Ponson leaves early, but Cards still sweep Marlins

MIAMI (AP) -- Stinging from four consecutive losses to division
rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals were seeking a turnaround when they
arrived Friday in Miami.

They came to the right place.

The Cardinals feasted all weekend on lapses by the woeful
Florida Marlins, winning 9-1 Sunday to complete their first series
sweep in Miami in eight years.

"We took advantage of every little opportunity and every
mistake," said Albert Pujols, who had a two-run single, giving him
38 RBI.

St. Louis overcame the departure of right-hander Sidney Ponson,
who complained of elbow discomfort and was pulled for a pinch
hitter after three innings. He'll be examined by a doctor Monday in
St. Louis and will likely miss at least one turn in the rotation.

"It was bothering me a little bit," Ponson said. "To prevent
me from going out there and hurting myself and maybe being out for
the season, they took me out."

The Cardinals built a 7-0 lead for the third game in a row, and
they batted around for the third consecutive game, this time in a
five-run fourth inning.

"That doesn't surprise me, knowing our team," Pujols said. "I
know every guy can do some damage."

So Taguchi had two hits and two RBI, and Scott Spiezio doubled
twice and drove in a run. Four Cardinals scored after being walked
or hit by a pitch.

The Marlins, who have the youngest team and lowest payroll in
the majors, were swept for the third consecutive home series.
They've lost 10 consecutive home games, one shy of the club record
set in 1999.

St. Louis outscored Florida 23-9 in the series.

"We're young," Marlins manager Joe Girardi said. "We almost
have to be perfect to win games. When you're not, this is what

The Cardinals improved to 9-1 against the NL East. After
starting the trip by losing two each at Cincinnati and Houston,
they headed home buoyed by their first sweep at Miami since Aug.
31-Sept. 2, 1998.

"We got some timely hitting and a lot of clutch at-bats,"
manager Tony La Russa said. "That's a good way to win."

"Hopefully this will start us on another roll," Spiezio said.

Josh Hancock (1-0), who pitched 1 1-3 scoreless innings, was one
of four St. Louis relievers to complete the six-hitter.

Scott Olsen (1-2) allowed six hits, four walks and seven runs in
3 2-3 innings. Only one Florida starter in the past six games has
gotten through five innings.

"Today was probably the best I've felt all year," Olsen said.
"I don't think I beat myself. I think they beat me. That's a
little more comforting."

The Marlins' lone run scored when Miguel Cabrera hit into a
double play with runners at first and third in the sixth.

The Cardinals' big fourth inning started modestly: Following a
leadoff groundout, Yadier Molina was hit by a pitch that grazed the
front of his jersey. Aaron Miles walked, and John Gall -- pinch
hitting for Ponson -- singled for his first RBI of the season.

David Eckstein walked, and with two out Pujols hit a liner that
deflected off the glove of a leaping Hanley Ramirez at shortstop
for a single. After Ricky Nolasco replaced Olsen, Juan Encarnacion
singled home a run and Spiezio doubled to make it 7-0.

The Cardinals drove in two runs with infield singles in the
second inning. Encarnacion singled, took third on Spiezio's double
and came home when Taguchi hit a grounder in a hole between third
and short for a hit. Another run scored when third baseman Cabrera
failed to field a 50-foot dribbler by Ponson, who earned his first
RBI in 56 career at-bats.

Game notes
Pujols went 1-for-5 and finished the week 5-for-24,
dropping his average to .314. ... The Marlins will visit the new
Busch Stadium for the first time Aug. 29-31. ... Cardinals RHP
Jason Marquis, scheduled to start Monday against Colorado, has
allowed seven runs in the first inning of his past two starts. He
has dropped his past three decisions after starting the season 3-0.