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Braves Return Home For Series With St. Louis

(Sports Network) - When St. Louis and Atlanta last met in April, the Cardinals ran away with a four-game sweep at Busch Stadium. They will attempt to do that again in the first of four consecutive matchups tonight from Turner Field.

The Cardinals had lost three in a row to Atlanta before sweeping a four-game series from April 26-29, and are currently fighting for their playoff lives. St. Louis dropped the final two portions of a three-game series at Milwaukee and suffered an 8-1 setback in Wednesday's finale, as starter Jaime Garcia was roughed up for seven runs and seven hits in four innings.

Albert Pujols ended with a team-best two hits, including a home run in the first inning, for the Cardinals, losers in 11 of their last 15 games. The Cards are still six games behind Cincinnati for the National League Central lead and sit 6 1/2 games off the pace in the wild card race.

"It was kind of a weird night for us," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "We're getting shut down pretty regularly now."

La Russa's club is 1-2 on a seven-game road trip and has lost seven of its last eight contests as the visitor. Speaking of losses, Cardinals co-ace Adam Wainwright will try to stop a personal four-game losing streak when he takes the mound this evening. He had won three starts in a row before his recent slide and is coming off Saturday's 6-1 loss to the Reds in which he yielded five runs -- two earned -- and seven hits over five innings.

Wainwright fell to 17-10 in 29 starts to go along with a 2.34 ERA. The All- Star righty is also 6-8 in 15 starts away from Busch Stadium this season. He beat Atlanta during the four-game sweep on April 29, hurling six innings of three-run ball in a 10-4 victory. Wainwright is 5-0 with a 2.00 ERA in eight career matchups (5 starts) with the Braves.

Atlanta is hoping a return home will cure its recent woes, despite salvaging the finale of a three-game in Pittsburgh with Wednesday's 9-3 victory.

Derek Lowe has won all 10 of his career starts against the Pirates after he held the hosts to just a run on eight hits in six innings. Lowe also had a hit and two runs scored, while Martin PradoDerrek Lee and Alex Gonzalez each drove in a pair of runs for the current wild card-leading Braves, who had lost three straight and five of six games before the six-run triumph.

"I felt good," Lowe said. "There was never any issue of any pain and the game pretty much came down to one pitch in the first inning. We got three runs and they came back and loaded the bases, and it came down to the pitch to Ryan Doumit and I was able to make it and then we just kept piling on."

The Braves' recent slump allowed Philadelphia to take back the top spot in the NL East, as the Phillies hold a half-game lead over Atlanta for division bragging rights. Atlanta is two games in front of San Francisco for the final postseason berth in the Senior Circuit.

Atlanta will also host Washington for three games in Dixie and is an impressive 49-19 at Turner Field this season. It will send Jair Jurrjens to the mound Thursday and he's 4-0 with a 3.38 ERA in his last seven starts. He threw seven shutout innings and gave up three hits in Saturday's 2-0 win at Florida, improving to 7-4 in 18 outings this season.

Jurrjens lost to the Cardinals in late April and is 1-3 with a 3.27 ERA in four career starts against them. The right-hander, however, will put his 6-0 home record on the line tonight.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.