Series: Game 1 of 3

St. Louis leads 1-0 (as of 4/17)

Game 1: Monday, April 17
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Game 2: Tuesday, April 18
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Game 3: Wednesday, April 19
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Cardinals 2

(8-5, 4-3 away)

Pirates 1

(4-11, 3-5 home)

    7:05 PM ET, April 17, 2006

    PNC Park, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 

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    W: J. Marquis (3-0)

    L: P. Maholm (0-2)

    S: J. Isringhausen (4)

    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.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press