St. Louis The risk of playing Albert Pujols with a sprained right elbow seems worth the reward for the St. Louis Cardinals.
Pujols hit his third home run in five games, and Garrett Stephenson worked eight strong innings as the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Montreal Expos, 3-1, Saturday for their sixth straight win.
The Cardinals have come to expect big things from Pujols, the NL rookie of the year in 2001 and the MVP runner-up last year.
"Two years and a month and two days he's been swinging a hot bat," manager Tony La Russa said, miscalculating by a day in May.
The defending NL Central champions are a season-best four games above .500 at 16-12. They're undefeated on their current six-game homestand with one game to go, outscoring their opponents 43-14.
Pujols hit a two-run homer off rookie Claudio Vargas (0-1) in the third inning that banged off a stadium club window just below the upper deck at Busch Stadium, a drive measured at 452 feet. The homer was his sixth of the season and followed an RBI single by J.D. Drew to put the Cardinals ahead 3-1.
"It couldn't have come at a better time, to hit that ball right there," Pujols said. "Tie ballgame, J.D. got a big hit with two outs and then I got a big hit with two outs. I'm pretty excited."
Pujols has gone 10-for-20 with eight RBIs this week to raise his average to .387. Team doctors on April 19 ordered him not to throw for three weeks.
Dodgers 4, Pirates 1
Los Angeles -- Darren Dreifort pitched six strong innings on his 31st birthday, and Shawn Green hit a two-run homer as Los Angeles beat Pittsburgh. Paul Lo Duca drove in the tiebreaking run with a single in the fifth. Green added his fourth homer in the seventh off ex-Dodger Dennys Reyes as Los Angeles ended Pittsburgh's four-game winning streak.
Rain fell briefly in the bottom of the fifth, when the Dodgers took the lead for good against Jeff Suppan (4-2). Suppan allowed two runs, eight hits and no walks in six innings.
Astros 5, Marlins 2
Houston -- Tim Redding won his third straight start, and Houston chased newly promoted Justin Wayne before he retired a batter. Derrek Lee homered twice for the Marlins. Redding (3-2) pitched five innings and allowed two runs on five hits. He walked two and struck out one. Wayne (0-2) was recalled from Triple-A Albuquerque before the game.
Brewers 3, Mets 2
Milwaukee -- Eric Young had two big hits, and Milwaukee snapped a six-game losing streak. With the bases loaded in the ninth inning, closer Mike DeJean got Raul Gonzalez to ground into a game-ending double play. Mike Piazza bounced into a pair of double plays for the Mets. Young homered and doubled for the only hits off rookie right-hander Jae Seo in six innings.
Phillies 5, Padres 4 (10)
San Diego -- David Bell atoned for a key error with a sacrifice fly in the 10th inning that sent Philadelphia past San Diego. Bell's throwing error in the eighth helped the Padres rally for three runs to tie it at 4.
Giants 9, Reds 6
San Francisco -- Jose Cruz Jr. and Andres Galarraga drove in three runs apiece, and rookie Jesse Foppert gained his first major league victory as San Francisco beat Cincinnati. Galarraga and Yorvit Torrealba hit two-run homers as the Giants jumped to an eight-run lead in the fourth inning, tagging Cincinnati starter Paul Wilson (1-3) for nine hits and nine runs.
Rockies 6, Cubs 4
Chicago -- Preston Wilson hit a two-run homer in the eighth inning as Colorado rallied past Chicago. Charles Johnson also had a pair of RBIs for the Rockies, who snapped a three-game losing streak. Carlos Zambrano hit his first career home run and pitched six strong innings, but it was wasted as the Cubs bullpen yielded three runs in the eighth inning.
Late Friday game
Reds 5, Giants 1
San Francisco -- Danny Graves (1-2) pitched a career-best seven scoreless innings, and Jason LaRue homered as Cincinnati beat San Francisco.