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Pujols slams three homers as Cardinals bury Pirates

CBS SportsLine.com wire reports
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ST. LOUIS -- Albert Pujols has a daughter with Down Syndrome, and the St. Louis Cardinals' annual "buddy walk" game always seems to bring out his best.

Children with Down Syndrome circled the field in pre-game ceremonies, and then stood with players at their positions during "The Star-Spangled Banner." More than a few asked him to hit a home run for them.

He then homered in his first three at-bats, honoring Isabella Pujols and all special needs children in a 6-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday.

"It's always good to do something special for those kids, but I don't try to put pressure on myself," Pujols said. "It doesn't matter if they're there or not. I'm just going to try the best I can to help my team to win."

Since Pujols became spokesman for the "buddy walk" games in 2002, he's 9-for-20 with five homers, nine RBI and seven runs scored while the Cardinals have gone 4-1.

"If that's the case," he said, "we need to bring those kids more often."

Pirates pitcher Ian Snell said he had to laugh after Pujols' third straight home run off him. He also said he felt like giving last year's NL MVP a high-five.

"I mean, that's unreal," Snell said. "That's like Superman playing baseball."

Pujols connected with the bases empty in the first, and hit two-run drives in the third and fifth, all off Snell (12-9). He's 4-for-6 with four homers and seven RBI against Snell, and with 42 homers reached the 40-mark for the fourth straight season. It was his third three-homer game, his second of the season.

Philadelphia's Ryan Howard homered in his first three at-bats in a doubleheader opener against Atlanta. It was the first time two players homered three times on the same day since Pujols and Cleveland's Travis Hafner did it on July 20, 2004. It was the first time a pair did it in the first three plate appearances since Cincinnati's Johnny Bench and Atlanta's Orlando Cepeda -- a pair of Hall of Famers -- on July 26, 1970.

Pujols missed a bid for a fourth homer in the seventh with a drive to left off Brian Rogers that was caught by Jason Bay just shy of the warning track, protesting afterward that he never tries for the long ball.

"Was I trying to hit the first one, the second one, the third one?" Pujols said. "No, I just try to have good at-bats. Like I say, it's not about me, it's about my team."

Many fans stood during the at-bat and gave Pujols an ovation as he trotted back to the dugout. Prodded by teammates, Pujols rewarded a sellout crowd with curtain calls after his second and third homers.

"He's such a hungry hitter, he's always got a chance," manager Tony La Russa said. "He just got under it a little bit against a pitcher he's never seen before."

Pujols, who also homered three times against Cincinnati on April 16, entered in an 8-for-38 slump with only two-extra base hits in 10 games since homering twice and driving in a career-best seven runs on Aug. 22 at New York. He has been hampered somewhat by elbow soreness, although he has not missed any games.

Pujols scored his 100th run on the third homer, giving him 100 or more in each of his six seasons. He's the only player in major league history to hit 30 homers, score 100 runs and bat .300 in his first five seasons, and he is batting .321 this year.

The previous player to hit three homers off the Pirates was Vinny Castilla of the Astros, on July 28, 2001, in the opener of a day-night doubleheader.

Anthony Reyes (5-6), retooled from a brief demotion to the minors, struck out the side in the first, fanned a career-high nine and allowed four hits in 6 1/3 scoreless innings. A 24-year-old rookie, he was optioned to Triple-A Memphis after giving up five runs in 3 1/3 innings against Cincinnati on Aug. 16. He returned to emphasizing his fastball in the minors, striking out 17 in 13 scoreless innings over two starts, and is taking injured Mark Mulder's spot in the rotation.

"He's pitched really well in several of his starts, but this was a big one," La Russa said. "This is September now, the end is in sight."

St. Louis completed a 7-2 homestand by taking two of three from the Pirates, who swept them earlier this month in Pittsburgh. The Cardinals won the season series 9-6.

Snell, who had won three of his previous four starts, lasted five innings. He gave up five runs ands seven hits with seven strikeouts in five innings. He has allowed 25 homers and joked that Pujols' third homer "was going to hit the Arch."

"This is not going to rattle my confidence for the rest of the year," Snell said. "But today was a struggle with one guy and it cost me big-time."

Ronny Paulino, Ryan Doumit and Jose Castillo drove in runs in the ninth for Pittsburgh.

