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Pujols becomes fastest player in history to 19 home runs

CBS SportsLine.com wire reports
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ST. LOUIS -- For a guy who's never considered himself a home-run hitter, Albert Pujols is setting a blistering pace.

Pujols became the fastest player in major league history to reach 19 home runs, leading the St. Louis Cardinals to a 9-1 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Saturday night.

"I'm not a home-run hitter," Pujols said. "McGwire's a home-run hitter, Bonds is a home-run hitter.

"I'm a line-drive hitter with power, and that's it. All I try to do is just hit for average, and hopefully if I put a good swing on it, the ball's going to go out of the park."

Pujols reached the milestone in his 37th game, beating Mickey Mantle in 1956 and Luis Gonzalez of the Diamondbacks in 2001 by three games. Pujols added RBI singles in the first and fourth, hiking his major league-leading total to 47, and flied out to the warning track in center field in the sixth.

He also struck out with the bases loaded to end the seventh against Brandon Medders, flipping his bat in disgust.

"I just liked his at-bats," manager Tony La Russa said. "He just doesn't give any at-bats away and he's competing all the time."

Pujols' heroics overshadowed a resurgent effort by Jason Marquis, who worked seven strong innings to end a four-game losing streak, and a five-RBI game by Scott Rolen. The RBI for Rolen, including a three-run homer in the first, were his first since April 16.

The Cardinals have won seven of eight overall and are 14-3 against the Diamondbacks the last four seasons. They knocked out Claudio Vargas (4-2), who did not allow a run in his first two road starts, after beginning the third with three straight hits.

Pujols lined a 1-0 pitch from Vargas well over the left-field wall in the second inning, a drive estimated at 404 feet, to give St. Louis a 5-1 lead. Mantle finished with 52 homers in 1956 and Gonzalez, who watched in left field as the ball soared over his head, had 57 in 2001.

Gonzalez complimented Pujols at first base after he walked in the sixth.

"I told him that he's playing PlayStation right now," Gonzalez said. "He started laughing, but I was being serious. He's in one of those grooves."

Pujols, whose best homer total is 46 in 2004, was the second-fastest to reach 18 homers when he connected off the Rockies' Byung-Hyun Kim in the Cardinals' 35th game. He trailed only Cy Williams of the Philadelphia Phillies, who did it in 34 games in 1923, but then slowed considerably in a 41-homer season.

Marquis (4-4) allowed one run on three hits with four walks and one strikeout. The only blemish came on Conor Jackson's fourth homer leading off the second, which extended his hitting streak to 13 games.

The right-hander worked around two walks in the third when he caught Jackson looking at strike three. In his previous four starts, he'd allowed 22 earned runs in 22 2/3 innings.

"It's a step in the right direction, obviously," Marquis said. "Obviously, I don't have everything figured out, but it definitely feels good to get this one out of the way."

Rolen's homer in a four-run first was his fourth, and first since April 16, and he added a two-run double in a four-run fifth that put the Cardinals ahead 9-1. He missed nine games due to a respiratory illness in late April and early May and had been struggling with his stroke since returning.

David Eckstein was 2-for-4, making him 10-for-20 in his last five games, and John Rodriguez had three hits and scored twice.

Vargas won his previous three starts, allowing only two runs in 20 innings, and had been 6-0 in his last seven road outings overall dating to last season. In three-plus innings he gave up eight runs on eight hits.

Vargas was uncomfortable pitching in 56-degree temperature at the start of the game.

"We come from Arizona where it's nice and hot and I haven't pitched in cold weather for a while," Vargas said. "So, it can wear you out."

The Diamondbacks have lost four of five following a seven-game winning streak.

Notes

  • Pujols has 220 homers with the Cardinals, tied with Mark McGwire for fourth on the team's career list.
  • The Cardinals are 16-5 at new Busch Stadium, all of them sellouts.
  • Marquis beat the Diamondbacks for the first time in three career decisions and now has a victory over every NL team except the Braves.
  • Eckstein leads the NL with 16 multihit games.
  • Shawn Green had two hits and is batting .439 (29-for-66) in his last 17 games with 10 multihit games in that stretch.
 
