Carpenter pitched four solid innings in his first start since April 2007 and the St. Louis Cardinals best the slumping Atlanta Braves 7-2 Wednesday night.


 Carpenter pitched four solid innings in his first start since April 2007 and the St. Louis Cardinals best the slumping Atlanta Braves 7-2 Wednesday night.
Albert Pujols drove in the go-ahead run in the seventh for the Cardinals and Joe Mather put the game out of reach with a two-run homer in the eighth.
Carpenter, who won the NL Cy Young Award in 2005, spent the past year recovering from ligament replacement surgery on his right elbow.
Carpenter allowed one run and five hits. He threw 67 pitches, striking out two and walking two.
His return is a boost to the Cardinals heading into the final two months of the season as they try to keep pace with Chicago and Milwaukee in the NL Central.
The Braves left the bases loaded three times and stranded 14 runners overall, a major problem for them all season. Casey Kotchman, acquired Tuesday in the blockbuster deal that sent Mark Teixeira to the Los Angeles Angels, grounded out with three on to end the eighth. The new first baseman went 0-for-5 in his Atlanta debut.
St. Louis broke a 2-2 tie in the seventh after Jair Jurrjens (10-6) retired the first two hitters. Adam Kennedy kept the inning going with a single, and Pujols drove him home with a double into the left-field corner.
Greg Norton got to the ball quickly and hit shortstop Yunel Escobar with a perfect relay. Escobar appeared to have time to get Kennedy, who had just rounded third, but the strong-armed shortstop inexplicably double-pumped before deciding not to even throw home.
Escobar took off his cap and stared off into the distance, clearly perturbed at his indecision.
In the eighth, Mather gave the Cardinals a cushion with his fourth homer, a drive over the left-field wall off Blaine Boyer. Mather homered in the opening game of the series Monday.
Atlanta gave up two runs in the ninth and has surrendered 49 runs during a five-game losing streak.
The Braves scored their lone run off Carpenter with three straight hits in the second, including Jeff Francoeur’s RBI single. Atlanta had runners at second and third with one out, but Carpenter escaped the jam by getting Jurrjens and Gregor Blanco to ground out.
St. Louis claimed the lead in the fifth. Shortstop Cesar Izturis, batting in the ninth spot, singled in the tying run and Kennedy put the Cardinals ahead with an RBI double.
Atlanta struck back in the bottom half of the fifth after Brad Thompson took over on the mound. Escobar led off with a walk, moved to second on a groundout, took third on Norton’s single and trotted home when Omar Infante slapped a single past third.
Thompson (4-2) fanned Kelly Johnson and escaped the jam when Corky Miller grounded out with the bases loaded. He got the win, going 2 2-3 innings. Ron Villone got the final four outs for his first save since 2005.
Notes: The Cardinals optioned LHP Randy Flores to Triple-A Memphis to clear a spot for Carpenter. Flores was 1-0 with one save and a 4.56 ERA in 37 games. ... Carpenter spent 270 games on the DL. ... Jurrjens threw 116 pitches in seven innings. ... Cardinals CF Skip Schumaker left the game with a hamstring cramp.