Cardinals top Braves, off to best start since '06

BY foxsports • April 30, 2009

Some of the St. Louis Cardinals' six hits in the fifth inning looked like ugly bloopers to the Atlanta Braves.

They looked like another win to Adam Wainwright.

The right-hander (3-0) overcame five walks and drove in a run during the four-run fifth, and St. Louis beat the weak-hitting Braves 5-3 on Wednesday night.

The Cardinals trailed 3-1 before rallying with six singles in the fifth, including five to center field. Three of the five barely dropped over the reach of shortstop Yunel Escobar.

"I've seen a game like that, but not an inning," said Atlanta's Javier Vazquez, who struck out eight in eight innings but took the loss.

"I threw the ball good, but the box score is not pretty," Vazquez (2-2) said. "It's a disappointing game. I think when you have good stuff like I did today, you should win the game."

Wainwright, Albert Pujols, Chris Duncan and Rick Ankiel had RBI singles in the inning, the last three with two outs. Joe Thurston and Brian Barden opened the inning with singles.

"They had their seventh, eighth and ninth hitters up, and they all got bloopers," said Braves manager Bobby Cox, who said Vazquez "got blooped to death."

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa agreed that "a couple of those hits were bloopers."

"We were lucky to have a four-run rally," La Russa said.

Lucky or not, the Cardinals won two of three in the series against the Braves, who have scored three runs or fewer in 11 of 15 games after scoring at least four runs in each of their first six games.

The Cardinals are off to their best start since 2006, when they also were 15-7.

Wainwright has a 2.76 ERA but has issued 18 walks in 29 1-3 innings.

"His delivery was all over the place," La Russa said. "Then he got it together."

Wainwright, the Brunswick, Ga., native who began his career with the Braves, allowed seven hits and three runs - two earned - with five walks and two strikeouts in six innings.

"It's the same old story, I'm not getting the quick outs," said Wainwright, who said home plate umpire Jerry Layne's strike zone "got to me after a while."

But Wainwright didn't blame the walks on Layne.

"I was off-target all night," he said.

"I'm not pitching well. I'll pitch better."

Wainwright gave up three runs in the first three innings.

St. Louis, which blew a 1-0 lead in the eighth inning in Tuesday night's 2-1 loss to the Braves, protected the late lead in the final game of the series. With two outs and runners on first and second in the eighth, second baseman Skip Schumaker jumped to catch a soft liner by Omar Infante off closer Ryan Franklin.

Franklin recorded four outs for his seventh save.

Vazquez gave up nine hits and five runs with one walk in eight innings. He struck out eight - his fourth straight start with at least eight strikeouts.

"He pitched great; I don't know if he can pitch any better," Cox said.

Infante had three hits, including a run-scoring single in the second.


Brendan Ryan left the game with tightness in his left hamstring. Ryan grabbed the back of his leg while running to first base on a grounder that rolled foul. La Russa said the team may have to make a roster move. "You have to have a shortstop," he said. ... Umpire Ed Montague was sick and missed the game. Chris Tiller, the fill-in umpire on the crew, was the third base umpire. ... Braves 2B Kelly Johnson, in a 4-for-39 slump that has dropped his batting average to .203, didn't start for the second straight day. ... The Braves said RHP Kenshin Kawakami has right shoulder fatigue, and his next start was pushed back three days to Tuesday.

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