Braves hope to stop the bleeding in opener with Cards

As the losses pile up for the Atlanta Braves, so does their fall from the top of the National League East standings.

The currently-slumping Braves have lost seven in a row and 10 of 14 games, and were swept in back-to-back series by Cincinnati and Washington. In Sunday's 7-2 loss to the Nationals in the finale of a three-game series from Turner Field, Brandon Beachy was dealt the loss for allowing three runs -- one earned -- in five innings and Livan Hernandez did not better in relief, yielding four runs in three frames.

Michael Bourn scored both runs for the Braves, who have to record a win on their six-game homestand. The Braves once led the NL East and are now four games behind Washington for the top spot.

"It's tough to struggle. I think everyone in every team kind of has their skids, but we've got some guys banged up right now that are pretty key pieces to our team. We're just trying to get healthy and continuing to go out there and play hard," Braves shortstop Tyler Pastornicky said.

Braves catcher Brian McCann could return to action today and has been sidelined with a case of the flu. Backup catcher David Ross remains sidelined by a right groin strain and J.C. Boscan is expected to remain behind the plate if McCann and Ross are still unavailable.

Tommy Hanson will try to pitch the Braves back into the win column when he toes the rubber Monday. Hanson is 2-0 in his past three starts and 4-1 in his previous five decisions. He did not record a decision in last Wednesday's 2-1 loss at the Reds and surrendered only one run in six innings. The right-hander is 5-3 with a 3.12 earned run average in 10 starts this season.

Hanson defeated St. Louis on May 13 with five innings of one-run ball in a 7-4 victory at Busch Stadium. He is 1-0 with a 2.25 ERA in two career starts against the Cardinals.

St. Louis hasn't played so well either and will kick off a 10-game road trip today against the Braves, Mets and Astros. The Cardinals avoided a four-game sweep with Sunday's 8-3 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies. They received some added assistance when Phillies starter Roy Halladay left the game early with right shoulder soreness.

The Cardinals got four runs on Yadier Molina's grand slam in the first inning and four hits in two innings off Halladay, while Adam Wainwright held Philadelphia to a run in six innings for the win. Carlos Beltran hit a three- run homer and Matt Adams hit his first career home run for St. Louis, which ended a three-game slide and won just the fourth time in 11 tries. The Cardinals once owned the top spot in the NL Central, but now sit 1 1/2 games behind Cincinnati. Beltran leads the NL with 15 homers this season.

Molina had to leave the game during an at-bat in the fifth inning because of dehydration, but said he felt fine afterwards.

"I was seeing three pitchers at once," Molina admitted. "That wasn't a good feeling. I felt kind of dizzy. This is the first time something like this has happened and I'm glad it wasn't any worse."

The defending World Series champion Cardinals will hand the ball to Lance Lynn this afternoon and he is one of six pitchers with seven wins this season. Lynn has pitched well in Chris Carpenter's absence and won his most recent outing after going 0-1 in the previous two.

In a 6-3 win over the Padres last Wednesday, Lynn allowed three runs and eight hits in six innings to improve to 7-1 in nine starts with a 2.54 ERA. The right-hander, who has permitted 10 runs over his last three starts, will face Atlanta for the second in his career and this season. He was beaten by the BRaves back on May 13 in a 7-4 decision and gave up three runs in six innings.

Lynn is 4-0 in five starts on the road this season.

Atlanta swept a three-game set in St. Louis from May 11-13.