Cardinals 9, Reds 3

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ST. LOUIS (AP)—Sidney Ponson took the first step in rebuilding his career — winning his first game in 10 months.

Ponson won his home debut with the St. Louis Cardinals, backed by home runs by Albert Pujols, Hector Luna and Scott Spiezio in a 9-3 victory over the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday.

“One at a time,” said Ponson, 7-11 with a 6.21 ERA last year and winless after June 18. “The next one after one is two. It’s not 10.”

Luna tied his career high with three RBIs for the Cardinals, who are 3-2 at new Busch Stadium. They pounded Dave Williams for six runs and six hits in the first three innings after totaling three runs the previous two games.

“Everything he does is live: live arm, live bat, live legs,” manager Tony La Russa said of Luna. “It’ll be interesting to see how much playing time he can earn.”

Luna had a run-scoring single in the first for his first RBI of the season, a home run in the third and an RBI single in the seventh. Spiezio hit a pinch-hit two-run homer off Mike Burns in the seventh.

Both teams were without their starting center fielders. Ken Griffey Jr. missed his third straight start with stiffness in his right knee for the Reds, and the Cardinals’ Jim Edmonds was out after taking a cortisone shot for inflammation in his right shoulder on Friday night.

“It would be nice to have Griffey back in the lineup,” Reds manager Jerry Narron said. “We definitely miss him.”

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said Edmonds was 50-50 for Sunday’s series finale, and then quickly downgraded that to 40-60.

“It takes a lot of pounding and it gets sore from time to time,” Edmonds said. “Whether the cortisone shot allows me to play the next day or not, we’ll see.”

Ponson (1-0) allowed two runs and five hits in 6 1-3 innings, settling down after surrendering Adam Dunn’s sixth homer on a full count in the first. He struck out four and walked one, leaving to a big ovation from a fifth straight sellout crowd of 40,752.

“The fans are great and if you do good, they’re going to be cheering for you,” Ponson said. “If you do bad, they’re going to be cheering for you, too, but not as much as when you do good.

“They want to win as much as we want to win and that’s a great thing.”

Ponson, a 17-game winner in 2003, was released by the Orioles last September due to alcohol-related problems. He signed a one-year, $1 million contract with the Cardinals, who needed a fifth starter to replace Matt Morris.

Williams (0-2) fell behind in the count to the first seven batters, and the Cardinals made him pay with three runs on three hits and two walks in the first. Yadier Molina’s two-run single was the big hit and Luna followed with an RBI single.

“I didn’t feel like I was pitching,” Williams said. “It was more like I was throwing.”

Pujols hit his fifth homer, a two-run shot, with two outs in the second and has 12 RBIs, tying him with Scott Rolen for the team lead. Pujols had an infield hit in four off-balance at-bats against Aaron Harang on Friday night.

Williams allowed six runs on six hits in three innings, the shortest outing by a Reds starter this season.

Edwin Encarnacion’s one-out double in the seventh chased Ponson, and Austin Kearns’ RBI single off Brad Thompson cut the deficit to 6-2. Kearns added an RBI double in the ninth.

St. Louis reliever Josh Hancock, who was cut by the Reds in spring training because he was overweight, got the final out.

Notes

Prior to the game, NL Cy Young winner Chris Carpenter and Pujols, the NL MVP, were presented with rings in honor of their achievements. … The 1:15 p.m. (CDT) start was the fourth different starting time in the first five home games. … Dunn has four hits in the first five games of the Reds’ six-game trip, all of them solo homers. … The Cardinals are 26-11 against the Reds the last three seasons. … Williams is 1-4 against the Cardinals the last two seasons. … The Cardinals lost 3-2 to the Brewers in 11 innings Thursday and 1-0 to the Reds on Friday.

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