Wainwright shines in Cardinals victory vs. Braves

" Welcome home: Wainwright -- who is from the coastal town of Brunswick, Georgia -- won for the fourth time in five starts. He struck out seven, walked one and allowed six hits. The right-hander lowered his ERA over his last five road starts to 1.86.

" Power surge: St. Louis slugger Albert Pujols hit his 21st homer of the season in the fourth inning.

" Quotable: "I was thinking about giving him the day off tomorrow. I'll have to think about that again." -- St. Louis manager Tony La Russa about Encarnacion

-- ESPN.com news services

Cardinals 4, Braves 2

ATLANTA (AP) -- Adam Wainwright made just the statement he wanted in his first career start against the Atlanta Braves.

Wainwright pitched seven strong innings and Juan Encarnacion drove in the go-ahead run in the eighth, helping the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Atlanta Braves 4-2 on Friday night.

"A lot of bragging rights were on the line tonight," Wainwright said with a wry smile.

The right-hander, from the coastal town of Brunswick in Georgia, took great satisfaction in beating the team that drafted him in the first round in 2000 and traded him for J.D. Drew three years later.

"A lot of people came up to see me pitch," he said. "I'm glad they waste their gasoline."

Albert Pujols homered early, and Encarnacion added a sacrifice fly in the ninth.

"I was thinking about giving him the day off tomorrow," St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said about Encarnacion. "I'll have to think about that again."

Winning for the fourth time in five starts, Wainwright (9-7) struck out seven, walked one and allowed six hits. The right-hander lowered his ERA over his last five road starts to 1.86.

The Cardinals have won four of six following a 10-1 loss to Atlanta on Thursday, but not before closer Jason Isringhausen struggled through the ninth.

Isringhausen gave up consecutive singles to begin the inning before Julio Franco grounded into a fielder's choice that left runners on second and third. A wild pitch to pinch-hitter Matt Diaz allowed Jeff Francoeur to score, but Diaz grounded out and Willie Harris flied out to end the game.

Isringhausen earned his 19th save in 21 chances, helping St. Louis improve to 37-0 when leading after eight innings.

Wainwright excelled on the national stage last year, striking out Carlos Beltran with the bases loaded to save Game 7 of the Cardinals' NLCS victory in New York.

The big right-hander got the final out of three games in the World Series, going 1-0 with a save in helping St. Louis to the title. That helped give him the experience needed to settle down after Chipper Jones' RBI single gave the Braves a 1-0 lead in the first.

"They have guys that can hurt you," Wainwright said. "They get focused with two out. If you leave a pitch up just a little, they're going to hurt you."

Pujols, who hit his 21st homer in the fourth to make it 1-all, doubled to lead off the St. Louis eighth. Encarnacion's RBI single scored Pujols from second with the go-ahead run.

After moving to second on the throw, Encarnacion advanced to third when the ball bounced off the infield grass past catcher Brian McCann. Left fielder Harris was charged with an error on the throw, and Chris Duncan followed with a pinch-hit RBI single to make it 3-1.

Both runs came off reliever Rafael Soriano (2-2), who gave up four straight hits before getting his first out.

Braves starter Chuck James pitched seven innings, allowing six hits with two walks and four strikeouts. The left-hander has allowed three earned runs over his last four starts, a span of 24 2/3 innings in which the left-hander has lowered his ERA to 3.58.

"Chucky doesn't get credit for another outstanding performance," Atlanta manager Bobby Cox said. "We've held them so well in the past, it surprises me when we don't."

The Braves, losers in four of five, had 18 homers in their last seven games against St. Louis and had scored 56 runs in the last five, but Wainwright kept their bats quiet.

"He was throwing a lot of strikes," Harris said. "He had good stuff, throwing in and out, up and down. He pitched a great game. He shut us down, pretty much."

Game notes
Pujols, who has 18 RBIs in 20 career games at Turner Field, homered so deep into the left-field seats that James could only admire the slugger's strength. "You don't like to turn around too much and watch it, but I figured I'd watch that one," James said. "I didn't know if that one was going to stay in the stadium or not. That was a courtesy look." ... Duncan's single to right gave the Cardinals 42 pinch hits, best in the NL. ... In his last 3 1/3 innings, Soriano has allowed five earned runs with two blown saves.