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07/19/07 11:39 PM EST

Cardinals roughed up in series opener

Maroth allows 10 runs on 11 hits in five innings of work

ATLANTA -- Injury, meet insult.

Bad news off the field was compounded by a brutal night on the diamond for the Cardinals on Thursday. On the same night that the club announced reconstructive elbow surgery for ace Chris Carpenter, the Redbirds were hammered by the Braves, 10-1, at Turner Field.

Mike Maroth struggled greatly, but took one for the team, pitching five innings despite a huge early deficit. Maroth was ultimately charged with 10 runs, five in the first three innings and five more in the fourth. All but one of the runs scored with two men out.

"I'd get two outs and then all of a sudden they get hit after hit," Maroth said. "It's one of those things. I look back at it, and I never gave my team a chance to win. I got down in the first inning and it just kept getting worse. I feel like I let my team down."

The Cardinals optioned reliever Andy Cavazos earlier in the day, leaving a shorter bullpen than usual. As a result, Maroth soaked up an extra couple of innings beyond what normally would have been asked of him. When manager Tony La Russa came to the mound in the fourth, it appeared Maroth would be lifted, but instead Maroth finished that inning and the next one.

It was the third time in his past four starts that Maroth has been tacked with more earned runs than innings pitched. Since a brilliant Cardinals debut against the Mets, Maroth has an 11.00 ERA in 18 innings over four games.

"He's in a rut like that," La Russa said. "He's not himself. And what's difficult is that we don't know him all that well and it's harder to help him. But he's a terrific young man and he's a terrific competitor, and I know that he's eating his heart out, which makes it worse. You wish you could do more to help him."

The lefty allowed 11 hits, including a pair of home runs. Ten of the Braves' 11 knocks against Maroth came with two outs, including two lengthy two-out rallies that started with the bases empty.

In the third, Atlanta strung together five straight two-out baserunners to stretch its lead from 3-0 to 5-0. In the fourth, six straight two-out hits yielded five runs and put the game out of reach.

"I don't know if I'm mixing up my pitches too predictably," Maroth said. "There are a lot of questions. Any time you go through tough times, you go through struggles, you have a lot of questions and you try to find some answers.

"Every time I go out there, I give it everything I've got, try to do my best. When it doesn't go that way, when it doesn't go good, you're going to try and figure out ways to improve every time."

Brendan Ryan came off the bench to supply two of the Cards' six base hits. David Eckstein provided the scoring with a sacrifice fly in the sixth. St. Louis fell 9 1/2 games behind first-place Milwaukee in the National League Central division. The Cubs are in second place, 3 1/2 behind the Brewers.

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