It was all downhill from there for slumping Atlanta.
"To get three runs in the first off Wainwright, we had a golden opportunity to do something," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "Just one of those nights.'
There's been a lot of them lately. Atlanta has lost six of eight and 10 of 17, its once commanding lead in the NL East all gone. Idle Philadelphia moved one game up, and San Francisco is taking aim at the Braves in the wild-card race.
"It's tough. But it's not slipped away yet," outfielder Nate McLouth said. "We've certainly lost ground, but we're very much in the middle of the playoff hunt. It's better, I guess to have this little swoon now than two or three weeks from now. We've rebounded well all year, and I don't see any reason why we won't now."
The Braves were looking to turn things around after a 2-4 road trip knocked them out of first. But a 3-0 lead on Wainwright (18-10) was gone in the blink of an eye.
St. Louis rocked Jair Jurrjens for five runs in the second - capped by Schumaker's two-out, two-run drive. Rasmus went 4 for 4 and drove in four runs, matching his career high in both categories.
"It's fun to play here," said Rasmus, a native of Phenix City, Ala., about a two-hour drive from Atlanta. "There were a lot of people here I hadn't seen in a long time."
The Cardinals won for just the fifth time in 16 games and moved within five games of Central-leading Cincinnati, which lost 6-5 at Colorado. San Francisco trailed the Braves by 1½ games in the wild-card race before its late game against San Diego.
Wainwright, who had lost four consecutive starts, appeared headed for an early exit in the first. The Cardinals committed two throwing errors on one play, Jason Heyward had a run-scoring single and Derrek Lee homered for the first time with the Braves, a two-run shot.
"I was disgusted with myself," Wainwright said. "I had a temper tantrum in the hallway and got over it. I needed to get mad."
The big right-hander was nearly perfect after that. He faced the minimum over the next seven innings, giving up a pair of singles to McLouth that were both erased by double plays. Wainwright came out after eighth, having fashioned an impressive seven-hit, three-run line on a night that started poorly.
"My team put me on their shoulders today," he said. "They carried me all the way. The guys scored a bunch of runs. I didn't do much."
Pujols finished off Jurrjens (7-5) in the fourth, hitting his 37th homer on an 0-2 pitch. The Atlanta starter surrendered 10 hits and seven runs in 3 2/3 innings.
"Everything I threw was up," Jurrjens said. "They have some really good hitters on that team, and when your pitches are up it's like batting practice. It seemed like I was throwing batting practice the whole game."
Rasmus sparked the second-inning outburst with a single, led off the fifth with his first homer of the night and followed with a two-run single in the sixth as the Cardinals really poured it on. He capped his night with his 21st homer, a drive deep into the right-field seats off Kenshin Kawakami.
Heyward said the team is still confident about its chances of sending Cox into retirement with one last playoff appearance.
"We've understood all year that you lose games," the rookie said. "There are going to be spells when you go through losing streaks or losing tough games."
- St. Louis OF Matt Holliday was ejected by plate umpire Mike DiMuro for slinging his helmet after a disputed called third strike ended the fourth.
- LHP Trever Miller was day to day after an MRI to evaluate soreness in his left elbow. Doctors determined he has a strained forearm, and he was expected to rejoin the Cardinals.
- Wainwright is one win away from his career high, last year's 19-8 mark.
- The Braves failed to win their 50th home game of the season. Their record at Turner Field slipped to 49-20, still the best in the majors.
- Heyward struck himself on the knee with his bat while grounding out in the fifth. He was then replaced in a double switch, but said his knee was fine. Cox said it was merely a chance to give the rookie some time off with the Braves trailing 8-3.