Pujols homers in 3rd straight game

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- By now, the St. Louis Cardinals expect to win
them all.

Chris Carpenter pitched seven innings of six-hit ball and the
Cardinals got first-inning homers from Larry Walker and Scott Rolen
in beating the San Diego Padres 4-2 Wednesday night for their fifth
straight victory.

"Pretty nice, isn't it?" Carpenter said. "This team doesn't
let up. The most fun I have is sitting around four days and
watching them play in between my starts."

Albert Pujols homered for the third straight game in the eighth
and Reggie Sanders had a pair of doubles for the NL Central
leaders, who have won 10 of 12 overall. They will go for a sweep of
the three-game series against the Padres, in contention for the
wild card, on Thursday. The Cardinals are 32-6 against San Diego
the last six seasons, including 18-2 at home.

"We just couldn't get that big hit," Padres manager Bruce
Bochy said. "They are a very explosive team over there. There
aren't any weaknesses."

The Cardinals are 88-44 overall, the best record in the major
leagues, with a 15½-game lead in the division.

"You play with a smile, you play with confidence," Walker
said. "Nobody lets up and you try and win every game, and you
usually succeed or come close to doing that every day."

Jim Edmonds, who homered seven times in his previous six games,
was 0-for-3 with three strikeouts and a walk.

Carpenter (14-5), who missed all of last season with a shoulder
injury, tied Matt Morris for the staff lead in victories. He struck
out five and walked one, and worked out of a two-on, two-out jam in
the seventh when he struck out pinch-hitter Robert Fick.

Carpenter, who is 3-1 with a 1.52 ERA in five starts since the
beginning of August, won in his first career appearance against the
Padres. The Cardinals are averaging a staff-low four runs in his
starts and lost 1-0 at Cincinnati in Carpenter's last start on Aug.

Jason Isringhausen worked the ninth for his 39th save in 45
opportunities. Isringhausen has saves in his last 12 appearances.

The Cardinals jumped on Adam Eaton (9-12), who had won seven
straight on the road, early. After Marlon Anderson took a called
third strike to start the first, Walker hit his 11th homer.

"Don't get me wrong, it's nice to pitch with a three-run
lead," Carpenter said. "But you've still got to continue to
execute pitches or they're going to bite you and come back and get

Pujols walked and Rolen hit an 0-1 pitch over the wall in
left-center for his 32nd homer, marking a career best. The homer
was his first since Aug. 21 and it hiked his NL-leading RBI total
to 115.

Eaton settled down after the early damage, allowing one
baserunner per inning in his last five innings. In six innings, he
gave up three runs on four hits with six strikeouts and three
walks, but lost on the road for the first time since a 13-6 setback
at Colorado on May 26.

He wasn't that impressed with the Cardinals, though.

"They have a good lineup," Eaton said. "I mean, I hate to
burst their bubble but I think I faced a better one in New York
against the Yankees."

Mark Loretta tripled and scored on a groundout by Brian Giles in
the sixth for the Padres, and pinch-hitter Jay Payton's infield hit
in the eighth off Ray King cut the gap to 3-2. King got Sean
Burroughs to ground out for the third out with runners on first and

Padres cleanup hitter Phil Nevin was ejected by plate Brian
Gorman for arguing a called third strike to start the fourth. Bochy
was not pleased.

"That was the last thing we need is for that to happen," Bochy
said "We don't need that in the race right now. And, he said it
where you could hear it."

Nevin said he shouldn't have been tossed.

"I walked back to the dugout and I never said a word at home
plate and I never threw anything and I, I don't know," Nevin said.
"I'd like to ask him what he thinks I said. I said two words when
I came back to the dugout."

Game notes
The Cardinals have 13 extra-base hits in the first two
games of the series, seven of them homers. ... Rolen hit 31 homers
for the Phillies in 1998. ... The Padres are 6-3 on a 10-game trip,
one victory off the franchise best for that length. ... St. Louis
is 17-5 in Carpenter's last 22 starts dating to April 23.