ST. LOUIS -- With Albert Pujols at the plate, the St. Louis Cardinals have almost come to figure they have the upper hand even when they're trailing.
Pujols' major league-leading 17th home run, a three-run shot off Jose Mesa in the eighth inning, gave the Cardinals a 4-2 victory over the Colorado Rockies on Tuesday night. He also leads the majors with 41 RBI, and has the go-ahead RBI in seven of his team's last 12 victories.
"When you're going good, you want to be in that situation," Pujols said. "I like the situation, of course."
"Everyone wants that pressure, everyone wants to have that key hit."
Pujols' blast came one inning after Colorado's Matt Holliday hit his third homer in two games to snap a one-all tie. Holliday also singled in the fifth and is 14-for-30 with six homers in his last eight games. He is 16-for-32 against the Cardinals for his career.
The Cardinals were stymied for seven innings by Josh Fogg, who entered with a 1-8 record and 8.47 ERA against them. Once Mesa entered in the eighth, it didn't take them long to seize control and end the Rockies' four-game winning streak.
David Eckstein led off with a single and pinch-hitter Juan Encarnacion singled on a drive up the middle that appeared to deflect high into the air off the pitching rubber. Pujols nearly fanned on a 1-2 pitch, stepping out of the box to collect himself before hammering a 3-2 delivery from Mesa (0-1) over the left-field wall.
Pujols hit his 17th homer in the Cardinals' 34th game, matching Willie Mays (1964) for the third-fastest to 17 according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Cy Williams of Philadelphia did it in 31 games in 1931 and Frank Howard needed 33 in 1968.
"He's a game-changer," Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said. "That's a swing of the bat we were looking for in about six different innings."
Hurdle said walking Pujols to load the bases was never a consideration.
"We weren't going to walk him to load the bases for (Jim) Edmonds, the matchups just get lousier," Hurdle said. "Guys that are thinking about that are guys that have nothing at stake in the game."
Adam Wainwright (1-0) worked a perfect eighth for his first career victory and Jason Isringhausen struck out the side in the ninth for his ninth save in 11 chances.
The Cardinals overcame three errors and a wild outing from Chris Carpenter to win for the fourth time in five games. Carpenter walked six, the most in his 69 starts with St. Louis. In seven innings he allowed two runs, one earned, and four hits.
Carpenter had been masterful at wriggling off the hook by stranding 10 runners and holding the Rockies to 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position before Holliday's 10th homer with two outs in the seventh put Colorado ahead 2-1.
"I was missing a lot with everything, but I was able to get through it and give my team a chance to win," Carpenter said. "You're just trying to battle through it any way you can to get outs."
In the bottom half of the seventh, Holliday made a catch at the wall in left to rob Yadier Molina of extra bases.
Fogg allowed one run and six hits in seven innings, but he is 0-7 in nine starts against the Cardinals since his lone win on May 31, 2002, and 1-8 overall. He said he tries to banish the record from his mind before facing them.
"You've got to, it's pretty pitiful," Fogg said. "If you go out there thinking like that, you're going to put another one in the 'L' column."
Pujols doubled with two outs in the first and scored on Edmonds' single to put the Cardinals ahead.
Two errors in the third helped the Rockies tie it. Second baseman Aaron Miles was called for straddling the bag after taking a throw from third baseman Scott Rolen on Garrett Atkins' grounder, and Eckstein mishandled Clint Barmes' two-out grounder to short with the bases loaded.
Pujols' 33 runs leads the NL. He led the majors in that category the last three years. ... Edmonds is 8-for-20 with two homers and six RBI against Fogg. ... Rockies RF Brad Hawpe overran the ball on Larry Bigbie's single in the eighth, ending Colorado's streak of errorless games at eight.