ATLANTA -- Andruw Jones' consecutive game streak ended Sunday, when the Braves' center fielder sat for the first time since Sept. 15, 1998.
The only player in the major leagues to play every inning of every game this year, Jones said he'd been thinking about asking manager Bobby Cox for a day off the for the past week because of soreness in his right hamstring. When he had to sprint to the wall in center in chase of Mike Matheny's second-inning double Saturday night, it really bothered him.
"I think I just need to take the day off," said Jones, who was second among active players in consecutive games played at 301, behind Sammy Sosa's 367. "It's good to have (the streak), but we're in a spot where we're going to be in the playoffs no matter what."
Jones, who was replaced in Sunday's lineup by Reggie Sanders, first went to bench coach Pat Corrales to talk about taking the day off.
"He told me, `You're not saying anything,"' Jones said. "I went to talk to Bobby about it, and he asked me if I needed to take two days off."
"His legs have been bothering him for quite some time," said Cox, who last week sat down B.J. Surhoff, ending his major-league leading 445-game streak.
Jones said the closest he came to missing a game before Sunday was on Aug. 4, when the Braves arrived in St. Louis at 6 a.m. after a late game at Arizona the night before.
"We had a night game that night, but there was a day game the next day," Jones said. "I didn't get any sleep. When I don't get my sleep, I get kind of mad."
Jones, enjoying the best all-around year of his career, entered Sunday with an eight-game hitting streak and had pushed his team-high batting average to .311.
With the obvious possibility they'll face the Braves in the Division Series in October, the Cardinals backed away from saying their 3-of-4 series win was a statement, but it's clear they match up well with Atlanta.
"That's October," said Will Clark. "This is August. It was good for us to come in here and play good baseball against a team like the Braves. We're a first-place club for a reason."
St. Louis, which collected its fifth straight series win, did so for the first time at Turner Field and padded their lead in the N.L. Central to 8' games.
A LITTLE PAYBACK:
John Burkett's RBI single in the third inning Sunday marked his first RBI since May 3, 1996, when he was with the Florida Marlins. It was a slow ground ball between first and second that Cardinals second baseman Fernando Vina chased down in shallow right field.
"I didn't even think the ball got to the outfield," said Burkett, a career .091 hitter. "We don't get many opportunities to get some payback for all the ugly ones we've given up."
Chipper Jones appeared ready to make another MVP push with his recent streak of five homers in six games, but has just three hits in his last 23 at-bats, including 0-for-4 Sunday.
If the Braves are to become the first team to win 100 games four straight years, they're going to have to pick up the pace, but only slightly.
They would have to win 22 of their final 31 games (.709) the rest of the way to get to 100. Their current winning percentage of .600 would net them 97 wins.
Atlanta has a 13-12 record in August, and the club's best month was April, when it compiled an 18-6 mark. In September, 1999, the Braves went 17-8.
Cardinals right fielder J.D. Drew went 5-for-15 in the series in front of his friends and family.
"I had a lot of them here," he said. "They told me they were going to pull for me and root for the Braves. I don't know how you do that. It must be pretty hard. It was important for us to come in here and play well."