ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Tony La Russa is more concerned with getting
ready for the playoffs than winning 100 games.
Larry Walker hit two homers Saturday and the Cardinals moved
within a game of becoming baseball's only 100-win team, beating the
Cincinnati Reds 9-6.
A victory Sunday in the final regular-season game at Busch
Stadium would give the Cardinals back-to-back 100-win seasons for
the first time since 1942-44, the only time the franchise
accomplished the feat.
"It's not the reason we come out," La Russa said. "We need to
play one more really good game and get ready for next week."
Albert Pujols hit a two-run homer, his 41st, with one out in the
first, and Walker followed with a drive off Cincinnati starter
Ramon Ortiz. Walker connected off Ortiz again leading off the
Though limited to 99 games because of a herniated disc in his
neck, Walker has 15 homers and 52 RBI. It was his 31st career
multihomer game and his third this season. He also hit two homers
off Ortiz here on June 29.
"I can't get this guy out," Ortiz said. "That's baseball and
that's what happens sometimes. I'd like to figure this guy out."
Randy Flores (3-1) got the final out of the seventh for the win.
Jason Isringhausen loaded the bases in the ninth before striking
out Adam Dunn for his 38th save in 42 chances.
St. Louis has clinched baseball's best record and came into the
final series needing a sweep of the Reds to reach 100 wins. The
Cardinals move to a new ballpark next season.
"I think because of the history of this franchise, it would be
a nice mark for the two-year run," La Russa said. "But any time
you chase a number, you're making a big mistake."
Pujols noted that last season's 105 wins did the Cardinals no
good in getting swept in the World Series.
"They don't talk about us winning 105 games last year, they
talk about Boston, the world champion," he said.
Pujols had a 61 at-bat homerless streak before hitting a grand
slam in the seventh inning Friday. He has seven RBI the past two
games and scored three times Saturday. He leads the National League
with 129 runs.
Cardinals starter Jason Marquis took a 4-0 lead into the fifth,
but couldn't hold it.
Austin Kearns hit his 17th homer leading off the fifth, and
Chris Denorfia and Felipe Lopez added run-scoring doubles.
Marquis walked Kearns with two outs in the sixth, and Edwin
Encarnacion hit a two-run homer, his ninth, to put the Reds ahead.
If Encarnacion homers Sunday, he'll become the 10th Reds player in
The Cardinals reclaimed the lead in the bottom of the sixth,
helped by Ortiz's wildness. With one out, he walked Pujols, Walker
and Reggie Sanders. Mark Grudzielanek singled home a run, and
Walker raced home on a short fly to right by So Taguchi.
After Lopez homered to tie it in the seventh, another bout of
wildness put St. Louis back on top.
Reliever Allan Simpson (0-1) walked pinch-hitter Skip Schumaker
and Abraham Nunez, then hit Pujols to load the bases. Pujols
stepped toward the mound -- La Russa quickly rushed out to grab him
-- but said he was only asking Simpson what he said. Simpson,
according to Pujols, told Pujols he did not intend to hit him.
Brian Shackelford relieved and hit pinch-hitter Hector Luna, and
Sanders followed with a two-run single off Todd Coffey.
Marquis allowed five runs and seven hits in six innings. Ortiz
pitched six innings and allowed six runs.
With one game remaining, the Cardinals have drawn a record
3,488,554 fans. ... Unless Brandon Claussen pitches a complete game
Sunday, the Reds will tie the team record for fewest complete games
with two. Cincinnati also had just two complete games in 2001 and
2002. ... Longtime Cardinals second baseman and manager Red
Schoendienst removed the number 2 in the countdown of games
remaining at Busch Stadium. Ozzie Smith will remove the number 1
during Sunday's regular-season finale.