Notes

  • An unusual fielding play helped Reyes out of trouble in the fifth. Snell's grounder off the third-base bag with two outs deflected high into the air before Scott Rolen snagged it in time to make a diving tag on Doumit, running from second.
  • Bay was 2-for-4 with a strikeout after going 0-for-8 with seven strikeouts in the first two games.
  • Cardinals starters have allowed four runs over 29 1/3 innings the last four games.
 
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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Multiply this swing by three. Albert Pujols makes Ian Snell's life a nightmare with a trio of dingers.  (AP)
Multiply this swing by three. Albert Pujols makes Ian Snell's life a nightmare with a trio of dingers. (AP)

Players of the Game
St. Louis

A. Pujols
AB 4
R 3
H 3
HR 3
RBI 5
St. Louis

A. Reyes
IP 6.1
H 4
ER 0
BB 1
K 9
 

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Pittsburgh Pirates
Chris Duffy, CF4000020 .206
Jose Bautista, 3B4000020 .248
Freddy Sanchez, SS4120020 .345
Xavier Nady, RF3000101 .286
Jason Bay, LF4120012 .288
Ronny Paulino, C3111111 .316
Ryan Doumit, 1B4021013 .202
Jose Castillo, 2B4001013 .273
Ian Snell, P2000011 .065
    Josh Sharpless, P0000000 .000
    Brian Rogers, P0000000 .000
   a- Rajai Davis, PH1000010 .222
    Jonah Bayliss, P0000000 .000
   b- Joe Randa, PH1000001 .267
Totals3437321212 
a-struck out for Rogers in the 8th
b-grounded out for Bayliss in the 9th
Batting
2B - Freddy Sanchez (46, An. Reyes), Ryan Doumit 2 (7, An. Reyes, Isringhausen)
RBI - Ronny Paulino (45), Ryan Doumit (9), Jose Castillo (64)
Team LOB - 6
Fielding
DP - F. Sanchez-Castillo-Doumit
Pittsburgh Pirates
Ian Snell (L,12-9) 5755373 4.83
Josh Sharpless 1000110 2.45
Brian Rogers 1000000 0.00
Jonah Bayliss 1211110 6.43
Pitches-Strikes - Ian Snell 92-57, Josh Sharpless 17-8, Brian Rogers 7-5, Jonah Bayliss 17-12
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Ian Snell 4-3, Josh Sharpless 1-1, Brian Rogers 1-2
Batters Faced - Ian Snell 24, Josh Sharpless 4, Brian Rogers 3, Jonah Bayliss 6
St. Louis Cardinals
Aaron Miles, SS5000024 .271
Chris Duncan, LF4220010 .327
Albert Pujols, 1B4335000 .321
Scott Rolen, 3B1000300 .312
Juan Encarnacion, CF4000013 .287
Preston Wilson, RF3100111 .266
Ronnie Belliard, 2B3010120 .284
Yadier Molina, C4020013 .215
Anthony Reyes, P2000012 .150
    Adam Wainwright, P0000000 .500
   a- Mike Rose, PH10110001.000
    Josh Hancock, P0000000 .000
    Jason Isringhausen, P0000000 .000
Totals316965913 
a-singled for Wainwright in the 8th
Batting
2B - Yadier Molina (25, Snell)
HR - Albert Pujols 3 (42, Snell, Snell, Snell)
SH - Anthony Reyes (2)
RBI - Albert Pujols 5 (114), Mike Rose (1)
2-OUT RBI - Albert Pujols (35), Mike Rose (1)
Team LOB - 7
St. Louis Cardinals
Anthony Reyes (W,5-6) 6.1400190 4.31
Adam Wainwright 1.2000030 3.09
Josh Hancock 0.1233100 3.84
Jason Isringhausen 0.2100000 3.32
WP - Anthony Reyes (1), Jason Isringhausen (3)
Pitches-Strikes - Anthony Reyes 99-69, Adam Wainwright 19-14, Josh Hancock 17-9, Jason Isringhausen 13-9
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Anthony Reyes 6-4, Adam Wainwright 1-1, Josh Hancock 1-0, Jason Isringhausen 2-0
Batters Faced - Anthony Reyes 24, Adam Wainwright 5, Josh Hancock 4, Jason Isringhausen 3
Game Information
Attendance - 42205
Game Time - 2:38
Temperature - 77
Umpires - Home - Phil Cuzzi, First Base - Jerry Crawford, Second Base - Brian O'Nora, Third Base - Chuck Meriwether