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Archive for Saturday, May 20, 2006

Pujols, Cardinals rattle Royals

St. Louis erases five-run deficit, wins opener of three-game set

May 20, 2006

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— It's times like this when Albert Pujols feels grateful for manager Tony La Russa.

The St. Louis skipper sensed that his star slugger needed a day off before coming to Kansas City and playing in front of a stadium full of family and old friends.

So after a night of rest, Pujols responded with a two-run homer while leading the Cardinals to a 9-6 comeback victory over the reeling Royals.

"That's why I respect Tony so much," said Pujols, whose 20 homers and 50 RBIs are tops in the majors.

"He asked me. We discussed it. He's been in the league forever and I always listen and I always respect his opinion. He wanted to give me a day off even though I have good numbers. I tell him, 'Hey, whatever you want."'

Pujols' two-run drive in the fourth snapped an 0-for-13 skid as the Cardinals erased a five-run deficit on the way to their 10th win in 13 games. They have beaten the Royals in eight of their last nine meetings and are a season-high 12 games above .500.

Pujols played high school ball in the Kansas City area. La Russa figured all the friends and family making a fuss over him might prove a distraction if Pujols hadn't had an opportunity to recharge his batteries.

"He's got family, he's got friends here," La Russa said. "I'd be willing to bet that playing here means a lot to him."

Pujols knew he was right.

"He told me coming to Kansas City I was going to have a lot of family and I was going to be real busy and I think that's one thing that other managers probably wouldn't look to," Pujols said. "It's good."

Scott Rolen and So Taguchi also drove in two runs in the always-spirited interleague matchup between the team with the best record in the NL and the team with the poorest record in the majors. The Royals' seventh straight loss dropped them to 10-29, the worst mark after 39 games in the history of a franchise which has lost at least 100 games in three of the past four seasons.

"The home run by Pujols seemed to ignite them," Kansas City manager Buddy Bell said. "They've got a pretty good lineup, and with him in the middle it makes it a pretty tough task at times. He's got 20 home runs already, and he's been in a slump. Really? Somebody told me that today, but I didn't believe them."

Pujols hit Mark Redman's 1-1 pitch over the wall in center field after Scott Spiezio led off the fourth with a single. Another run scored on Redman's wild pitch and Taguchi had an RBI groundout to cut it to 5-4.

Chris Carpenter (4-2) went six innings for the win and was charged with six runs and nine hits. He walked three and struck out eight. His ERA, No. 2 in the league coming in at 1.98, rose to 2.63.

Adam Wainwright tossed 22â3 shutout innings for his first save. He walked one and didn't allow a hit.

Handed a 5-0 lead after three, Redman (0-4) still failed to get his first win in 16 starts dating to last July 24.

He went four-plus innings, allowing six runs and seven hits with two walks and a strikeout. Two wild pitches raised his total to seven, tying Baltimore's Daniel Cabrera for the league high.

"I just ran into some trouble. Even in the first three innings, I was still falling behind hitters," said Redman, whose ERA ballooned to 6.88. "The first-pitch strikes weren't there tonight. You have to be aggressive and work ahead in the count and tonight I didn't do that."

In front of a nearly packed house that seemed roughly divided among St. Louis and Kansas City fans, the Royals loaded the bases in the third and recorded three runs on two groundouts and John Buck's RBI single. Reggie Sanders' two-run homer in the third - the 297th of his career - put the Royals ahead 5-0 in the third.

After Spiezio's RBI single tied it at 5 in the fifth, Joel Peralta relieved and gave up, in succession, a single to Pujols, a two-run double to Rolen and an RBI triple to Juan Encarnacion.

The Royals scored a run in the sixth on Doug Mientkiewicz's RBI double.

"It's always special to come back to Kansas City," Pujols said. "I have a lot of friends here. I still have a lot of family."

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