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Cardinals beat Braves 4-3 in 10 innings

It had been nearly three months since Craig Kimbrel last allowed a run.

Nothing lasts forever.

The Atlanta Braves closer had control problems and coughed up a two-run lead in the ninth inning of a 4-3, 10-inning loss to the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday night. Kimbrel leads the majors with 43 saves but was saddled with his first blown save since June 14, ending a run of 25 in a row.

"I was a little off, nothing big," Kimbrel said. "It was just one of those outings. I'll come back tomorrow ready to do my job and I hope the opportunity is there, because I definitely want to be in there."

Kimbrel had worked 38 consecutive scoreless outings covering 37 2-3 innings, allowing 14 hits and 11 walks with 67 strikeouts. But he walked two and gave up a single to load the bases for Albert Pujols, who hit a two-run single just inside the first-base line with two outs to tie it.

"Whenever you put guys on for free, it seems like it always comes back to get you," Kimbrel said.. I hung a pitch there at the end and he kept it inside the line. I made a mistake and he made me pay for it."

Kimbrel said he hadn't been worrying about facing Pujols.

"I was just going one hitter at a time," Kimbrel said. "Hitter goes in the box I go right at him. It didn't work out for me tonight."

Nick Punto hit a sacrifice fly with the bases loaded in the 10th inning as the Cardinals kept faint postseason hopes alive. Pujols, who has batted .300 with 100 RBIs each of his 11 seasons, is batting .298 with 87 RBIs.

Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman singled off Scott Linebrink (4-3) to start the 10th and moved up on a sacrifice. Skip Schumaker was intentionally walked before Punto, with a full count, ended it with a line drive to center in his first plate appearance since coming off the 15-day disabled list from an oblique injury.

Jason Motte (4-2) worked a perfect 10th for the Cardinals, who are 6½ games behind the Braves for the NL wild card and seven behind NL Central-leading Milwaukee.

"This certainly is no time to panic," Linebrink siad. "We've just got to keep doing what we can do."

Michael Bourn matched his career best with four hits and an RBI for the Braves, who also got RBI doubles from Brian McCann and Freddie Freeman in the first inning. Chipper Jones was robbed his first two trips by Berkman's outstanding running catch at the track in right in the first inning and second baseman Skip Schumaker's leaping grab of a liner in the third. Jones singled in the seventh.

Randall Delgado was the fourth straight rookie starter for Atlanta and gave up a run and three hits in five innings in his fourth career start. He followed Greg Beachy, Mike Minor and Julio Teheran in the rotation for the Braves, who are without Tommy Hanson (right shoulder tendinitis) and Jair Jurrjens (straight right knee).

Linebrink has allowed six runs in 5 2-3 innings since coming off the disabled list from a lower back strain on Aug 14.

Edwin Jackson shut down the Braves his last five innings, although Atlanta left the bases loaded in the fourth. Rafael Furcal had three walks and a hit, and he was thrown out at second to end the seventh after trying for the extra base on a single after pinch-runner Tyler Greene drew a throw to third.

Holliday and Pujols grounded into double plays to boost the Cardinals' major league-leading total to 154, 12 shy of matching their own NL record set in 1958. Pujols leads the majors with 28 and Holliday is second in the NL with 20, one more than teammate Yadier Molina.

NOTES: Freeman has 150 hits, most by a Braves rookie since 1969, and before the game he led NL rookies in average, hits, RBIs and doubles. ... Cardinals manager Tony La Russa has said he'd like to get Greene several starts at SS, but not until Furcal cools down. Furcal has had success against the Braves' next two starters, going 6 for 17 with a homer and three RBIs against Derek Lowe and 7 for 19 with a homer against Tim Hudson. ... The Cardinals are averaging 6.04 runs for Jaime Garcia (11-7, 3.65), highest in the NL, entering Saturday's matchup against Lowe (9-13, 4.65). ... La Russa caught the last half-hour of Carlos Santana's concert in St. Louis on Wednesday and went on stage to shake maracas on one song. "Really tough. Keep the beat, smile," he said.