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ATL@STL: Chipper jacks a solo dinger in the eighth

ST. LOUIS -- Turner Field never looked so good.

Following their worst road trip of the season, the Braves are hoping a familiar environment will change their luck. Atlanta completed a rough eight-game swing by dropping a 6-3 decision to St. Louis on Sunday before 39,710 at Busch Stadium.

Sweeps in Philadelphia and St. Louis sandwiched the Braves winning a Thursday doubleheader in New York during the seven-day excursion.

"It was brutal," said third baseman Chipper Jones. "We did nothing right. We didn't pitch, we didn't hit.

"Pretty ugly."

The Braves (84-63) lost six of eight on the trip and have dropped eight of their past 11. Their National League Wild Card lead over the Cardinals (79-67), once as much as 10 1/2 games on Aug. 25, has slipped to 4 1/2.

"We'll go home, sleep in our own beds and get things clicking again," said Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez. "The worst thing that can happen, happened. We lost three in a row and we've still got a 4 1/2-game lead."

"Just because you got swept you can't be passive," said outfielder Eric Hinske. "We still have to play our game and stay aggressive."

The Braves have 15 games remaining, including six with the Marlins -- the last-place team in the NL East. The first of three of those games begins Monday when the Braves open a homestand.

Gonzalez's club hadn't been swept in 44 successive series of three games or more before this past week.

This one unraveled in a hurry for starter Tim Hudson (14-10), who allowed six earned runs in six innings. The right-hander gave up five runs during a 22-pitch stretch in the third inning.

"I didn't make very good pitches, and they had good at-bats and made me pay for it," Hudson said. "I was struggling."

Hudson hit two batters and walked two to set the stage for a three-run, bases-clearing double by Yadier Molina. He issued back-to-back walks to Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman on nine pitches. The free pass to Berkman forced in a run and brought up Molina, who delivered with a first-pitch poke to right.

"I know Tim Hudson is an aggressive pitcher," Molina said. "He tries to throw strike one every time, and I was ready."

Hudson gave up just one run on six hits otherwise, but the Braves were in too deep a hole. Jones slammed his 17th home run of the season in the eighth to get his club to within 6-3, but St. Louis reliever Jason Motte struck out the side in the ninth to record his fifth save and second in a many nights.

The Braves pushed across two runs in the sixth. Jack Wilson and Jones began the inning with singles, Freddie Freeman brought in Wilson with a bloop hit to right and Matt Diaz followed with a sacrifice fly.

The Braves managed just one hit -- Jones' homer -- over the last three innings. St. Louis starter Jake Westbrook (12-8) gave up just two hits over the first five before running into trouble and exiting in the sixth.

Gonzalez is quick to look at the few positives during the trip. Three of the six losses were by one run, including a pair of setbacks in St. Louis.

"We're not playing bad baseball," Gonzalez said. "One inning here, one inning there. Then we get swept. Just got to turn things around at home." Comments