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Cardinals, Pujols pull out of slump vs. Brewers ace Sheets

CBS SportsLine.com wire reports
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ST. LOUIS -- Now that his April drought is over, Albert Pujols says he was never worried about the unsightly numbers next to his name.

Pujols homered twice and had five RBI, leading a 13-hit attack that helped the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Milwaukee Brewers 10-2 on Sunday. Afterward, he chided reporters for writing about his early woes.

"Obviously, this year hasn't been working out early," Pujols said. "But just because I haven't found myself at the plate I don't want to go crazy."

Converted reliever Braden Looper was effective in his third straight start for the Cardinals, who scored four runs during an 0-4 start at Busch Stadium. Their first home victory since beating the Tigers in Game 5 of the World Series came against Brewers ace Ben Sheets (1-2), who fell to 4-14 in 22 career starts against St. Louis.

"I don't think I always struggle," said Sheets, who has a 4.36 career ERA against the Cardinals. "I don't come out on the winning end all the time, but I've had plenty of good games against these guys and I've had plenty of games like today against these guys."

Pujols, who hit a major league-record 14 homers last April, has three this month after lining a 2-0 Sheets fastball into the Brewers' bullpen to give the Cardinals a 3-2 lead in the first inning and then connecting off Elmer Dessens leading off the eighth. Pujols entered the game batting .158 with two RBI and left it with a .186 average after his 17th career multihomer game.

"It's a good day," teammate Preston Wilson said. "Anytime you have a day where the superstar in your lineup kind of starts heating up, it makes the whole team feel good."

Chris Duncan singled on a wind-blown infield pop-up in the first and singled again on a flare into shallow center in the third before homering in the fifth off the back of the Brewers' bullpen in right to put the Cardinals ahead 5-2. He also singled in the sixth for a career-best four-hit game. He has six hits in the last two games.

Prince Fielder and Johnny Estrada drove in a run apiece in the first inning for the Brewers, who had won three in a row on the road to match their best streak from last season.

Looper (2-1) allowed two runs and five hits in six innings, and has won two of his first three major league starts after making 572 consecutive relief appearances. He settled down after allowing three hits in the first, including Fielder's RBI double and Estrada's run-scoring single, and added his first career RBI on an infield chopper in the fourth.

David Eckstein singled off the glove of diving third baseman Tony Graffanino to start the bottom of the first and Duncan singled on the infield pop that dropped to set the table for Pujols' first homer in a week.

Wilson reached on Graffanino's throwing error to start the fourth and scored on Looper's tapper in front of the plate for a 4-2 lead, and Duncan's third homer made it 5-2 in the fifth.

The first four Cardinals reached safely in the sixth. After a single by Adam Kennedy and two walks, Sheets hit pinch hitter Scott Spiezio with the bases loaded. That chased Sheets, whose start was pushed back two days after he warmed up before Friday night's game was postponed by rain.

"That's a real nice excuse but no, we're not going to use that and Benny won't use it, either," manager Ned Yost said. "He was just kind of fighting himself all day."

Sheets gave up eight runs, seven earned, and eight hits in five-plus innings. His 14 losses against St. Louis are six more than he has against any other opponent.

Notes

  • Everyone in uniform wore No. 42 to honor the 60th anniversary of Jackie Robinson's major league debut. Granddaughters of Robinson and Branch Rickey, the Brooklyn Dodgers' general manager when Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947, threw out ceremonial first pitches.
  • Pujols is batting .385 (25-for-65) against Sheets with six homers and 13 RBI.
  • Bill Hall is in a 1-for-20 slump after going hitless in four at-bats.
  • Sheets is hitless in his last 34 at-bats although Duncan robbed him of extra bases with a leaping catch to the warning track in left in the second.
  • Jim Edmonds was twice the victim of nice defensive plays, with RF Corey Hart making a diving catch in the first and 2B Weeks snaring his smash up the middle to start a double play in the third.
 
