Cardinals batter Johnson, Marlins 6-3

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ST. LOUIS (AP)—Josh Johnson(notes) is not a pitching machine, after all.

Untouchable in April, the Marlins ace was battered for five runs on Thursday in his first start of the month as the St. Louis Cardinals beat Florida 6-3.

“Nobody’s perfect,” the Cardinals’ Lance Berkman(notes) said. “He probably wasn’t going to go the whole year without giving up a run. You just try to be aggressive and hopefully he makes a mistake in the strike zone.

“You’re not to get him too many times.”

Matt Holliday(notes) had two hits and two RBIs and Albert Pujols(notes) singled three times against Johnson (3-1), the National League pitcher of the month who had an 0.88 ERA in April.

Holliday fought off an inside pitch for the tying hit with one out in the eighth, chasing Johnson after 114 pitches, and Berkman greeted left-hander Mike Dunn(notes) with a three-run homer. The switch-hitting Berkman, a much better left-handed hitter, foiled the Marlins’ strategy and hit his second homer of the season batting right-handed.

Johnson allowed only 18 hits in 41 innings in April. The Cardinals went 8 for 25, finishing with three straight singles as Johnson’s ERA climbed to 1.68.

“I was battling, trying to get outs,” Johnson said. “I’ve been having to battle for a couple of starts, so it’s part of the game.”

Johnson said he’s been having mechanical issues his last three starts. He allowed one run in 14 innings the previous two against the Reds and Rockies, but the Cardinals made him pay.

Berkman hit his 10th homer, and only second at home, on a 1-0 pitch to cap a four-RBI day that put him at 32 in 29 games. That gave the Cardinals enough of a cushion to salvage a split against the Marlins, whose 19-11 start is the best in franchise history.

“Berkman, what can you say, he’s on fire right now,” the Marlins’ Greg Dobbs(notes) said. “Maybe next time we see him, he won’t be.”

The Cardinals’ 3-4-5 hitters totaled seven hits, two walks and all six RBIs.

“When you have depth like that, one of three guys can have a good day and you have enough offense to win,” manager Tony La Russa said.

The three-hit day was Pujols’ second of the season and first since April 12, raising his average to .252.

“Now Albert Pujols starts swinging the bat better,” Marlins manager Edwin Rodriguez said. “So we’re getting out of here just in time.”

Jason Motte(notes) (1-0) had a strikeout and walk in the eighth and Eduardo Sanchez(notes) finished for his third save in three chances.

Johnson gave up three straight hits, including Holliday’s RBI single in the first, only the second time all season he’d given up even one hit the first three innings. He also had a walk, but escaped with only one run allowed after Pujols was easily thrown out by center fielder Chris Coghlan(notes) trying to go to third on Holliday’s hit.

Cardinals starter Jake Westbrook(notes) was perfect for 4 2-3 innings and the Marlins didn’t get the ball out of the infield until Mike Stanton(notes) flied out to right for the second out in the fifth. The next hitter, Dobbs, was the first Florida batter to have a 1-0 count and then delivered the first hit.

Suddenly, Westbrook seemed vulnerable and the Marlins had four singles in a row, including RBIs by Omar Infante(notes) and Johnson, for a 2-1 lead. After needing 54 pitches to get 14 outs, Westbrook required 20 pitches to get the final out of the fifth.

“It was frustrating to have that one inning after feeling so good,” Westbrook said.

Berkman’s sacrifice fly, a drive to the wall in left, tied it in the sixth, but the Marlins regained the lead in the seventh when Infante hit an RBI single.

Colby Rasmus(notes) drifted to the wall late on a ball that appeared catchable, and a no doubt frustrated Westbrook raced off the field and into the tunnel after Infante’s hit.

“Nobody got deflated,” La Russa said. “I think they were just upset that it had turned out that way.”

Johnson walked three of the first 15 hitters, matching his career total covering 27 2-3 innings against the Cardinals entering the game and finished with four walks.

Notes: Holliday is has an 11-game hitting streak and leads the NL with a .411 average. … Chris Carpenter’s(notes) bases-loaded walk to Gaby Sanchez(notes) on Wednesday night was his first in 73 batters, according to STATS LLC. … The Cardinals are 1-6 in Carpenter’s starts. … Ramirez is batting .153 (13 for 85) against right-handed pitchers. … Dobbs left after grounding out in the seventh with a right ankle strain. He did a cartwheel of sorts eluding a tag at the plate to score Florida’s first run in the fifth, but said that was no factor, and expected to be available to play Friday.

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