Starting in left field despite a bruised right thumb that makes it difficult for him to throw, Pujols hit a two-run homer in the first inning and helped the Cardinals break a five-game losing streak by beating the Florida Marlins 9-2 Friday night.
“That was a pretty gutsy call by the skipper,” said Eli Marrero, who also homered for St. Louis. “Albert can’t really throw the ball out there, but we’ve got to have his bat in the lineup. Whatever he can contribute is a big plus for us.”
Batting third for the first time this season, Pujols hit his third homer of the year on the first pitch he saw in the first inning from A.J. Burnett (0-2). Pujols fielded only one ball—a single by Burnett—before departing in the sixth inning for defensive replacement Marrero.
La Russa shrugged off his successful gamble.
“We’re one game under .500,” he said. “There are a lot of things I don’t know.”
The Cardinals, who scored 11 runs during their losing streak, had 10 hits. Edgar Renteria drove in two runs with a double and a sacrifice fly.
Brett Tomko pitched a nine-hitter for his first complete game with a Cardinals. Tomko (2-2) struck out three, walked one and drove in a run with a bases-loaded walk in the sixth to knock out Burnett.
“It took a major load off for us to score all those runs,” Tomko said. “It’s nice when you get a little cushion right away. You can be more aggressive and not nibble.”
Tino Martinez, who is appealing a four-game suspension he received Friday for his role in a fight Sunday against Arizona, singled in the sixth to extend his hitting streak to 12 games—the longest active streak in the National League. He also drove in a run with a sacrifice fly.
St. Louis’ Jim Edmonds, who came into the game leading the league in hitting, went 0-for-1 with two walks to drop his average from .396 to .389. Orlando Palmeiro doubled and scored in the first and singled home a run in the eighth.
Todd Hollandsworth drove in both runs for Florida, hitting a sacrifice fly in the seventh inning and a solo homer in the ninth.
Burnett led the majors last year with five shutouts, but he’s winless in four starts this season. He allowed four hits, six walks and five runs in 5 2-3 innings.
“I just need to relax when I go out there, man,” Burnett said. “I’m trying to do too much trying to get that first win.”
The defeat snapped the Marlins’ three-game winning streak.
Following Pujols’ homer, three consecutive walks by Burnett loaded the bases, and Renteria hit a sacrifice fly to make the score 3-0. Burnett needed 36 pitches to get out of the inning, but beginning with Renteria’s flyout, he retired 15 batters in a row.
Edmonds ended the streak by walking with one out in the sixth. Martinez singled, and Renteria doubled home a run. An intentional walk to Mike Matheny with two out loaded the bases, and Burnett walked Tomko on a 3-2 pitch to forcein a run and make it 5-0.
Edmonds left the game in the seventh inning because of a knot in his leg. The ailment was not believed to be serious. … Burnett had pitched 21 consecutive innings against the Cardinals without allowing an earned run before giving up three in the first. … Florida’s Juan Pierre went 0-for-4, ending his nine-game hitting streak. … Florida’s Armando Almanza hasn’t allowed arun in his past 10 appearances.