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Stephenson, Cards finally solve Braves

Posted: Saturday August 09, 2003 4:12 PM
Updated: Saturday August 09, 2003 6:33 PM
  Albert Pujols Albert Pujols extended his hitting streak to 23 games with a single in the fourth inning. AP

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Earlier this month, Garrett Stephenson got demoted to the bullpen.

On Saturday, St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa showered Stephenson with compliments after the right-hander dominated the Atlanta Braves for eight innings in a 3-1 victory.

"Garrett is absolutely fearless," La Russa said. "Sometimes I think that fearlessness becomes a little carelessness, but he was out there today and he was going to give us a chance to win.

"In all fairness, he's done that a lot more than his record shows."

Eduardo Perez had two hits and an RBI as the Cardinals, despite continued offensive woes, ended an eight-game losing streak against the Braves that extended to May 2002. They've totaled 10 runs and 28 hits in the first five games of a six-game homestand, going 2-3.

"It's crunch time right now," Perez said. "We've been here before, and we just have to play."

Albert Pujols got an infield hit in the fourth to extend his hitting streak to a career-best 23 games, although he was easily thrown out trying to advance on a medium fly ball to right on the next at-bat. Pujols leads the major leagues with a .370 average and is 35-for-90 (.389) during the streak.

Stephenson (6-11) has had two of his strongest starts of the season in the last three outings since emerging from a brief demotion to the bullpen. He allowed a run on six hits in 7 1-3 innings with one strikeout and two walks in his 100th career start. His career record in August improved to 10-1 with a 2.38 ERA.

"I don't know if I'm fearless," Stephenson said. "I respect everybody but I don't fear anybody.

"It doesn't matter who's up there, if you make the right pitch, most of the time you're going to get an out."

Steve Kline and Jason Isringhausen each got an out in the eighth. Isringhausen started the ninth by giving up a single and throwing a wild pitch, then struck out the side for his 10th save in 11 chances.

Scott Rolen and Tino Martinez walked off Shane Reynolds (9-6) in the second to set the table for an RBI single by Perez. Perez doubled with one out in the fifth and scored on Chris Widger's single to make it 2-0.

The Braves accumulated three of their hits in the sixth but ended up with just one run on Chipper Jones' long single off the right-field wall because of a double play. Atlanta managed only one extra-base hit, a double by Gary Sheffield in the sixth, after hitting four home runs on Friday.

The Cardinals added an insurance run in the eighth when reliever Ray King threw a wild pitch to the screen during what was supposed to be an intentional walk to Pujols, allowing Miguel Cairo to score from third.

"Two innings and I give up one hit and you want to talk about that throw?" King said. "Come on man, be serious."

Reynolds lasted six innings, giving up two runs on five hits, but didn't get his usual run support from the Braves' offense. Atlanta had been averaging seven runs in his starts.

"I think it was just the Cardinals' day and not our day," Reynolds said. "You can't expect our offense to go out every single day and score as many runs as they've been scoring."

Notes: Pujols' hitting streak is the Cardinals' longest since Joe McEwing hit in 25 straight in 1999. ... The Braves fell to 26-9 in day games. ... Andruw Jones is 5-for-28 for his career against Stephenson. ... Jim Edmonds is 1-for-16 since returning from a strained shoulder on Tuesday. ... The Cardinals were 2-for-6 with runners in scoring position, making them a still feeble 5-for-33 for the homestand.

 
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