Smoltz strikes out six as Atlanta ends three-game skid

Braves 7, Cardinals 2

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- John Smoltz handled one of the teams that has given him the most trouble over the years, helping the Atlanta Braves end a three-game losing streak.

Smoltz worked eight innings for the second straight start and Mark Teixeira drove in his 29th run in 22 games with the Braves in a 7-2 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday night.

Smoltz is 11-11 with six saves for his career against the Cardinals, who had been one of only two teams with a winning record against the 1996 Cy Young winner. He also raised his record to 4-7 in St. Louis.

"There's places where pitchers are not comfortable, and I haven't been comfortable here," Smoltz said. "I love pitching with the atmosphere because there's always a ton of people, but the results haven't worked out. That's the way the game is."

Chipper Jones had a two-run double and Teixeira had an RBI single in a five-run fifth against Kip Wells that put Atlanta ahead 7-2. Paul McCann had a two-run double in the third for the Braves, who didn't need a closer on the day they cut ties with Bob Wickman.

Smoltz (12-6) limited the Cardinals to two runs and six hits with six strikeouts and no walks. It was a strong followup to his last outing against the Diamondbacks in which he had a season-best 12 strikeouts.

The only team with an edge over Smoltz now is the San Francisco Giants at 15-12.

"He was dynamite," manager Bobby Cox said. "He was dominating, just threw a ton of strikes and pitched a super ballgame."

Chris Duncan had a two-run double in the third for the Cardinals, who weren't competitive for the second straight game after losing 11-3 to the Marlins on Thursday night. Wells (6-14), who had won his previous two starts, lasted only four innings and allowed seven runs -- five earned -- on eight hits.

"He just wasn't as good today," manager Tony La Russa said. "I'm not going to dissect it."

Albert Pujols was 0-for-4 with a strikeout and didn't get the ball out of the infield. He's 0-for-7 the last two games after homering in five straight games to tie the franchise record.

"He's a great hitter, a great defensive first baseman as well," Cox said. "Smoltzy pitched him tough."

The Cardinals committed four errors for the second straight game, and the first time it's happened to the franchise since 1962. Shortstop David Eckstein's bobbled throw on a force play in the fourth led to two unearned runs and seven-time Gold Glove third baseman Scott Rolen had two errors, giving him a two-day total of three.

"It's something you don't like to happen, but it's happened and it's over with," Eckstein said. "You've got to be ready to go tomorrow."

Teixeira leads the major leagues with 10 homers and 29 RBIs this month and is batting .520 (13-for-25) with runners in scoring position for the Braves. He totaled 13 homers and 49 RBIs in 78 games with the Rangers before coming to Atlanta at the trade deadline.

Pujols' defense saved a run in the first. He made a barehanded stop of Jones' tapper and easily threw out Willie Harris, who had tripled to start the game, trying to score from third.

Jones was 2-for-22 in his career against Wells before his two-run double in the fourth. The Braves sent 11 batters to the plate in the inning.

Game notes
The start of the game was delayed by rain for one hour and 19 minutes. ... The Braves have been outscored 31-6 in Smoltz' six losses. ... St. Louis has outscored its opponents 150-53 in 21 wins since the All-Star break and has been outscored 146-41 in its 19 losses. Twelve of the losses have been by four or more runs. ... Jones is 9-for-19 with a homer and seven RBIs against the Cardinals. ... Smoltz also won for the first time at new Busch Stadium, which opened last year, giving him victories in 27 parks. ... The Cardinals World Series championship team last year never committed more than three errors in a game.