PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Albert Pujols frets and fusses before a game
if he doesn't feel right. He prefers to stay with a routine, get
everything down right and take that approach into his first at-bat.
Apparently, it's working.
It was the second straight night Pujols has homered in the first
inning and his third straight game with a momentum-swinging homer.
His game-winning shot in the eighth off Braves bullpen ace John
Smoltz gave St. Louis a 3-2 win Sunday.
"That's what you want to do -- do something right away," said
Pujols, who boosted his major league-leading average to .370. "If
you can score six runs right away, it's real big. The pitcher can
relax. You always want to score right away."
Pirates starter Josh Fogg (6-7), who has struggled since the
All-Star break, left without retiring any of the six batters he
faced. He gave up five hits -- three for extra bases -- and walked
Martinez drove in four runs for the Cardinals, whose two homers
gave them nine in three games -- all victories. St. Louis has won
four straight overall and seven of its last nine road games to
close within one game of NL Central-leading Houston, which lost 3-0
to the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday.
Fogg called it the worst start he's ever made. But Martinez
wasn't sure, even after Pujols' homer.
"With Albert, it's hard to judge -- he hits pitchers with good
stuff, so you have no idea," said Martinez, who hadn't homered
since July 4. "I always thought he (Fogg) had good stuff. It's
fortunate we jumped on him early."
The Pirates hit a season-high four homers off Cardinals starter
Brett Tomko (9-7), but all were solo shots. Tike Redman and Brian
Giles homered in a first inning that featured four homers, two by
each team. Reggie Sanders and Matt Stairs homered in succession to
start the sixth.
Tomko has allowed the most hits (198) and runs (100) in the NL,
yet is 7-2 since June 19 and has won four of five starts. Pitching
despite neck stiffness that threatened to push back his start,
Tomko lasted six innings, giving up eight hits.
"I'm going to give up homers," Tomko said. "I was trying to
stay with the game plan and be aggressive, but maybe I was trying
to be too aggressive."
Five relievers finished, including four in a ninth inning that
manager Tony La Russa said was beginning to make him uncomfortable.
Jason Simontacchi got the final out for his first save in 53 career
The Cardinals, who had hit 10 consecutive solo homers since Bo
Hart's grand slam Aug. 2 against the Mets, got a pair of three-run
shots within a span of four batters in the first.
Hart and Kerry Robinson singled ahead of Pujols, who hit his
33rd homer. Martinez's homer was his 11th and followed Jim Edmonds'
double and Scott Rolen's walk. Fogg was then replaced by Pat
Mahomes, who gave up Edgar Renteria's double before retiring the
next three batters.
Fogg has been roughed up for 23 earned runs and 35 hits in 21
1-3 innings while going 1-4 in his last six starts. He is 1-5 with
a 10.31 ERA in seven career starts against St. Louis and is 0-2
with a 12.60 ERA in three starts this season.
"It is becoming a concern," manager Lloyd McClendon said.
"He's not a power pitcher and he needs command of his pitches to
be successful. We need to find the problem and fix it and fix it
The Cardinals also scored three times in the fourth against
Mahomes on Robinson's run-scoring single and sacrifice flies by
Rolen and Martinez.
Stairs had three hits for the Pirates, who left 22 runners
on base in the first two games of the four-game series. ... Pujols'
streak is the Cardinals' longest since Lou Brock's 26-game run in
1971. Rogers Hornsby holds the team record with a 33-game streak in
1922. ... Fogg was the first Pirates starter to be lifted without
getting an out since Esteban Loaiza gave up four runs in the first
against Florida on Aug. 6, 1997. ... Robinson is 12-for-21 (.571)
in his career at PNC Park. Pujols has 10 homers and 29 RBI in 22
career games in Pittsburgh. ... St. Louis is 4-1 in Pittsburgh this
season. ... The Cardinals are seven games over .500 (63-56) for the
first time since the final day of last season.