ST. LOUIS (AP)—J.D. Drew enjoyed his return to Busch Stadium, but his happy homecoming could have been better.
Chipper Jones had three hits and Drew finished 4-for-12 in the series with a two-run homer in each of the last two games.
“I had a good time,” Drew said. “It’s different competing against them, that’s for sure. One of my best friends on the team was behind the plate and he’s wanting to get me out more than anybody on the field.”
“We had a lot of hitting, and we lined out a lot,” Braves manager Bobby Cox said. “So it looks like we’re breaking out here.”
John Smoltz, pitching for the first time in five days, got four outs for his fifth save in six chances. Smoltz had offseason elbow surgery and this was the first time he worked more than an inning this season.
“Hopefully we can build on this,” Smoltz said. “We haven’t built on anything yet,”
Sanders broke out of a 3-for-31 slump and Pujols, the NL batting champion last year with a .359 average, raised his average 14 points to .281.
“I didn’t do anything to help our team win,” Pujols said. “I got three hits, but it doesn’t matter because we got the loss.”
Antonio Alfonseca (4-0) got the last two outs in the fifth after Thomson struggled, giving up four runs and eight hits in 4 1-3 innings.
“I just want to kick myself,” Thomson said. “Personally, I think I need to win that game.”
Jeff Suppan (3-4) lasted 3 1-3 innings, the second-shortest outing by the Cardinals starter of the season. He allowed four runs and eight hits and threw 88 pitches.
“I was basically behind in the count all day,” Suppan said. “It was one of those things, just one of those days.”
Second baseman Tony Womack’s throwing error on a double-play relay gave the Braves a run in the second, but the Cardinals came back in the bottom half on Sanders’ ninth homer for a 2-1 lead.
Drew’s two-run shot in the third put the Braves back in front.
Atlanta got another run in the fourth on Thomson’s squeeze bunt, but the Cardinals escaped further trouble with an inning-ending double play.
Pujols’ two-run single in the fifth chased Thomson and narrowed the gap to 5-4.
In the sixth, Sanders dropped Garcia’s drive to right near the warning track for a three-base error. Garcia then scored on Giles’ one-out single.
Pujols doubled off the center-field wall and later scored on Rolen’ssacrifice fly in the eighth.
Cardinals SS Edgar Renteria left after seven innings as a precaution due to lower back tightness. … Estrada had a tough day behind the plate. He stepped on his foot and tumbled to the ground attempting to throw out Pujols stealing in the first, got nailed in the mask on a foul ball in the third, took a foul ball off his right foot in the fourth, had another foul tip off his thigh in the eighth and a foul ball off his left arm in the ninth. … Braves SS Rafael Furcal missed his 11th straight start with a jammed right ring finger. He lined out as a pinch-hitter in the sixth. … Cardinals relievers had worked 16 1-3 scoreless innings before Estrada’s RBI double off Kiko Calero in the fifth. The double came two pitches after the game resumed following a 19-minute rain delay. … Cardinals reliever Julian Tavarez had his smudged hat checked for the second time this season in the eighth, although Cox denied he had anything to do with it. The Phillies did it earlier this season, leading to the Cardinals having Pat Burrell’s bat checked in retaliation. Tavarez pitchedwearing a new cap on Thursday.