Braves 10, Cardinals 1

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ATLANTA (AP)—Andruw Jones’ nightmarish season could finally be turning around.

Jones homered and drove in three runs to back seven strong innings by Tim Hudson, and the Atlanta Braves ended a three-game skid with a 10-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday night.

“I think June and July are the months I feel good,” Jones said. “I play better. Not that I feel good physically. I’ve got a lot of injuries I wish I didn’t have right now. I just go out and try to do my job and help the team any way I can.”

Matt Diaz, whose solo homer in the second made it 3-0, finished 3-for-4 with 3 RBIs. The Braves have won 13 of 20 despite a three-game sweep by Cincinnati this week.

Though his average rose four points after going 2-for-3, Jones still is hitting only .220—an unacceptable average for a 30-year-old, five-time All-Star who had 92 homers and 257 RBIs from 2005-06.

“I’m trying to put the first half behind me,” Jones said. “We had a couple of rough starts the last three games. We made too many mistakes as a team and we got swept by the Cincinnati Reds. Today was a tremendous game all around for everybody.”

St. Louis, which scored its only run on David Eckstein’s sacrifice fly in the sixth, has lost four of seven since the All-Star break.

Hudson (10-5) beat the Cardinals for the third time in his career, but this start marked the first time he was dominant.

The right-hander, who struck out three and gave up one run and five hits, entered with a 4.85 ERA in a span of 26 innings against St. Louis. Through his first five innings, Hudson allowed just one batter, Eckstein in the first, to get in scoring position.

“I felt like I had life on everything,” Hudson said. “I was locating everything pretty good. A big lead helps a lot. It puts a lot of pressure on the other team to go out there and make something happen.”

Jeff Francoeur went 2-for-5 with two RBIs, and Julio Franco, playing his first game with the Braves since 2005, drove in two runs with a single that made it 10-0.

Jones, whose 19th homer made it 2-0, added an RBI single in the fourth for a 7-0 lead.

The Braves need more offensive production from Jones, who’s hitting .385 (15-for-39) with five homers and 16 RBIs over his last 10 games.

“We were that team we like to see tonight,” said third baseman Chipper Jones, who had two hits and helped spark a lineup that was 7-for-9 with runners in scoring position. “A lot of good offense early and solid pitching early, good D. It just needs to show up a little more consistently. We couldn’t do any wrong, especially with guys on base.”

Mike Maroth (0-3) gave up all of Atlanta’s runs. The left-hander walked three and gave up 11 hits without a strikeout. The worst stretch was the five-run fourth, when he allowed six straight hits with two outs.

“I just couldn’t get that third out,” Maroth said. “They kept getting hits. I didn’t get it done. I never gave my team a chance to win. I got down from the first inning, and it kept getting worse.”

Following a 10-4 loss at Philadelphia on Saturday, Maroth has a 13.09 ERA in his last two starts, allowing 20 hits and five homers in a span of 11 innings.

“He’s in a rut,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. “He’s not himself.”

Notes

Maroth was 1-1 with a 3.55 ERA in his first two starts against the Braves, both with Detroit. … RHP Chris Carpenter, who hasn’t pitched since the season opener, will undergo Tommy John surgery next week. The St. Louis ace will miss the rest of this year and part of 2008. … The Cardinals activated CF Jim Edmonds before the game. … Atlanta activated Franco, one day after claiming the 48-year-old off waivers and signing him through the end of the season.

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