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Cards' Pujols clobbers Cubs with eighth-inning homer

CBS SportsLine.com wire reports
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ST. LOUIS -- Injuries to four regulars have eroded Albert Pujols' protection in the batting order for much of the season and forced the St. Louis Cardinals star to perhaps chase more pitches than usual.

He capitalized on his best chance on Monday, hitting a hanging slider from Roberto Novoa for a go-ahead three-run homer in the eighth inning of a 6-4 victory over the Chicago Cubs.

Pujols is among the NL leaders with 103 RBI but had driven in only one run in his previous seven games. Although he'd been 9-for-25 in that span, this was his first homer in 10 games.

"Guys like Derrek Lee and Albert Pujols and other guys at the top, Miguel Cabrera, nobody throws the ball down the middle to them," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "So they have to work hard to get everything, and they deserve all the credit."

Without Scott Rolen and Reggie Sanders, the Cardinals have used the likes of Yadier Molina in the cleanup spot. Jim Edmonds has hit there in 74 games but has had a subpar year with 25 homers and 78 RBI.

Still, Pujols has a .336 average that's second in the league and a major league-leading 113 runs scored. He doesn't think he's expanded his strike zone.

"I've had Jimmy for the last five years hitting behind me, and I know he's going to click on and drive me in, so there's no need for me to put pressure on myself or chase a ball out of the strike zone," Pujols said. "Believe me, he's getting hot, so watch out."

Jeff Suppan didn't allow any earned runs in six innings, and five relievers finished as St. Louis stopped the Cubs' three-game winning streak.

With the score 2-all in the eighth, Chicago loaded the bases on a hit batter and two walks before Ray King (4-2) retired Todd Walker on an inning-ending flyout.

Novoa (3-5) walked David Eckstein leading off the bottom half, and Abraham Nunez reached on an infield hit. Pujols followed with his 36th homer, his first since Aug. 25.

"We hung a slider and Albert doesn't miss sliders too much," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "He doesn't miss pitches up in the zone."

Will Ohman relieved, and Edmonds connected on his second pitch for his 25th homer. Both homers landed in the Cubs bullpen beyond the left-field wall.

Pujols also singled and walked and is 9-for-37 against the Cubs this year with four homers and eight RBI.

Starting a 10-game homestand after a 9-4 trip, St. Louis is 42-18 against the NL Central although just 4-6 against the Cubs.

Suppan hasn't allowed an earned run in 11 innings over his last two outings. Jason Isringhausen forced in a run in the ninth with a bases-loaded walk to Jerry Hairston Jr., and Julian Tavarez allowed pinch-hitter Jose Macias' sacrifice fly before getting Lee to hit a game-ending double play grounder for his fourth save. Lee hit the ball up the middle but second baseman Mark Grudzielanek was perfectly positioned.

Cubs starter Mark Prior allowed two runs and five hits in six innings with six strikeouts and two walks.

St. Louis took a 2-0 lead in the fifth. Nunez had an RBI single on a one-hop grounder that shortstop Ronny Cedeno could not handle, and Prior threw a run-scoring wild pitch. Catcher Henry Blanco threw wildly to the plate and Nunez, who began the play on second, also tried to score. But Cedeno retrieved the ball and threw to the plate, where Prior tagged out Blanco.

Nunez' two-out fielding error at third on Lee's slow roller set up Jeromy Burnitz two-run single in the sixth. Burnitz has 18 RBI in his last 17 games.

Notes

  • Cubs reliever Michael Wuertz made a nice diving catch on Einar Diaz's popup bunt down the third-base line in the seventh.
  • Eckstein had two hits and scored twice and is 20-for-47 (.426) during a 10-game hitting streak.
  • Attendance of 49,646 was the Cardinals' 36th sellout of the season and the 28th straight of 40,000 or more.
  • The save was Tavarez's first since June 3 at Houston.
 
Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
 
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To the delight of a sellout crowd, Albert Pujols appears for a curtain call after his three-run homer.  (AP)
To the delight of a sellout crowd, Albert Pujols appears for a curtain call after his three-run homer. (AP)

Players of the Game
St. Louis

A. Pujols
AB 3
R 1
H 2
HR 1
RBI 3
Chicago

J. Burnitz
AB 4
R 0
H 1
HR 0
RBI 2
 
Chicago Cubs
Jerry Jr. Hairston, LF3001110 .261
Ronny Cedeno, SS2100100 .296
   a- Jose Macias, PH0001000 .271
Derrek Lee, 1B4110101 .343
Jeromy Burnitz, RF4012001 .265
Nomar Garciaparra, 3B3020101 .271
Todd Walker, 2B3000106 .304
    Roberto Novoa, P0000000 .000
    Will Ohman, P0000000 .000
    Sergio Mitre, P0000000 .364
Henry Blanco, C4110011 .250
Corey Patterson, CF4110010 .222
Mark Prior, P2000000 .195
   b- Scott McClain, PH1000000 .286
    Michael Wuertz, P0000000 .000
    Neifi Perez, 2B1010000 .283
Totals314745310 
a-hit a sacrifice fly for Cedeno in the 9th
b-flied out for Prior in the 7th
Batting
2B - Nomar Garciaparra (7, Suppan)
SF - Jose Macias (3)
SH - Ronny Cedeno (2)
RBI - Jerry Jr. Hairston (30), Jose Macias (11), Jeromy Burnitz 2 (74)
2-OUT RBI - Jeromy Burnitz 2 (34)
CS - Todd Walker (1, 2nd base by Suppan/Diaz)
Team LOB - 8
Chicago Cubs
Mark Prior 6522260 3.69
Michael Wuertz 1000010 4.02
Roberto Novoa (L,3-5)0233101 4.17
Will Ohman 0.2211001 2.43
Sergio Mitre 0.1000010 5.63
IBB - Pujols by Mark Prior
HBP - Diaz (by Will Ohman)
WP - Mark Prior (4)
Pitches-Strikes - Mark Prior 104-66, Michael Wuertz 11-7, Roberto Novoa 12-6, Will Ohman 12-9, Sergio Mitre 5-3
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Mark Prior 4-7, Will Ohman 2-0
Batters Faced - Mark Prior 24, Michael Wuertz 3, Roberto Novoa 3, Will Ohman 5, Sergio Mitre 1
St. Louis Cardinals
David Eckstein, SS3220100 .284
Abraham Nunez, 3B4121011 .300
Albert Pujols, 1B3123101 .336
Jim Edmonds, CF4111031 .269
Larry Walker, RF4000000 .270
Mark Grudzielanek, 2B4000000 .293
John Rodriguez, LF2000110 .295
    So Taguchi, LF1010000 .296
Einar Diaz, C3000021 .198
Jeff Suppan, P2110000 .184
    Al Reyes, P0000000 .000
   a- Scott Seabol, PH1000000 .207
    Brad Thompson, P0000000 .167
    Ray King, P0000000 .000
   b- Hector Luna, PH1000012 .284
    Jason Isringhausen, P0000000 .000
    Julian Tavarez, P0000000 .000
Totals32695386 
a-lined out for Reyes in the 7th
b-struck out for King in the 8th
Batting
2B - David Eckstein (23, Prior)
HR - Albert Pujols (36, Novoa), Jim Edmonds (25, Ohman)
RBI - Abraham Nunez (41), Albert Pujols 3 (103), Jim Edmonds (78)
2-OUT RBI - Abraham Nunez (14)
Team LOB - 6
Fielding
DP - Grudzielanek-Pujols
E - Abraham Nunez (10, Misplayed grounder)
St. Louis Cardinals
Jeff Suppan 6420230 3.76
Al Reyes 1000000 2.52
Brad Thompson 0.1000100 2.93
Ray King (W,4-2) 0.2000100 2.95
Jason Isringhausen0322100 2.39
Julian Tavarez (S,4) 1000000 3.00
IBB - Lee by Brad Thompson
HBP - Hairston (by Brad Thompson)
WP - Jeff Suppan (5)
Pitches-Strikes - Jeff Suppan 94-50, Al Reyes 11-8, Brad Thompson 6-1, Ray King 10-5, Jason Isringhausen 17-11, Julian Tavarez 10-7
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Jeff Suppan 8-7, Brad Thompson 1-0, Ray King 1-1, Julian Tavarez 1-1
Batters Faced - Jeff Suppan 24, Al Reyes 3, Brad Thompson 3, Ray King 3, Jason Isringhausen 4, Julian Tavarez 2
Game Information
Attendance - 49646
Game Time - 3:01
Temperature - 82
Umpires - Home - Wally Bell, First Base - John Hirschbeck, Second Base - Lance Barksdale, Third Base - Jim Reynolds