Miller, he'll put his weeklong workload to the test, attempting to take another step in the right direction. 

"He's come a long ways," Matheny said. "He's got some things to work on, like we all do."

Braves: Johnson heating up
After hitting .230 in the month of April, third baseman Chris Johnson has found his groove as the Braves seek some offensive consistency. 

Johnson has hit safely in eight of the last nine games after going 2-for-4 against the Cardinals on Friday night. He's hit .441 (15-for-34) during that span, raising his season batting average to .285. 

"Every good hitter goes through a funk," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "Miguel Cabrera won a Triple Crown two years ago. I'm sure if you look, there was a time when he went 1-for-12."

Cardinals: Wong back in familiar territory 
Kolten Wong returned to the No. 2 spot in the lineup Friday at Busch Stadium after a 15-game stint in Triple-A, where he hit .344 with two homers, 10 RBIs and 14 runs scored following an April demotion. 

"You take different looks at that second spot," Matheny said. "But Kolten can give you a different approach there as well as kind of having that ability to get on base, which he has in the past."

Wong batted in the No. 2 spot in 10 of his first 20 appearances this season, often against right-handed pitchers, which the Braves will throw at the Cardinals in the final two games of the series. 

The 23-year-old second baseman has hit .304 (14-for-46) from the second spot this season after going 2-for-4 in Friday's 5-2 win over the Braves. 

Worth noting
• Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman has had success against Miller, going 4-for-9 with a home run. 

• Current Cardinals' hitters are batting .257 against Harang. Peter Bourjos has gone 6-for-13 against the right-hander with a four RBIs.

• St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina has collected a hit in 14 of 15 games at Busch Stadium this season after going 2-for-3 Friday night. Outfielder Matt Holliday has reached safely in all 16 home games this year. 

• Atlanta started the season 14-0 when scoring first before falling to San Francisco on Wednesday, 10-4, and falling to the Cardinals on Friday night, when they opened the scoring in the second inning. 

• St. Louis will be looking to match its season-high winning streak after claiming a third consecutive victory Friday night. The Cardinals won four straight from April 12-15, taking two from the Cubs and Brewers. Comments