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Homerless drought? Pujols smacks two in Cards' win over Astros

CBSSports.com wire reports
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HOUSTON -- Albert Pujols got his first home runs of the year after a heated, pregame exchange with Houston's Brandon Backe on Wednesday night.

So does that mean that he plays his best when he's riled up?

Pujols blew off the suggestion after his homers led the St. Louis Cardinals to a 6-4 win over Houston to take their third straight series.

"No matter who gets me mad or doesn't get me mad, I'm going to go out there and play the game the right way every time," he said.

The exchange lasted a few minutes. It involved yelling and ended with Astros manager Cecil Cooper putting his arm across Backe and guiding him away from Pujols. It apparently was over Pujols sliding into Astros catcher J.R. Towles in the eighth inning of the Cardinals' win over the Astros on Tuesday, an event Pujols had already apologized to Towles for.

Pujols also had an RBI single and Rick Ankiel added two RBI.

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa scoffed at the notion the incident had anything to do with his play.

"How does that explain him hitting .300 every year?" La Russa said. "He plays with an edge all the time. He's a great player. He's a fierce competitor. You think there's incidents before every game?"

Pujols ended the longest home run drought to start the year in his career, hitting two in his ninth game. His previous long season-opening drought was five games, last season. He actually homered in the Cardinals first try at their opener, but it was called in the third inning because of rain and the stats were erased.

He said the key Wednesday was a video session earlier in the day.

"I watched a couple of videos and I made some adjustments at the plate because of some things that I saw the last couple of games," he said. "I knew what I was doing wrong and it's a good thing that I picked it up early and I felt good out there and had success today. Obviously it helped me out."

St. Louis opened the season with series wins over Colorado and Washington before taking this one 2-1. They won three consecutive series' just once last season.

A two-run sixth inning cut the Cardinals lead to one before Pujols' first home run, a shot to left center field to start the seventh, stretched the lead to 5-3.

Michael Bourn's run-scoring double off Randy Flores in the seventh put the score at 5-4. But Skip Schumaker caught a fly by Hunter Pence to end the inning with Ryan Franklin pitching.

Pujols answered again, this time sending one to right field in the ninth.

Franklin also pitched a scoreless eighth before Jason Isringhausen did the same in the ninth for his fifth save.

Pence doubled and scored on a double by Lance Berkman that made it 4-2 in the sixth inning. An RBI single by Carlos Lee chased Cardinals starter Braden Looper (2-0) and cut the lead to 4-3.

Miguel Tejada doubled and scored Houston's first run on a sacrifice fly by Mark Loretta in the fifth inning.

A day after breaking a 0-for-16 slump, Schumaker doubled before scoring on a single by Ankiel in the fifth that made it 4-0.

Looper allowed five hits and three runs in 5 2/3 innings. He struck out four.

"I felt better today than I did last time," he said. "I felt better mechanically. I felt better physically. It's just kind of unfortunate at the end there I just made a few bad pitches to the wrong guys."

A RBI single by Pujols made it 1-0 in the first inning. Chris Duncan scored later in the inning on a single by Troy Glaus.

Ankiel's double in the third scored Duncan and pushed the Cardinals lead to 3-0.

Houston starter Chris Sampson (0-1), who has struggled with flu-like symptoms all week, lasted four innings. He allowed six hits and three runs.

"I was tired, drained," he said. "I went as long as I could as hard as I could. It's very frustrating... it's tough to breathe, you're coughing stuff up, and your nose is running. I felt weak all week long and I ran out of gas."

Notes

  • Catcher Humberto Quintero, designated for assignment March 29 by Houston, cleared waivers and accepted his outright assignment to Triple-A Round Rock on Wednesday.
  • Astros 2B Kaz Matsui, who is recovering from surgery to repair an anal fissure, will continue his rehab assignment with Double-A Corpus Christi Thursday-Saturday and could rejoin the Astros on Sunday.
 
