Williams, who is a team-best 14-5, had gone 6-1 before his recent slide. He has not pitched poorly in dropping his last two starts, allowing six earned runs and 14 hits over 13 innings.
On Tuesday, Williams struck out nine while allowing four runs—three earned—over seven innings, but was outdueled by Florida’s Brad Penny in a 4-0 setback.
“I put us in a hole with that three-run inning, and that’s my fault,” Williams said. “There’s no doubt about it. Tonight is my fault.”
Williams is 2-1 with a 2.17 career ERA against Atlanta, but allowed a season-high 11 hits to them in a 4-3 loss at Turner Field on April 24. The right-hander surrendered just two runs, and did not receive a decision.
Winners of two of three, the Cardinals trail the NL Central-leading Houston Astros by two games, and are four games back of Florida and Philadelphia in the wild card race.
Atlanta, which leads the NL with a .284 batting average and 660 runs scored, has dominated the Cardinals the past two years, winning eight straight before Saturday’s 3-1 loss.
Pujols leads the major leagues with a .370 average and is 35-for-90 (.389) during his hit streak.
“It’s crunch time right now. We’ve been here before, and we just have to play,” said St. Louis’ Eduardo Perez, who had two hits and an RBI in Saturday’s win.
Chipper Jones drove in the lone run for the Braves, who had their three-game winning steak snapped.
STANDINGS: Braves - 1st place, NL East. Cardinals - 3rd place, 2 GB, NL Central.
BRAVES PROBABLE STARTER: Horacio Ramirez (8-4, 4.27 ERA). The rookie is 0-2 in his last five starts after going 7-0 in his previous 12. In his last start, a 4-3 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers on Tuesday, the left-hander allowed two runs and seven hits over six innings, but didn’t a receive a decision. Ramirez is making his first career start against the Cardinals.
CARDINALS PROBABLE STARTER: Williams (14-5, 3.48 ERA). Williams is 10-3 with a 3.12 ERA at home this season.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Braves - Gary Sheffield, .329 avg. and 89 RBIs; Javy Lopez, 31 HRs; Rafael Furcal and Sheffield, 94 runs, Furcal 18 SBs. Cardinals - Pujols, .370 avg., 30 HRs, 100 RBIs and 100 runs; Edgar Renteria, 25 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Braves, 4-1.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Braves - 3B Vinny Castilla is 11-for-24 against RHP Williams with four homers and seven RBIs. … OF Sheffield is riding a 14-game hitting streak. … The Braves are 3-2 on a six-game roadtrip. Cardinals - St. Louis has 10 runs and 28 hits in the first five games of its six-game homestand, going 2-3. … The Cardinals last won a series against Atlanta from July 31-Aug. 1, 2001, taking two of three at Busch Stadium. … OF Jim Edmonds is 1-for-16 since returning from a shoulder injury Tuesday
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Braves - 36-23 on the road; Cardinals - 33-25 at home.
INJURIES: Braves - RHP Paul Byrd (elbow), 15-day DL; RHP Trey Hodges (elbow), 15-day DL; RHP Darren Holmes (shoulder), 15-day DL. Cardinals - C Joe Girardi (back), 15-day DL; C Steve Torrealba (elbow), 15-day DL; 2B Fernando Vina (hamstring), 15-day DL; OF Eli Marrero (ankle), 15-day DL; RHP Matt Morris (hand), 15-day DL; LHP Lance Painter (calf), 15-day DL; RHP Russ Springer (elbow), 15-day DL; RHP Kiko Calero (foot), 60-day DL; RHP Chris Carpenter (shoulder), 60-day DL; RHP Gene Stechschulte (shoulder), 60-day DL.