Pujols returns with 2 singles

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JUPITER, Fla. (AP)—Albert Pujols(notes), who returned to action after taking a week to rest a sore back, hit two hard singles in the St. Louis Cardinals’ 8-5 victory against the Houston Astros on Saturday.

Pujols said his back did not bother him when he swung and it did not get tight.

“That’s the two things I was looking at and I didn’t feel any of that,” he said.

Pujols lined the first pitch he saw into deep center. The ball was hit so hard he was held to a single. His second single was a hard line drive to left field.

“Five days off, two swings like that,” manager Tony La Russa said. “You can’t do that unless you’re a great player.”

After playing in just two games and going hitless in five at bats, Pujols awoke last Sunday with a sore back that he said felt like a spasm. Since, he has been undergoing treatment, including chiropractic adjustments.

“It was a little rough missing five days without being able to do any running,” Pujols said.

The NL MVP was encouraged by his first two hits, which came on a pitch down and away and an inside slider, and a high fastball that he fouled back before walking in his third at bat.

“If anything were going to happen it would have happened on that pitch, a fastball up,” he said.

Julio Lugo(notes) drove in three runs with a double and a home run for the Cardinals and Ryan Ludwick(notes) hit a solo home run.

Astros starter Felipe Paulino(notes) pitched two scoreless innings before Wesley Wright(notes) allowed four runs, two earned, on four hits in 1 1-3 innings.

Cardinals starter Chris Carpenter(notes) threw 58 pitches over three innings. He gave up two runs on four hits and a walk, including Chris Shelton’s(notes) two-run homer to deep centerfield in the second inning.

“I felt like my command was better. I felt like my breaking ball was better,” Carpenter said. “I got my pitch count up and I felt more comfortable with my delivery on the mound.”

The high pitch count was partly due to a strong wind that made it an adventure for the fielders. Several balls were wind blown into hits during the game.

“It definitely makes it difficult but you deal with it,” Carpenter said.

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