BOSTON - Nate McLouth homered on the game's first pitch and Kenshin Kawakami beat more-heralded countryman Daisuke Matsuzaka as the Atlanta Braves topped the Boston Red Sox, 8-2, last night.

Kawakami (4-6) allowed two hits and two runs in six innings in his first start against Boston since signing a $23 million, three-year contract in January after 11 seasons in Japan.

Matsuzaka (1-5) cost the Red Sox a lot more - $103 million over six years, including a $51 million fee for the right to negotiate with him - but failed to reach the sixth inning for the sixth time in his last eight starts in his third year with the team.

Garret Anderson went 3 for 3 with four RBIs as the Braves finally gave Kawakami support with seven runs while he was in the game. They had scored just 24 in his other 691/3 innings.

Jason Bay got both of Boston's hits, a double and homer off Kawakami, before three relievers pitched three hitless innings.

Atlanta won its second straight game since breaking a four-game skid with a 7-0 win at Cincinnati in which McLouth had two hits, a homer and four RBIs.

Boston still has the American League's best home record at 23-10 but kept struggling at the plate after managing just one hit, a homer by Kevin Youkilis, in a 2-1 loss to Florida on Thursday night that ended in the top of the sixth because of rain.

The Braves came out swinging against Matsuzaka, who usually runs up high pitch counts, and had three hits on the first four pitches - the total number of hits that the Red Sox had Thursday and yesterday.

Atlanta 200 220 101 – 8 11 1

Boston 000 002 000 – 2 2 1

Atlanta AB   R   H   BI   Avg.      Boston AB   R   H   BI   Avg.

McLouth cf 4   2   2   2   .260      Pedroia 2b 4   0   0   0   .291

Y.Escobar ss 5   1   2   1   .286      J.Drew rf 3   0   0   0   .257

C.Jones 3b 4   2   1   0   .301      Youkilis 1b 4   1   0   0   .317

McCann c 4   1   2   0   .327      Bay lf 3   1   2   2   .283

G.Anderson dh 3   1   3   4   .273      D.Ortiz dh 4   0   0   0   .207

M.Diaz lf 5   0   1   0   .276      Lowell 3b 3   0   0   0   .288

Kotchman 1b 4   0   0   1   .273      Ellsbury cf 2   0   0   0   .305

Francoeur rf 3   0   0   0   .248      Varitek c 3   0   0   0   .220

K.Johnson 2b 2   1   0   0   .227      N.Green ss 3   0   0   0   .285

Totals 34   8   11   8         Totals 29   2   2   2      

E: Y.Escobar (9), Lowell (8). LOB: Atlanta 8, Boston 3. 2B: McLouth (11), C.Jones (11), McCann (11), G.Anderson (8), Bay (16). HR: McLouth (12), off Matsuzaka; Bay (18), off Kawakami. RBIs: McLouth 2 (42), Y.Escobar (36), G.Anderson 4 (23), Kotchman (26), Bay 2 (65). SF: G.Anderson, Kotchman. RLSP: Atlanta 3 (Kotchman 2, Francoeur); Boston 1 (Ellsbury). RA: McCann, M.Diaz. GIDP: McLouth, Y.Escobar, Varitek. DP: Atlanta 1 (Y.Escobar, K.Johnson, Kotchman); Boston 3 (Youkilis), (Youkilis, N.Green), (Lowell, Pedroia, Youkilis).

Atlanta walks (7): McLouth, C.Jones, McCann, G.Anderson, Francoeur, K.Johnson 2.

Boston walks (3): J.Drew, Bay, Ellsbury.

Atlanta strikeouts (2): McLouth, M.Diaz.

Boston strikeouts (11): Pedroia 2, J.Drew, Youkilis, Bay, D.Ortiz 3, Lowell, Varitek, N.Green.

Atlanta IP   H   R   ER   BB   SO   NP   ERA   

Kawakami (W) 6   2   2   2   3   5   83   4.42

Moylan 1   0   0   0   0   2   12   4.91

R.Soriano 1   0   0   0   0   2   14   1.42

M.Gonzalez 1   0   0   0   0   2   14   2.32

Boston IP   H   R   ER   BB   SO   NP   ERA   

Matsuzaka (L) 4   8   6   6   4   2   67   8.23

Masterson 21/3   1   1   0   1   0   29   3.65

D.Bard 12/3   1   0   0   1   0   24   2.93

Saito 1   1   1   1   1   0   22   2.59

W: Kawakami, 4-6. L: Matsuzaka, 1-5.

