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Reyes roughed up by Cards in finale

Reyes roughed up by Cards in finale

ST. LOUIS -- Braves manager Bobby Cox took advantage of the opportunity to minimize the potential damage Albert Pujols could provide. But he wasn't able to protect Jo-Jo Reyes from his prolonged control problems and Brian Barton.

Consequently, yet another tough road trip came to a close, and the most positive development might be the fact that the Braves won't have to worry about Pujols again this season. But they obviously will see more of Reyes, and they can only hope he lives up to his once-glowing promise during the season's final five weeks.

Pujols continued his weekend assault, and Barton recorded a career-high three hits while extending Reyes' troubles and helping the Cardinals claim a 6-3 win over the Braves at Busch Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

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"Terrible road trip," said Cox after his team won just once during this six-game trek. "It was not good. We didn't get much pitching."

Most of the damage the Atlanta pitching staff incurred while posting a 7.66 ERA during this six-game trip came during Friday night's series-opening 18-3 loss to the Cardinals. But poor pitching has been the primary reason the Braves have won just two of their past 14 games. The staff ERA during that span is 7.11.

With Tim Hudson sidelined until next August and the futures of both Tom Glavine and John Smoltz currently in doubt, the Braves are looking for options to fill their rotation next season. At one time, they were hoping Reyes might fit into their plan. But while going 0-6 with a 7.60 ERA in his past eight Major League appearances, the 23-year-old rookie is providing reason for those plans to be altered.

"I really don't think about it," Reyes said. "All I'm worrying about right now is putting up quality starts and keeping my team [in the game]."

While allowing the Cardinals nine hits and six runs -- five earned -- in 5 2/3 innings, Reyes might have kept the Braves within striking distance. But the 23-year-old left-hander didn't set a positive tone while allowing a pair of runs during both of the first two frames.

"They scored in four of the six innings that he pitched," Cox said. "You've got to get some outs. He pitched OK. I think he pitched a little bit better than the linescore indicates."

During the previous two games, Reyes noticed Pujols was taking pitches until a strike was called. That mindset proved damaging when the Cardinals first baseman turned on a 1-0 fastball and directed it over the left-field wall for a two-run first-inning homer. It followed the first of four walks issued by the Braves southpaw.

"He's an unbelievable hitter," Reyes said. "He's hot right now. Everything you throw up there close, he's hitting."

Pujols, who recorded eight hits in 10 at-bats during this weekend's series, briefly moved ahead of Braves third baseman Chipper Jones in the National League batting race with his third-inning single off Reyes. While getting walked (twice intentionally) in his final three plate appearances on Sunday, he wasn't given a chance to do additional damage.

Jones, who previously held a comfortable lead in the race, doubled in the eighth inning to improve his batting average to .359 and move back into a tie with Pujols.

After the game, Cox was asked if he'd figured out how to subdue Pujols, who hit .565 with three homers and 15 RBIs in seven games against the Braves this year.

"If I did, I'd tell the whole world how to get him out," Cox said. "He's a good hitter. He's disciplined, he's smart and he's strong."

While Pujols proved detrimental, Barton certainly proved to be a thorn in Reyes' side. Following consecutive singles to begin the bottom of the second inning, the St. Louis outfielder allowed his team to regain the lead for good with a two-run double.

Barton, who was sidelined from July 6-Aug. 14 with a fractured right wrist, also provided one-out singles that led to runs in the fourth and sixth innings. The 26-year-old rookie was forced to exit after straining his right oblique muscle while sprinting to first base to record an infield single in the sixth inning.

"If I could have had a couple of pitches back, I think things might have been different," said Reyes, primarily referencing the pitches he made while allowing the Pujols homer and issuing a first-inning walk to Joe Mather.

Cardinals starter Braden Looper allowed three earned runs and six hits in seven innings to beat the Braves for the second time in less than a month. All of his damage came in the second inning, when Reyes produced a two-run single and Gregor Blanco followed with an RBI single.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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