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Pujols ties record with homer in fourth consecutive at-bat as Cards win

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Albert Pujols is so good and home runs come so
naturally to him, he isn't even aware of the history he's making.

Pujols tied a major-league record by homering in his fourth
consecutive at-bat to account for the St. Louis Cardinals' only
runs in a 2-1 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Monday night.

"I don't look at numbers," Pujols said. "I don't know. I
didn't know anything about it until you guys [reporters] just
brought it up. That's not me. I get locked in on seeing the ball
and helping my team win and hopefully do some damage out there. And
that's what I did today."

A day after hitting three homers, including a gamer-winner,
Pujols homered to center off Pirates starter Paul Maholm (0-2) in
the top of the first to give the Cardinals a 2-0 lead.

Pujols doubled in his next at-bat in the third and walked his
next time up before flying out to left in the seventh.

"Nothing really surprises me about him anymore," said
Cardinals starter Jason Marquis, who pitched eight innings of
three-hit ball to win his third consecutive start. "Everyone knows
he's the best hitter in the game and he has the ability to do some
great things. It's fun to watch him on a daily basis, and I'm glad
I don't have to throw to him."

It was the 35th time in Major League history that a player has
homered in four straight at-bats. Carlos Delgado, then with the
Toronto Blue Jays, last did it Sept. 25, 2003. The previous time it
was accomplished in the National League was by the Atlanta Braves'
Andruw Jones from Sept.7-10, 2002.

"It's awesome, but we got the win, and that's more important to
me," Pujols said. "All the credit today should go to Jason
Marquis."

Pujols joins Stan Musial (July 7-8, 1962) as the lone Cardinals
player to homer in four straight at-bats.

"He keeps doing things that put him in company with the
greatest players of all time," St. Louis manager Tony La Russa
said. "Albert Pujols is the best hitter in baseball."

Pujols and the Detroit Tigers' Chris Shelton lead the majors
with nine home runs and are just the fourth and fifth players to
homer at least nine times in their team's first 13 games. Mike
Schmidt had 11 home runs during the first 13 games of 1976; Larry
Walker (1997) and Luis Gonzalez (2001) also had nine homers in
their first 13 games.

"When you get in a groove like that, you're locked in," Pujols
said. "When you're seeing the ball the way I am right now, you
trust your hands and just use the whole ballpark."

Jason Isringhausen allowed a lead-off double to Jack Wilson in
the ninth before retiring the middle of the Pittsburgh lineup --
Jason Bay, Jeromy Burnitz and Craig Wilson -- for his fourth save.

The Cardinals have won three straight.

"They got a home run in the first inning from a very special
player," Pirates manager Jim Tracy said. "But beyond that, we
matched them pitch for pitch and play for play."

Marquis (3-0) had allowed only one hit and two baserunners --
with neither of them reaching second base -- through seven innings
before the Pirates scored their only run in the eighth on
pinch-hitter Nate McLouth's RBI single.

"The guy was dominant today," Pirates shortstop Jack Wilson
said. "You're going to run into some pitchers that just have great
stuff that day."

Pittsburgh's only other hit Chris Duffy's infield single.

Marquis, who struck out only two, retired 14 in a row in one
stretch.

"We came up with a gameplan and we stuck with it," Marquis
said. "That was to throw good quality sinkers down in the strike
zone. We really took the aggressive approach, and my defense made
some great plays to keep me in it."

Maholm entered the game with a 7.71 ERA but had his best start
of the young season, permitting only two runs on seven hits in six
innings.

"Both of [the starters] threw well," La Russa said. "Give
Maholm credit, too. But Jason came after [the Pirates] and showed
how good he is."
Game notes
The Cardinals' John Rodriguez was a late scratch from
the lineup due to an allergic reaction to something he ate, team
officials said. Skip Schumaker replaced him in left field. ... St.
Louis is 31-10 lifetime at PNC Park and has the most wins of any
visiting club here. ... Pujols has 17 home runs in this stadium,
more than any visiting player.