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"That's the best ballgame I've seen Jo-Jo throw," Braves manager Bobby Cox said of the left-hander, who in his second start of the season allowed three hits and one walk with seven strikeouts against the best-hitting team in the National League.
Mike Gonzalez struck out the side in the ninth inning for his third save, getting Albert Pujols looking and Ryan Ludwick swinging for the final outs as the Braves evened the series at 1-1.
"After I saw Matt do what he did and get those runs in, I said there's no chance they're going to touch the plate," Gonzalez said. "We had to get this win."
Pujols didn't swing at any of six pitches Gonzalez threw, taking three strikes after three balls. Gonzalez threw him sliders and fastballs clocked at 94-95 mph.
"That's the Gonzalez I remember from Pittsburgh," Cox said, referring to the lefty's 24 saves in 24 attempts with 64 strikeouts in 54 innings for the Pirates in 2006, before he was traded to the Braves and had elbow surgery in May 2007.
Peter Moylan (1-1) pitched a perfect eighth inning and got the win, but that did not overshadow the performance of Reyes in his teammates' view.
"He pitched great --- the best I've ever seen him pitch," right fielder Jeff Francoeur said. "That was huge for him confidence-wise. It was fun to watch."
Reyes said, "I wasn't trying to do anything special. Just sticking with my game plan."
Precisely why he was so impressive, Cox said. He didn't try to do too much.
"He looked exactly like what Roger [McDowell, pitching coach] has been trying to get him to do --- be a pitcher, don't try to throw 95 [miles per hour]."
Reyes still hasn't won in his past 15 starts, but insisted it didn't matter Tuesday because he kept the Braves in the game and gave them a chance to win.
In the eighth, the Braves loaded the bases on three walks --- including the fourth for Chipper Jones --- against reliever Kyle McClellan before Diaz hit a single past the outstretched glove of diving shortstop Khalil Greene.
"I put it in play and got lucky," Diaz said, smiling. "A beautiful 85-hopper up the middle. But it's a laser in the books."
Reyes went pitch-for-pitch with Cardinals right-hander Kyle Lohse, who allowed four hits in six scoreless innings. Lohse is unbeaten in 11 starts dating to last season, and St. Louis entered with the league's best record at 14-6.
It was Reyes' finest game since his last win June 13 at Anaheim, when he gave up two runs and five hits in eight innings. He's 0-8 with a 6.56 ERA since, and this was just the third Braves win in his 15 starts in that period.
In seven of those 15 games, the Braves failed to score while Reyes was in.
The Braves grounded into inning-ending double plays soon after the first three of Jones' walks. Casey Kotchman grounded into double plays with two runners on base immediately after Jones' first two walks, in the first and third innings.
In the third inning, Yunel Escobar's base-running gaffe led to the final out, when he raced past third with seemingly no chance of beating the throw.
When Escobar attempted to turn back and retreat to third, he was thrown out.
"He was trying to sneak a run," Cox said of Escobar's overaggressiveness.
Next for Braves
Who: vs. Cardinals
When: 7 p.m. today
TV; radio: WPCH; 640 AM/96.1 FM