ST. LOUIS -- One of the most reliable things in baseball has been Tim Hudson winning when given a lead of three runs or more.
Until Saturday night.
The Atlanta starter, who had been unbeaten in his past 76 starts when given a lead of at least three runs, squandered a three-run advantage in St. Louis on Saturday as the Cardinals rallied for a 5-4 win. The loss also snapped Hudson's nine-game winning streak.
The last time Hudson (15-6) gave up a lead of three or more runs was on Aug. 23, 2000, when Hudson was with Oakland and lost 7-5 to Cleveland. Hudson is 95-2 in his career with that advantage.
"Three runs is a lot for a pitcher; I think any front-line pitcher, if you give him three runs, should win the ballgame," Hudson said. "I felt we should have won tonight for sure."
The Cardinals got to Hudson with one big inning, sending 10 men to the plate and scoring five runs in the fifth to take a 5-3 lead.
"It was a big inning," said Cardinals second baseman Aaron Miles, who began the rally with a bunt. "I don't know if he got a little tired. I just wanted to get something started. That's what we needed."
St. Louis manager Tony La Russa knows his team got a little lucky.
"We got to him with a bunt and a couple of balls that fell," La Russa said.
Atlanta manager Bobby Cox agreed.
"He had the worst luck I've ever seen of any pitcher for one inning," Cox said. "The bunt was an excellent bunt and then two broken bats and a high hopper up the middle, and the ball that (Yunel) Escobar booted.
"He was on top of his game. It's just unreal that could happen, but we get bloop hits, too."
The Braves fell four games behind the San Diego Padres in the NL wild-card race, and seven games behind the New York Mets in the NL East.
Mark Teixeira went 2-for-3 with an RBI, giving him 30 RBI in 23 games since joining the Braves.
Hudson, who entered the game 7-0 with a 2.06 ERA since the All-Star break, was sailing along until the fifth.
Pujols followed Ankiel with a single up the middle to score Eckstein and the Cardinals tied it at 3-3 on Edmonds' hit that went under Braves shortstop Escobar's glove and was ruled a single.
After Chris Duncan made the first out on a fly out to left, Scott Rolen gave the Cardinals the lead with a double off the wall in right. Pinch-hitter So Taguchi made it 5-3 with a sacrifice fly to right that scored Edmonds.
Atlanta cut the lead to 5-4 in the sixth on Teixeira's based-loaded infield single to third off St. Louis reliever Randy Flores.
Hudson gave the Braves a 1-0 lead in the second inning with a two-out, RBI single to left that scored Andruw Jones. Kelly Johnson's leadoff homer off St. Louis starter Joel Pineiro in the third made it 2-0, and Hudson gave himself a three-run cushion in the fourth when he again drove home Jones, this time with a single to right.
Pineiro had his shortest outing since coming to St. Louis, lasting just four innings. Pineiro allowed three runs and seven hits with two walks and five strikeouts before being pinch-hit for by Ryan Ludwick.
However, La Russa said the Cardinals would not have won had Pineiro not limited the damage in his four innings.
"I think that's the key to the game," he said. "I don't think we catch them the way Hudson's pitching."
- Former Braves first-round pick Adam Wainright will try for his 12th win Sunday for the Cardinals.
- Edmonds had two or more hits for the 10th time in his past 19 games. Edmonds is batting .333 in that span (23-for-69).
- Brian McCann went 0-for-5, ending his hitting streak at six games.