Cardinals 5, Expos 4

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ST. LOUIS (AP)—Albert Pujols ensured that his achievements wouldn’t be overlooked for a second straight night.

Pujols homered leading off the ninth inning to give the St. Louis Cardinals a 5-4 victory over the Expos on Wednesday, a day after he became the first player to hit at least 30 home runs in each of his first four seasons on a major league roster, only to be outdone by Montreal’s Tony Batista, who hit a tying two-run homer and a go-ahead grand slam in the 12th.

Pujols hit his 31st homer of the season, a drive off Chad Cordero (3-2) on a 1-2 pitch that capped the Cardinals’ comeback from a 3-0 deficit.

“Everyone in that situation—tie ballgame, bottom of the ninth—everyone wants to be a hero,” Pujols said. “Yesterday, when you hit your 30th home run like that (in record-setting fashion), it’s not really special to lose a game. It’s about winning.”

John Mabry was 4-for-4 with four RBIs for the Cardinals, who won for the seventh time in nine games and 12th in the past 16.

“We couldn’t get him out,” Expos manager Frank Robinson said of Mabry. “If it hadn’t been for him, no matter what Albert had done, it wouldn’t have mattered.”

Still, Robinson was impressed with Pujols’ patience at the plate.

“He was sitting on it the whole time and he got it,” said Robinson, whose Expos lost for just the third time in 12 games. “From the time he stepped back in that batter’s box, he was waiting on the slider. I give credit to him, though. He hit it.

“Two strikes don’t mean nothing to a good hitter. He’s a tough out and you can’t fool around with him, no matter what.”

Julian Tavarez (3-3) pitched a scoreless ninth for the NL Central leader.

“That was a great win,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said.

Alex Gonzalez, who had three hits, tied the game 4-all in eighth with a double off Steve Kline that scored Terrmel Sledge, who reached on a two-base throwing error by second baseman Tony Womack.

St. Louis made three errors in all. Mike Matheny’s bad throw in the eighth was his first in 252 games since Aug. 1, 2002, at Florida, a record streak for catchers.

Brian Schneider put Montreal ahead with an RBI double in the second, and Expos starter Livan Hernandez hit a two-run double in the fourth to make it 3-0 after Schneider lined a ball off Suppan’s shoulder for an infield single. Suppan quickly retrieved the ball but, in haste, threw it wildly toward first for an error that advanced both runners to second and third.

Suppan allowed three runs and eight hits in five innings, leaving when pitcher Woody Williams pinch hit for him leading off the bottom of the fifth and struck out. Hernandez gave up four runs, nine hits and four walks in 6 2-3 innings.

Suppan was coming off back-to-back poor outings, the last one a no decision after allowing six runs, five hits and a season-high 10 walks over 4 2-3 innings in St. Louis’ 11-10 win over Cincinnati a week ago.

Suppan shrugged it off, saying, “my control hasn’t been what it needed to be,” in recent starts.

“Basically a lot of my pitches are up, and maybe it’s trying to do too much,” he added. “I’ll continue just to work on it and get back on track.”

Mabry put St. Louis ahead with his two-run homer in the fifth and two-run double in the seventh off reliever Joe Horgan.

Cordero lamented the slider he left hanging for Pujols.

“I hung it, and he made me pay for it,” Cordero said. “It doesn’t seem like he swings at anything out of the zone. Everything in the zone, he’s pretty much going to hammer, especially if you make a mistake like I did tonight. He’s going to hit it.”

Notes

The start of the game was delayed 47 minutes by rain. … Schneider got his first extra-base hit since July 8. … Brad Wilkerson didn’t score, ending a team-record streak of 15 straight starts since July 6 with at least one run. … Jim Edmonds has scored in nine straight games. … Suppan bunted into a double play in his only at-bat and is hitless in 41 at-bats since July 28 last year.

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