Cardinals 7, Rockies 3
"We've got a lot of good guys playing," the Cardinals manager said. "We have a chance."
No Pujols was no problem for St. Louis on Thursday night. Juan Encarnacion hit a two-out, three-run double in the sixth and Brad Thompson allowed two runs in 7 1/3 innings to help the Cardinals to a 7-3 win over the Colorado Rockies.
La Russa gave his star slugger his first day off of the season because he was "wearing down," and St. Louis responded well offensively with 10 hits.
The Cardinals also were without outfielder Chris Duncan, who was sent back to St. Louis on Thursday and admitted to a hospital for IV antibiotics for his infected left knee. Duncan will not join the team in Houston.
Duncan has missed the last four games because of the injury. He also had similar trouble with the knee in spring training.
"Everyone here's a major leaguer," La Russa said of his depleted lineup. "Every player is a winning player."
Thompson (4-1) gave up seven hits, walked two and struck out two. He has given up three runs in 12 1/3 innings over two starts against the Rockies this season.
Thompson had been victimized by the home run this season, surrendering eight in 40 innings. But Thompson was able to keep the ball down against Colorado. The only long drive was Brad Hawpe's flyout to deep center in the second.
Thompson said the secret was better location of his sinker.
"I'm not overpowering," Thompson said after the longest outing of his career. "If my sinker's up, it's not going to be a good pitch."
Aaron Cook (4-2) went seven innings, giving up six hits and five runs. He was coming off a complete game five-hitter against San Francisco in his last start, and had won four consecutive decisions in May.
"I got some pitches up," Cook said. "It only takes one inning to lose a game."
After giving up an RBI single to Adam Kennedy with two outs in the second, Cook retired 11 straight St. Louis hitters.
But then in the sixth, the Cardinals loaded the bases on a walk to So Taguchi and singles by Jim Edmonds and Rolen. Encarnacion then doubled into the right-center field gap to put the Cardinals in front 4-2.
"When you don't make good pitches, a team like that will hurt you," Cook said.
The soft-spoken Encarnacion said his three-run double may be just what he needed to get back on track at the plate. Encarnacion had just three RBIs in all of May before doubling the total Thursday night.
"I'm starting to feel it a little bit," he said. "Hopefully, now I'll start to hit a bit more."
With the split in the four-game series, Colorado still hasn't won a series at home since the season opener against Arizona.
"We need to play better at home," said manager Clint Hurdle, whose team has dropped two in a row after a seven-game win streak. "We need to do things a little bit better."
Scott Spiezio, who left Tuesday's game after complaining of dizziness from a reaction to medication, took Pujols' place at first. He had a single and scored a run.
Pujols was inserted into the game as a defensive replacement in the ninth. But there was a deeper reason why La Russa cut short his night off.
"Just in case he plays 162," La Russa explained. "He might not need another day off the rest of the year."
Rockies OF Willy Taveras was held out of the starting lineup for the third straight game. Taveras had a ball smash off his right index finger on a bunt attempt. ... Colorado RHP Josh Fogg will be sent to Triple-A Colorado Springs for a rehab assignment on Saturday. Fogg is on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left groin. ... Cardinals SS David Eckstein missed his fifth straight game with back spasms. ... La Russa invited Broncos coach Mike Shanahan to the stadium as his guest. "I'm a great of admirer of his," La Russa said. "I lived in the Bay Area once, then followed him over here [in Denver]."