Pujols leads Cardinals over Braves
ATLANTA (AP)—A miserable day for the Atlanta Braves ended with another dismal loss.
The injury-plagued Braves essentially gave up on this season by trading slugger Mark Teixeira shortly before Tuesday night’s game, then went out and dropped their fourth in a row, 8-3 to the St. Louis Cardinals.
Albert Pujols hit a tying homer in the sixth and scored the go-ahead run in the eighth on a throwing error before the Cardinals broke it open with a five-run ninth.
For the Braves, the idea of dumping a top player with more than two months left in the season was especially tough to take—after all, this is the franchise that won 14 straight division titles from 1991-2005 and was at least in contention for the playoffs the last two seasons.
“This is a first for all of us,” injured third baseman Chipper Jones said. “We’ve never been sellers before. We’re usually the ones adding, not subtracting.”
Pujols hit a towering drive into the seats in center field leading off the sixth, tying the score at 2 with his 21st homer. He started the eighth with a double off Rafael Soriano (0-1). After Ryan Ludwick lined out, Pujols took off for third on a surprise stolen base attempt.
The throw by fill-in catcher Corky Miller sailed into left field, allowing Pujols to score and give the win to Ryan Franklin (4-4). The Cardinals made it a laugher in the ninth off Mike Gonzalez, though only one of the five runs he surrendered in two-thirds of an inning was earned.
Which meant more to Pujols: the homer or the stolen base?
“The win,” he replied. “Another win, that’s what is most important.”
Teixeira took batting practice with Atlanta before the game, then got word he had been dealt to the Angels ahead of Thursday’s trade deadline.
General manager Frank Wren said his team was in no position to contend for the playoffs after learning that ace pitcher Tim Hudson could be done for the season, the latest in a devastating series of injuries that sent the team tumbling out of the race.
“It’s tough to come to grips with,” Jones said. “I certainly felt coming out of spring training that we would be right in the middle of things all year.”
The fading Braves have surrendered 42 runs during a four-game losing streak and dropped a season-high 8 1/2 games behind the first-place New York Mets in the NL East.
The Cardinals, trying to stay with Chicago and Milwaukee in the Central, won their second straight after a stretch of six losses in seven games. They trail the Cubs by four games and closed within a game of the second-place Brewers.
“It’s a close race with a lot of games left,” Pujols said. “We struggled for the first six or seven games after the break, then we came back and picked it up again. I’m glad we’re playing better than we did last year.”
Greg Norton, who came into the game hitting .215, took over at first base and filled Teixeira’s cleanup spot in the order. Omar Infante batted fifth in place of Jones. Figuring in Mark Kotsay, the 3-4-5 hitters came in with nine homers and 59 RBIs combined.
But that was it for the Braves’ offense. They have struggled to hit in the clutch all season and had little chance of reversing that trend with a depleted lineup.
The best scoring chance came in the fifth. Kotsay got to third with one out on a throwing error, with Infante reaching first on the play. Infante broke for second while Johnson was striking out, but Molina wasn’t fooled by the ruse.
The catcher caught Kotsay trying to sneak in from third and threw behind him, snaring the runner in an inning-ending rundown.
Norton, taking over for the Gold Glove-winning Teixeira, made a crucial throwing error in the ninth that opened up things for the Cardinals. Gonzalez didn’t help matters with three walks, one to Troy Glaus with the bases loaded. Molina added a two-run single off Blaine Boyer.
1B Scott Thorman, who plays for Atlanta’s Triple-A team in Richmond, was placed on the temporarily inactive list after being named to the Canadian Olympic team that will play in Beijing. … Atlanta RHP Jair Jurrjens was honored before the game as the NL rookie of the month for June. … St. Louis improved to 30-24 on the road.