Copyright 2015 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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With 19 homers in 123 at-bats, Albert Pujols has gotten plenty of work on his home-run trot.  (AP)
With 19 homers in 123 at-bats, Albert Pujols has gotten plenty of work on his home-run trot. (AP)

Players of the Game
St. Louis

A. Pujols
AB 5
R 3
H 3
HR 1
RBI 3
St. Louis

S. Rolen
AB 4
R 1
H 2
HR 1
RBI 5
 

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Arizona Diamondbacks
Craig Counsell, SS3000100 .310
Eric Byrnes, CF4000001 .298
Chad Tracy, 3B1000200 .304
   a- Damion Easley, PH0000100 .241
Luis Gonzalez, LF2000103 .256
    Jeff DaVanon, LF1000000 .284
Conor Jackson, 1B4111014 .304
Shawn Green, RF4020011 .328
Johnny Estrada, C3000002 .301
Orlando Hudson, 2B2000001 .219
    Jason Grimsley, P0000000 .000
   b- Tony Clark, PH1000000 .143
    Brandon Medders, P0000000 .000
    Greg Aquino, P0000000 .000
Claudio Vargas, P1000001 .091
    Andy Green, 2B2000010 .250
Totals281315313 
a-walked for Tracy in the 9th
b-flied out for Grimsley in the 7th
Batting
HR - Conor Jackson (4, Marquis)
RBI - Conor Jackson (20)
Team LOB - 5
Fielding
DP - Grimsley-Counsell-Jackson
E - Eric Byrnes (1, Misplayed grounder), Orlando Hudson (2, Misplayed grounder)
Arizona Diamondbacks
Claudio Vargas (L,4-2) 3888322 5.56
Jason Grimsley 3411020 4.63
Brandon Medders 1200130 3.27
Greg Aquino 1100000 4.30
HBP - Spiezio (by Greg Aquino)
Pitches-Strikes - Claudio Vargas 78-43, Jason Grimsley 32-24, Brandon Medders 29-17, Greg Aquino 13-9
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Claudio Vargas 3-5, Jason Grimsley 5-1, Greg Aquino 2-1
Batters Faced - Claudio Vargas 21, Jason Grimsley 12, Brandon Medders 6, Greg Aquino 5
St. Louis Cardinals
David Eckstein, SS4120003 .320
   a- Hector Luna, PH-SS1000012 .319
John Rodriguez, LF-RF5230011 .411
Albert Pujols, 1B5333013 .341
    Brian Falkenborg, P0000000 .000
    Tyler Johnson, P0000000 .000
Jim Edmonds, CF3221100 .257
    So Taguchi, CF1000000 .265
Scott Rolen, 3B4125021 .309
   b- Yadier Molina, PH-1B1000000 .171
Juan Encarnacion, RF3000112 .222
    Scott Spiezio, 1B-3B0000000 .273
Gary Bennett, C5010011 .206
Aaron Miles, 2B4020103 .318
Jason Marquis, P3000004 .190
   c- Larry Bigbie, PH-LF0000100 .167
Totals3991594720 
a-struck out for Eckstein in the 7th
b-flied out for Rolen in the 8th
c-walked for Marquis in the 7th
Batting
2B - David Eckstein (4, Vargas), John Rodriguez (5, Vargas), Scott Rolen (7, Grimsley), Gary Bennett (4, Aquino)
HR - Albert Pujols (19, Vargas), Scott Rolen (4, Vargas)
RBI - Albert Pujols 3 (47), Jim Edmonds (27), Scott Rolen 5 (18)
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DP - Miles-Eckstein-Pujols, Rolen-Miles-Pujols
St. Louis Cardinals
Jason Marquis (W,4-4) 7311411 5.33
Brian Falkenborg 1000010 3.86
Tyler Johnson 1000110 0.00
Pitches-Strikes - Jason Marquis 84-54, Brian Falkenborg 17-13, Tyler Johnson 20-10
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Jason Marquis 8-10, Brian Falkenborg 2-0, Tyler Johnson 1-1
Batters Faced - Jason Marquis 26, Brian Falkenborg 3, Tyler Johnson 4
Game Information
Attendance - 40585
Game Time - 2:48
Temperature - 56
Umpires - Home - Ed Montague, First Base - Jerry Layne, Second Base - Mark Wegner, Third Base - Marvin Hudson