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story.lead_photo.caption Cardinals starting pitcher John Gant fields a ball hit to him by Freddie Freeman of the Braves in the third inning of Thursday night's game in Atlanta. Photo by Associated Press / Fulton Sun.

ATLANTA — Charlie Morton made a small tweak to his mechanics that produced a big change in how he drives the ball from the mound.

"I've been aware of some of the things that I've been doing poorly in my delivery," he said. "It's really hard, particularly in-season, to make adjustments."

Didn't look that way Thursday night.

Morton didn't allow a hit until the seventh inning and took a shutout into the eighth, lifting the Atlanta Braves past the St. Louis Cardinals 4-0.

Morton gave up his first hit when Paul Goldschmidt lined a single to left-center with one out, but the right-hander followed by getting Nolan Arenado to pop up and struck out Tyler O'Neill. He allowed singles to Matt Carpenter and pinch-hitter José Rondon in the eighth and was pulled with two outs.

"I made some changes in my delivery, like postural stuff, try to stay a little bit taller at the waist," Morton said. "So with the hope that I could stay on line a little better. I feel like I've thrown the ball pretty well the past month. My last one in Miami wasn't great, but overall I think I'm trending in the right direction. I think we did a pretty good job tonight."

Atlanta led 1-0 in the fifth on Guillermo Heredia's third homer. Ozzie Albies had an RBI triple in the sixth, and Abraham Almonte followed with an RBI double to make it 3-0.

Ronald Acuna Jr.'s sacrifice fly in the seventh pushed it to 4-0.

Luke Jackson struck out Tommy Edman to strand the runners after replacing Morton (6-3), who allowed three hits and no walks with seven strikeouts.

Morton and Cardinals starter John Gant didn't allow a hit early on, but they weren't perfect. Gant gave up a walk to Almonte to begin the second. Morton allowed two baserunners when he hit Carpenter with a pitch in the third and did the same to Dylan Carlson in the fourth.

"I thought with the stuff he had, I thought this might be," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "You know, Goldschmidt had a great at-bat there, too. That shows you how hard it is to accomplish that."

Acuna singled to open the fourth, and Freddie Freeman followed with a single, but the inning ended when Austin Riley lined out to third.

Morton, who entered 2-12 with a 5.68 ERA in 18 career starts against St. Louis, avoided his tendency this season to allow a big inning. With his fastball topping out at 96 mph, the right-hander mixed in his curveball and cutter to strong effect. He threw 75 of 112 pitches for strikes and faced 27 batters.

Morton benefited from a strong play when Freeman jumped at first base to stab Edman's liner to end the sixth.

Acua walked to begin the sixth, stole second, advanced on Freeman's groundout and scored on Albies' triple to left-center to make it 2-0. That chased Gant, who was replaced by Daniel Ponce de Leon. Almonte followed with his RBI double.

Gant (4-5) allowed four hits, three runs and two walks with four strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings.

Gant made a mistake on Heredia's homer.

"Super hung it," Gant said. "It was probably above the strike zone, I would think. I hadn't gone back and looked at it, but that wasn't a competitive pitch whatsoever. He liked it a whole lot."

The three-time defending N.L. East champion Braves, who began the night 71/2 games back in the division, had dropped six of seven and were five games under .500 for the first time since the end of the 2017 season.

The Cardinals entered three games back in the N.L. Central but had won three straight after losing nine of 10.

St. Louis RHP Carlos Martinez (3-7, 5.54) faces LHP Max Fried (3-4, 4.62) tonight.

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