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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Who has a sweeter swing than Albert Pujols? The big man shows his power with two hacks. (AP)
Who has a sweeter swing than Albert Pujols? The big man shows his power with two hacks. (AP)

Players of the Game
Houston

L. Berkman
AB 4
R 1
H 2
HR 0
RBI 1
St. Louis

A. Pujols
AB 4
R 2
H 3
HR 2
RBI 3
 

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St. Louis Cardinals
Skip Schumaker, RF4230100 .167
Chris Duncan, LF4210103 .231
Albert Pujols, 1B4233100 .379
Rick Ankiel, CF5022012 .314
Troy Glaus, 3B4011102 .250
Adam Kennedy, 2B4000122 .250
    Jason Isringhausen, P0000000 .000
Yadier Molina, C4010003 .308
Braden Looper, P3010000 .250
    Kyle McClellan, P0000000 .000
   a- Rico Washington, PH1000002 .250
    Randy Flores, P0000000 .000
    Ryan Franklin, P0000000 .000
    Cesar Izturis, SS0000000 .174
Aaron Miles, SS-2B4000001 .235
Totals37612653  
a-flied out for McClellan in the 7th
Batting
2B - Skip Schumaker (1, Moehler), Rick Ankiel (3, Sampson), Braden Looper (1, Sampson)
HR - Albert Pujols 2 (2, Borkowski, Villarreal)
RBI - Albert Pujols 3 (4), Rick Ankiel 2 (8), Troy Glaus (6)
2-OUT RBI - Rick Ankiel (2)
Team LOB - 9
Fielding
E - Randy Flores (1, Misplayed grounder)
St. Louis Cardinals
Braden Looper (W,2-0) 5.2533040 3.09
Kyle McClellan (H,4) 0.1000000 6.23
Randy Flores (H,2) 0.2110110 0.00
Ryan Franklin (H,5) 1.1000000 1.93
Jason Isringhausen (S,5) 1000010 0.00
HBP - Towles (by Jason Isringhausen)
Pitches-Strikes - Braden Looper 85-55, Kyle McClellan 3-2, Randy Flores 28-18, Ryan Franklin 11-9, Jason Isringhausen 20-12
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Braden Looper 7-6, Randy Flores 1-1, Ryan Franklin 3-1, Jason Isringhausen 2-0
Batters Faced - Braden Looper 22, Kyle McClellan 1, Randy Flores 5, Ryan Franklin 4, Jason Isringhausen 4
Houston Astros
Michael Bourn, CF4011010 .216
Hunter Pence, RF4110012 .186
Lance Berkman, 1B4121000 .273
Carlos Lee, LF4011011 .275
Miguel Tejada, SS4110001 .270
Geoff Blum, 3B4000001 .286
Mark Loretta, 2B1001000 .192
    Dave Borkowski, P0000000 .000
   a- Jose Cruz Jr., PH1000010 .125
    Oscar Villarreal, P0000000 .000
   b- Darin Erstad, PH1000010 .273
J.R. Towles, C2100110 .217
Chris Sampson, P1000000 .000
    Brian Moehler, P0000000 .000
    Tomas Perez, 2B3000001 .167
Totals3346416  
a-struck out for Borkowski in the 7th
b-struck out for Villarreal in the 9th
Batting
2B - Michael Bourn (1, Flores), Hunter Pence (3, Looper), Lance Berkman (5, Looper), Miguel Tejada (4, Looper)
SF - Mark Loretta (1)
RBI - Michael Bourn (2), Lance Berkman (5), Carlos Lee (5), Mark Loretta (3)
2-OUT RBI - Michael Bourn (2), Lance Berkman (4), Carlos Lee (1)
SB - Lance Berkman (3, 2nd base off Looper/Molina)
Team LOB - 5
Fielding
Outfield Assists - Carlos Lee 1
DP - Berkman-Tejada
Houston Astros
Chris Sampson (L,0-1) 4633110 4.22
Brian Moehler 1211200 10.80
Dave Borkowski 2211211 3.86
Oscar Villarreal 2211011 4.50
Pitches-Strikes - Chris Sampson 67-40, Brian Moehler 18-8, Dave Borkowski 51-32, Oscar Villarreal 26-16
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Chris Sampson 8-2, Brian Moehler 1-2, Dave Borkowski 2-3, Oscar Villarreal 4-0
Batters Faced - Chris Sampson 18, Brian Moehler 7, Dave Borkowski 10, Oscar Villarreal 7
Game Information
Attendance - 29187
Game Time - 3:07
Temperature - 72
Umpires - Home - Joe West, First Base - Ed Rapuano, Second Base - Ed Hickox, Third Base - C.B. Bucknor