Looper struggles, but Cards win late

Looper struggles, but Cards win late

at Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
Saturday, March 17

Braves at the plate: Craig Wilson's three-run homer highlighted a four-run first inning that included a Scott Thorman triple and Martin Prado double. Wilson, Prado, Thorman and Jeff Francoeur all provided two-hit performances.

Cardinals at the plate: Scott Spiezio followed Albert Pujols' first-inning double with an RBI single and also added a fourth-inning solo homer off John Smoltz. Chris Duncan provided a fifth-inning RBI single. Eli Marrero's go-ahead RBI single off Jonathan Johnson accounted for the first of the four ninth-inning runs scored by the Cardinals.

Braves on the mound: Smoltz, who hadn't allowed a run in his previous three starts, was charged with three earned runs and six hits in five innings. Closer Bob Wickman issued two walks, surrendered a hit and allowed a run while working the sixth inning. Johnson gave up four runs in the ninth inning after pitching a scoreless eighth.

Cardinals on the mound: Braden Looper, who allowed four earned runs and seven hits in three innings, gave up all of his runs in the first-inning after retiring the first two batters. Ryan Franklin allowed an earned run and four hits in three innings.

Grapefruit League records: Cardinals 9-6-3, Braves 8-7-2

Up next: The Braves will play split-squad games against the Tigers (at Disney) and the Reds (at Sarasota) on Sunday afternoon. Both games start at 12:05 p.m. CT. Tim Hudson will start against the Tigers, and Buddy Carlyle will go against the Reds.

Kip Wells will start for the Cardinals when they host the Mets in Jupiter on Sunday afternoon at 12:05 p.m.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.