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Freeman returns early for Braves, but they can't solve Martinez in 1-0 loss to Cardinals

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ST. LOUIS — endured another frustrating start. At least the Atlanta Braves got back ahead of schedule.

Their offense could sorely use Freeman's bat after getting shut out 1-0 by the St. Louis Cardinals and on Saturday night. They've been blanked nine times.

"Obviously it's a little bit earlier than we expected but it was kind of me pushing it," Freeman said after pinch hitting in the seventh and finishing the game at first base. "Hand doesn't hurt at all."

Freeman had been scheduled to play a second rehab game in Double-A Orlando that was rained out. He convinced the team he was ready to go and arrived in the second inning, then did some treadmill work and spent time in the cage to get ready.

Freeman flied out in the seventh and was on deck in the ninth when hit into a game-ending double play against .

"He got nice and lathered up before we used him," Gonzalez said. "I would have liked to have gotten him one more at-bat there in the ninth and that didn't materialize."

Freeman said he "ran to the hot tub" and then "got on a bike" right after he got to the stadium.

"No pain, I think that was the biggest thing for me," Freeman said. "That's what I was telling them, 'I'm good, I'm healthy, let's get me to St. Louis."

Pinch-hitter got his first career RBI with a sacrifice fly in the eighth off and Martinez outdueled Miller, his former teammate.

Miller received a standing ovation from a sellout crowd before striking out with the bases loaded to end the second.

"I have nothing but respect for that organization and all the fans," Miller said. "They're the best. Coming in tonight kind of shows why they are."

The Cardinals won their fifth in a row despite getting just two hits. They lead the majors with a 63-34 record.

Martinez (11-4) made his first post-All-Star break start and allowed six hits in eight innings with six strikeouts and one walk, which was intentional. He worked the last four innings and took the loss in an 18-inning setback to the Mets on Sunday.

Choate got the last two outs for his first save. Cardinals closer has gotten two games off after working three in a row.

Miller (5-7) allowed a run on two hits in 7 1/3 innings. The right-hander is 0-6 in his last 12 games, the longest winless slump by a Braves starter since went 14 games between victories in 2010.

had a leadoff double in the first and St. Louis didn't get another hit until opened the eighth with a single.

then walked, and pinch-ran for Molina and advanced on a fly out. Kozma beat the throw home from on Piscotty's flyball to medium right field.

Miller retired 12 in a row ending the seventh. The former first-round Cardinals' draft pick spent his first three seasons with St. Louis before getting dealt to Atlanta in the offseason for outfielder .

The trade came after the death of promising Cardinals outfielder . Martinez inherited Miller's spot in the rotation, dedicating the season to Taveras.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Braves: They averaged just 2.8 runs during the 30 games Freeman was sidelined, going 13-17. IF was optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett.

Cardinals: One sterling rehab start, five innings of no-hit ball, was enough for LHP to show he's ready to rejoin the rotation early next week. He's been out with a strained left groin since July 4 and will start either Tuesday or Wednesday against Cincinnati.

UP NEXT

Just like Miller, rookie (4-1, 3.60) will be facing the Cardinals for the first time. (11-3, 3.20) has 93 strikeouts and needs one more to set a career best.

PHOTO: Atlanta Braves relief pitcher Luis Avilan throws during the eighth inning of a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals, Saturday, July 25, 2015, in St. Louis. The Cardinals won the game 1-0. (AP Photo/Billy Hurst)
Atlanta Braves relief pitcher Luis Avilan throws during the eighth inning of a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals, Saturday, July 25, 2015, in St. Louis. The Cardinals won the game 1-0. (AP Photo/Billy Hurst)

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PHOTO: Atlanta Braves catcher A.J. Pierzynski, left, visits the mound to talk to starting pitcher Shelby Miller during the eighth inning of a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals, Saturday, July 25, 2015, in St. Louis. The Cardinals won the game 1-0. (AP Photo/Billy Hurst)
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