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Looking to shake out of slump, Braves jumble lineup vs Cardinals, putting pitcher in 8th spot

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ATLANTA - Looking to shake up his run-challenged team, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez decided on something drastic.

Pitcher Aaron Harang was batting eighth for Monday night's game against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Second baseman Ramiro Pena took the ninth spot in the order for Atlanta, which also switched around brothers B.J. and Justin Upton. Justin moved up to the second spot, where B.J. had been hitting. The older sibling dropped down to fifth in the order.

The Braves were mired in a six-game losing streak, their longest in two years.

"The offence is sputtering around," Gonzalez said in the dugout before his team went out for batting practice. "Why not do it?"

Atlanta scored only 10 runs in its last six games, and the lack of clutch hitting was galling in a weekend sweep by the San Francisco Giants. The Braves stranded 25 runners and hit just 3-of-21 (.143) with runners in scoring position.

But, even with the Braves still clinging to first in the NL East, the offence has been a season-long issue. The team has been shut out five times and scored only one run in seven games. If not for dominant starting — the Braves have won three games 1-0 — there would be even louder grumbling about the state of the team.

Gonzalez wouldn't say how long he plans to keep the pitcher in the eighth spot, but indicated it won't be for just one game.

"I'm not going to say we'll do it for the next 10 games or two weeks," he said. "But something this drastic, you need to do it a little bit. We'll see how it goes."

With Pena in the lineup, Dan Uggla was on the bench for the third time in four games. Coming off the worst season of his career, Uggla is hitting just .190 with two homers and 10 RBIs.

Gonzalez said he was merely looking for the best matchups — Uggla hits right-handed, Pena is a switch-hitter — and the move was not permanent. In fact, the manager took umbrage when a reporter used the word "benched" and said later that Uggla will likely be back in the lineup on Tuesday.

"He's not benched," Gonzalez snapped. "He's just not playing today."

But Uggla, one of the team's most highly paid players, was clearly upset by his lack of playing time.

"Nobody tells me anything anymore," he said. "I come to the field and do my job. That's it."

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AP freelance writer Amy Jinkner-Lloyd contributed to this report.

___

Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963

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