Matsuzaka pitched to 2 batters in the 5th. IR-S: Masterson 1-1, D.Bard 1-0. PB: McCann. Umpires: Home, Paul Emmel; first, Gary Darling; second, Bill Hohn; third, Bruce Dreckman.

T: 2:49. A: 37,703 (37,373).

Cardinals 10, Royals 5

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Albert Pujols hit a two-run single when the Royals pitched to him and Ryan Ludwick hit a grand slam when they didn't, helping St. Louis beat in-state rival Kansas City.

Khalil Greene and Rick Ankiel hit consecutive homers off Kyle Davies (3-7) to give St. Louis an early seven-run lead.

Kansas City 100 010 210 – 5 6 0

St. Louis AB   R   H   BI   Avg.      Kansas City AB   R   H   BI   Avg.

Schumaker 2b 4   2   3   0   .292      DeJesus lf 4   1   1   1   .244

Rasmus cf 5   2   4   2   .285      Bloomquist ss 4   0   1   0   .289

Pujols 1b 3   1   1   2   .320      Pena Jr. ss 0   0   0   0   .097

B.Thompson p 0   0   0   0   .200      Butler 1b 4   1   1   1   .287

a-LaRue ph-1b 1   0   0   0   .268      Jacobs dh 4   0   0   0   .237

Ludwick rf 4   1   1   4   .234      J.Guillen rf 4   0   0   0   .259

Duncan dh-1b 4   0   0   0   .250      Callaspo 2b 3   0   1   0   .309

C.Perez p 0   0   0   0   ---      Teahen 3b 3   1   0   0   .280

D.Reyes p 0   0   0   0   ---      Olivo c 4   2   2   2   .252

Y.Molina c 5   0   2   0   .287      Maier cf 3   0   0   1   .247

Ankiel lf 5   2   1   1   .244      Totals 33   5   6   5      

K.Greene 3b 2   2   2   1   .213

Thurston 3b 2   0   0   0   .232

T.Greene ss 4   0   0   0   .256

Totals 39   10   14   10      

a-grounded out for B.Thompson in the 8th. E: Duncan (4). LOB: St. Louis 7, Kansas City 3. 2B: Rasmus (16), Y.Molina (7), K.Greene (5), Olivo (6). HR: Ludwick (10), off Davies; Ankiel (5), off Davies; K.Greene (3), off Davies; DeJesus (4), off B.Thompson; Olivo (10), off B.Thompson; Butler (6), off C.Perez. RBIs: Rasmus 2 (28), Pujols 2 (60), Ludwick 4 (36), Ankiel (18), K.Greene (15), DeJesus (30), Butler (31), Olivo 2 (27), Maier (8). RLSP: St. Louis 5 (T.Greene, Duncan, Pujols 2, Ankiel); Kansas City 2 (Maier, J.Guillen). RA: T.Greene, Maier. GIDP: Duncan, Y.Molina, J.Guillen. DP: St. Louis 1 (Thurston, Schumaker, Duncan); Kansas City 2 (Butler, Bloomquist, Butler), (Bloomquist, Callaspo, Butler).

St. Louis walks (4): Schumaker, Pujols, Duncan, K.Greene.

Kansas City walks (2): Callaspo, Teahen.

St. Louis strikeouts (7): Pujols, Ludwick, Duncan 2, Ankiel, Thurston, T.Greene.

Kansas City strikeouts (2): Jacobs, Olivo.

St. Louis IP   H   R   ER   BB   SO   NP   ERA   

B.Thompson (W) 7   5   4   4   2   0   82   3.89

C.Perez 1   1   1   1   0   1   15   3.57

D.Reyes 1   0   0   0   0   1   6   4.74

Kansas City IP   H   R   ER   BB   SO   NP   ERA   

Davies (L) 22/3   9   8   7   2   2   58   5.76

J.Wright 2   3   2   2   2   3   55   4.45

R.Colon 31/3   2   0   0   0   1   35   4.50

Farnsworth 1   0   0   0   0   1   8   3.13

W: Thompson, 2-2. L: Davies, 3-7.

