Albert Pujols hit a two-run homer in the first inning for his 1,000th career hit and finished with four RBIs in the St. Louis Cardinals’ 9-3 victory on Friday night. The game was the first for the Cubs since losing Lee, the NL batting champion, for at least two months with two broken bones above his right wrist.
“I know they’re going through a tough time,” Pujols said. “It’s terrible to see a great player like that going down, but that’s going to happen in your career.”
Cubs starter Jerome Williams was pounded for seven runs in 1 1-3 innings, including a bases-loaded walk to Mark Mulder in a five-run second one at-bat after a four-pitch walk to eighth-place hitter Aaron Miles. It’s the shortest outing of his 65-start career.
“I’m not throwing the ball where I want to and I’m not concentrating,” Williams said. “I was just bad period.”
Mulder (2-0) worked eight strong innings and Jim Edmonds homered for the second straight game for the Cardinals, who have won five of six. The only damage off Mulder, who retired 13 of his last 14 batters, was a three-run homer in the fourth by Michael Barrett.
“I really, really felt good tonight, and the one mistake, pretty much the only ball I left up in the zone, he hits for a homer,” Mulder said. “What are you going to do? I just tried to get over it and let’s throw up some more zeroes, especially with the lead we had.”
The Cubs lost their first game at new Busch Stadium after enjoying little success at the old park. Chicago was 21-51 in the last 10 seasons at old Busch Stadium and trailed 7-0 after two innings in this one, although they swept a three-game series from St. Louis at Wrigley Field earlier this month.
“Those were three miserable days in Chicago,” Mulder said. “Things didn’t go our way when we were there and we played a much better game, a complete game.”
Todd Walker, who replaced Lee in the field and in the third slot, was 0-for-3 with a walk and didn’t get the ball out of the infield. He made his fourth career start at first base, and first since July 8, 2005, at Florida.
“It’s great to have my name with those guys, the superstars, great players, All-Stars,” Pujols said. “But my job is to help my team to win and that’s what I did.”
Pujols also set a franchise homer record for April, topping the mark set by Mark McGwire in his 70-homer season in 1998, with nine games to spare. He added a two-run double in a seven-run second that chased Williams (0-2), against whom he’d been 1-for-12 for his career entering the game.
Edmonds’ homer off David Aardsma in the fifth gave him five RBIs in two games since returning to the lineup from a sore right shoulder.
Mulder gave up three runs and five hits with five strikeouts, including Jacque Jones three times, and one walk. He’s 79-11 in 105 career starts with four or more runs of support and 99-50 overall.
Three of Barrett’s four homers have come against St. Louis. He hit a three-run drive off Mulder with one out in the fourth and is 7-for-14 with 10 RBIs in only four games.
Williams made his second start after beginning the season with three relief appearances and faced 12 hitters, eight of whom reached base safely. He needed 53 pitches to get five outs.
The game also ended on a sour note for the Cubs. Barrett, apparently believing there were two outs instead of one, was easily doubled off second for the last out of the game on Matt Murton’s infield popup. Barrett was standing at third when third baseman Scott Rolen made the catch.
Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano, a .300 hitter last year with a homer and six RBIs, struck out in his first career pinch-hit appearance for the first out in the fifth. … Yadier Molina singled to end an 11-pitch at-bat, including seven foul balls, against Williams in the second. … The Cardinals are 4-0 when Mulder starts. … Pujols has seven homers in the last six games.