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CARDINALS 3, BRAVES 2: Pujols held, but Cards deal a loss


CARDINALS 3, BRAVES 2: Pujols held, but Cards deal a loss
When Braves first baseman Casey Kotchman out-hit St. Louis first baseman Albert Pujols on Monday night, the Braves had to figure it was their night.

Not so fast.

Despite keeping the league's hottest hitter in check on a 1-for-5 night, and getting three hits from Kotchman, the Braves fell to St. Louis 3-2 in the opener of an eight-game homestand.

Kotchman had a chance to cap his night with a game-winner, but flew out with the bases loaded to end the eighth inning. The Braves had put five runners aboard in the seventh and eighth innings and came away with only a run.

Kotchman, who went 3-for-4 with two doubles, had doubled for the second time to put runners second and third with nobody out in the seventh inning, but the Braves got only a run out of it on a Jeff Francoeur sacrifice fly.

Brandon Jones and David Ross, filling in for the injured Garret Anderson and Brian McCann respectively, both struck out to end the threat.

The Braves had come home feeling a little insecure about their offense after averaging only 3.7 runs per game on a just completed 4-5 road trip. They did not do much to change that Monday.

Atlanta grounded into a pair of double plays and watched Yunel Escobar get picked off first base to end the sixth inning on a throw by catcher Yadier Molina.

Escobar and leadoff man Kelly Johnson combined to go 1-for-7, with the sole hit coming on Escobar's dribbler on the infield. Johnson is hitting .103 (4-for-39) in the past 11 games without an extra-base hit and only two RBIs. After going 0-for-3, he was replaced in the field by Omar Infante, who had pinch hit.

By contrast, the NL Central-leading Cardinals came in with all the momentum, having won five of their previous six games. Pujols was named NL player of the week Monday, after hitting .450 (9-for-20) with three home runs and 11 RBIs in his previous six games.

Jair Jurrjens, Peter Moylan, and Buddy Carlyle combined to hold Pujols to just one hit with two strikeouts. Pujols put a charge in a Carlyle pitch in the ninth but flew out to Brandon Jones. That left him with only a harmless single. But the rest of the Cardinals had done enough damage on their own.

The Cardinals entered this series hitting .299, which led the National League. And they'd helped pitcher Joel Pineiro get off to a 3-0 start this season by supplying him more than nine runs per nine innings.

They spotted Pineiro a 2-1 lead on Monday, and Pineiro generated another run himself to help the Cardinals to a 3-1 lead. Pineiro drew a walk from Moylan and came around to score on a Rick Ankiel single in the seventh inning.

Jurrjens needed twice as many pitches as Pineiro through the first three innings --- 66 to Pineiro's 30. Jurrjens settled in to retire nine of the last 10 batters he faced, but was replaced for a pinch hitter after throwing 99 pitches through six innings.

Jurrjens allowed only two runs in six innings but failed to win for the third consecutive start.

Jurrjens had struck Pujols out in his first at-bat, throwing him nothing but fastballs. He might have thought that set the tone but Ryan Ludwick and Chris Duncan followed Pujols with a pair of two-out singles to score a run.

Next for Braves

Who: vs. Cardinals

When: 7 p.m. today

TV; radio: WPCH; 640 AM/96.1 FM


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: April 28, 2009

david-eckstein
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