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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 Albert Pujols hits two home runs and drives in five to help the Cardinals win their first home game.  (AP)
Albert Pujols hits two home runs and drives in five to help the Cardinals win their first home game. (AP)

Players of the Game
St. Louis

A. Pujols
AB 5
R 2
H 2
HR 2
RBI 5
St. Louis

C. Duncan
AB 5
R 2
H 4
HR 1
RBI 1
 

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Milwaukee Brewers
Rickie Weeks, 2B4110002 .268
J.J. Hardy, SS4010001 .293
Prince Fielder, 1B2111200 .295
Bill Hall, CF4000004 .171
    Elmer Dessens, P0000000 .000
Johnny Estrada, C4011001 .289
Geoff Jenkins, LF3010021 .351
   a- Kevin Mench, PH1000000 .280
Corey Hart, RF3010101 .179
Tony Graffanino, 3B4000002 .263
Ben Sheets, P2000011 .000
    Matt Wise, P0000000 .000
   b- Tony Gwynn, PH1010000 .333
    Carlos Villanueva, P0000000 .000
    Brian Shouse, P0000000 .000
    Gabe Gross, CF1000001 .250
Totals3327233  
a-fouled out for Jenkins in the 9th
b-singled for Wise in the 7th
Batting
2B - Rickie Weeks (1, Looper), Prince Fielder (4, Looper)
RBI - Prince Fielder (7), Johnny Estrada (3)
2-OUT RBI - Johnny Estrada (3)
PK - Prince Fielder (1, Looper)
Team LOB - 7
Fielding
DP - Weeks-Hardy-Fielder, Dessens-Hardy-Fielder
E - Tony Graffanino (1, Throwing)
Milwaukee Brewers
Ben Sheets (L,1-2) 5887322 5.85
Matt Wise 1100000 2.08
Carlos Villanueva 0.2311100 9.82
Brian Shouse 0.1000000 0.00
Elmer Dessens 1111101 4.50
HBP - Spiezio (by Ben Sheets)
Pitches-Strikes - Ben Sheets 95-54, Matt Wise 13-7, Carlos Villanueva 18-10, Brian Shouse 1-1, Elmer Dessens 14-8
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Ben Sheets 6-7, Matt Wise 1-2, Brian Shouse 1-0, Elmer Dessens 1-1
Batters Faced - Ben Sheets 27, Matt Wise 4, Carlos Villanueva 6, Brian Shouse 1, Elmer Dessens 4
St. Louis Cardinals
David Eckstein, SS3111102 .286
Chris Duncan, LF5241003 .412
Albert Pujols, 1B5225011 .186
Scott Rolen, 3B4000102 .176
Jim Edmonds, CF4000101 .233
    So Taguchi, PR-CF0000000 .313
Preston Wilson, RF3310110 .200
    Brad Thompson, P0000000 .000
   a- Aaron Miles, PH1000001 .313
    Randy Flores, P0000000 .000
Adam Kennedy, 2B4121000 .207
Yadier Molina, C3120101 .273
Braden Looper, P1001000 .000
   b- Scott Spiezio, PH0001000 .222
    Ryan Franklin, P0000000 .000
   c- Skip Schumaker, PH-RF1010000 .200
Totals3410131052  
a-grounded into a double play for Thompson in the 8th
b-hit by pitch for Looper in the 6th
c-doubled for Franklin in the 7th
Batting
2B - Preston Wilson (2, Villanueva), Skip Schumaker (1, Villanueva)
HR - Chris Duncan (3, Sheets), Albert Pujols 2 (3, Sheets, Dessens)
SF - David Eckstein (1)
SH - Braden Looper (1)
RBI - David Eckstein (3), Chris Duncan (5), Albert Pujols 5 (7), Adam Kennedy (1), Braden Looper (1), Scott Spiezio (3)
Team LOB - 8
St. Louis Cardinals
Braden Looper (W,2-1) 6522230 2.37
Ryan Franklin 1100000 0.00
Brad Thompson 1000100 3.38
Randy Flores 1100000 0.00
Pitches-Strikes - Braden Looper 95-53, Ryan Franklin 19-13, Brad Thompson 26-15, Randy Flores 11-8
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Braden Looper 7-7, Ryan Franklin 1-2, Brad Thompson 1-2, Randy Flores 1-2
Batters Faced - Braden Looper 24, Ryan Franklin 4, Brad Thompson 4, Randy Flores 4
Game Information
Attendance - 44153
Game Time - 2:40
Temperature - 55
Umpires - Home - Paul Schrieber, First Base - Marty Foster, Second Base - Tim McClelland, Third Base - Field Culbreth