Clay Hensley pitched eight strong innings and 37-year-old Mike Piazza showed he still has pop by hitting a monster homer to lead the Padres to a 7-1 victory over the NL Central-leading Cardinals on Friday night.
It was the first time the teams met since St. Louis swept San Diego in the division series last postseason, outscoring the Padres 21-11.
"All around it was as good a game as you can play," Padres manager Bruce Bochy said. "I think you have to play your best ball if you're going to beat a team like the Cardinals. They're so good everywhere."
Said Piazza: "They're a great ballclub, and we're just fortunate we caught them on a little bit of a down night."
Albert Pujols, who leads the majors with 23 homers, drove in St. Louis' only run with a single in the third and finished 1-for-2, increasing his majors-leading RBI total to 58. In the first, the Padres intentionally walked Pujols after Scott Spiezio doubled with one out. Both runners were stranded. Pujols was hit on the left hip by a pitch in the eighth.
Hensley (3-3) held the Cardinals to one run and five hits, struck out five and walked one. He also doubled in the four-run second for his first big league RBI.
The Padres led 5-0 after two innings.
"When you get out there and you've got some runs on the board, you're not pitching so tight," Hensley said. "You can kind of throw balls down in the zone or down the middle and let them hit the ball. We've got a great defense. It makes it a lot easier to pitch that way."
The Padres jumped on Jeff Suppan (5-4), who didn't face them in the division series.
Roberts hit a leadoff homer to right, the sixth time in his career he's opened a game by going deep. It was his second this season.
Gonzalez homered to left with two outs in the third, his fifth.
Piazza hit a ball estimated at 432 feet into the balcony on the third floor of the Western Metal Supply Co. Building just beyond the left-field corner leading off the fifth, his seventh. It came one pitch after catcher Gary Bennett couldn't hold onto Piazza's foul ball just in front of the Padres' dugout.
"I just got the head on it and hit it pretty well," Piazza said. "It was just fortunate the catcher dropped the ball. It was appropriate. Fortunately I got a second life and didn't miss it."
In the top of the inning, Piazza was hit by a foul tip near his left armpit that wasn't covered by his chest protector.
San Diego scored four runs on five hits in the second.
"Suppan had a really rough night and Hensley had the opposite," St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said. "It wasn't much of a game."
Khalil Greene hit a leadoff double down the left-field line and scored on a single to center by Geoff Blum. After rookie Josh Barfield forced Blum at second, Hensley doubled over the head of center fielder Jim Edmonds, who was playing in, to score Barfield.
Roberts followed with a single to center, and Mike Cameron drove in both with a single to center.
"They hit me pretty good and Hensley threw the ball well," Suppan said. "That was the game."
Pujols singled in David Eckstein with two outs in the third. Cameron made a spectacular diving grab of Scott Rolen's fly ball in right-center for the final out, extending himself to make the catch and then rolling over.
Suppan allowed seven runs and nine hits in six innings, struck out three and walked two.
- Piazza's homer was the third-longest in Petco Park history, following Sammy Sosa's 434-foot shot on May 15, 2004, and Matt Holliday's 433-footer on Sept. 5, 2004.
- Roberts' previous leadoff homer was last June 22 against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
- Bennett struck out four times.
- About a dozen Cardinals came down with a stomach ailment on Thursday, which ruined a day off. "We would have had a hard time fielding a team yesterday," head trainer Barry Weinberg said.
- Blum started in place of slumping 3B Vinny Castilla, who's hitting .225 with one homer and 10 RBIs. Bochy said Mark Bellhorn probably will start Saturday.
- Bochy said Piazza will get Saturday and Sunday off.