IR-S: R.Colon 2-0. IBB: off Davies (Pujols). HBP: by J.Wright (Ludwick). WP: B.Thompson, J.Wright. PB: Olivo. Balk: B.Thompson. Umpires: Home, Ed Rapuano; first, Paul Schrieber; second, Paul Nauert; third, Joe West.

T: 2:31. A: 37,660 (38,177).

Twins 5, Astros 2

MINNEAPOLIS - Kevin Slowey became the second 10-game winner in the majors, and Minnesota went back to small ball to beat Houston's Roy Oswalt.

Slowey (10-2) didn't have his usual control during his six innings, walking Michael Bourn and Lance Berkman twice each to match his career high. He scattered three singles and surrendered only Bourn's sacrifice fly in the third.

Jeff Keppinger's two-out home run in the eighth against Jose Mijares brought Twins manager Ron Gardenhire out of the dugout to summon Joe Nathan for a rare four-out save, and the three-time all-star didn't allow a baserunner.

Houston AB   R   H   BI   Avg.      Minnesota AB   R   H   BI   Avg.

Bourn cf 1   0   0   1   .294      B.Harris ss 3   1   0   0   .286

Keppinger 3b 3   1   1   1   .258      Mauer c 4   0   1   0   .421

Tejada ss 4   0   0   0   .336      Morneau 1b 3   1   1   1   .324

Ca.Lee dh 4   0   0   0   .310      Kubel dh 4   0   2   0   .315

Berkman 1b 2   0   0   0   .241      Cuddyer rf 4   1   2   1   .281

Pence rf 4   0   0   0   .321      Crede 3b 1   1   0   0   .228

I.Rodriguez c 3   0   1   0   .247      Delm.Young lf 4   1   2   2   .258

K.Matsui 2b 3   1   1   0   .233      Gomez cf 3   0   1   0   .226

Erstad lf 2   0   2   0   .145      Punto 2b 1   0   1   1   .224

a-Michaels ph-lf 1   0   0   0   .190      Totals 27   5   10   5      

Totals 27   2   5   2      

a-struck out for Erstad in the 8th. LOB: Houston 4, Minnesota 6. 2B: Kubel (15), Cuddyer (14), Delm.Young 2 (4). HR: Keppinger (3), off Mijares. RBIs: Bourn (16), Keppinger (8), Morneau (57), Cuddyer (36), Delm.Young 2 (21), Punto (15). SB: Berkman (3). CS: Bourn (7), Erstad (1). S: Keppinger, Gomez, Punto 2. SF: Bourn, Morneau. RLSP: Houston 2 (I.Rodriguez, Ca.Lee); Minnesota 4 (Delm.Young 2, Mauer, Gomez). GI DP: Pence, B.Harris, Kubel, Delm.Young. DP: Houston 3 (Tejada, Berkman), (Oswalt, K.Matsui, Berkman), (Tejada, Berkman); Minnesota 1 (B.Harris, Punto, Morneau).

Houston walks (4): Bourn 2, Berkman 2.

Minnesota walks (4): B.Harris, Crede 3.

Houston strikeouts (9): Keppinger 2, Tejada 3, Pence, I.Rodriguez, K.Matsui, Michaels.

Minnesota strikeouts (4): B.Harris, Mauer, Kubel, Cuddyer.

Houston IP   H   R   ER   BB   SO   NP   ERA   

Oswalt (L) 8   10   5   5   4   4   127   4.48

Minnesota IP   H   R   ER   BB   SO   NP   ERA   

Slowey (W) 6   3   1   1   4   6   90   4.04

Guerrier (H) 1   1   0   0   0   1   18   2.93

Mijares (H) 2/3   1   1   1   0   1   13   2.57

Nathan (S) 11/3   0   0   0   0   1   13   1.69

W: Slowey, 10-2. L: Oswalt, 3-4. S: Nathan, 16. H: Mijares, 9. H: Guerrier, 12.

IBB: off Oswalt (Crede). Umpires: Home, Mike Winters; first, Jerry Layne; second, Tony Randazzo; third, Chris Guccione.

T: 2:41. A: 32,218 (46,632).