ST. LOUIS -- Albert Pujols would be happy if every St. Louis Cardinals game included a "buddy walk" for children with Down Syndrome. It certainly brings out the best in the team's star.
Pujols, whose adopted daughter Isabella has Down Syndrome, hit a two-run home run in his first at-bat in Sunday's 3-1 victory over the Florida Marlins.Since becoming spokesman for the games in 2002, he's 10-for-24 with six homers and 11 RBIs and the Cardinals are 5-1. He homered in his first three at-bats in the 2006 game.The children get a chance to walk around the warning track, and some get to stand on the field next to the players during the National Anthem."It's always good because you see all the kids and they say you hit a home run for them," Pujols said. "Obviously, it was a pretty special day for them and I'm glad we got a win."Adam Wainwright worked eight stingy innings and rookie Chris Perez got the last two outs for his seventh save in 10 chances, shaking off consecutive blown saves, helping the Cardinals take two of three for their first series win since Aug. 22-24, when they took two of three from the Braves.Aaron Miles tripled and scored on pinch hitter Josh Phelps' single off Arthur Rhodes in the seventh for an insurance run for St. Louis, which has won only three of its last nine and is five games back of the Brewers for the NL wild card with 19 to go.It was also Pujols bobblehead day, with a sellout crowd of 46,045 giving the franchise 3 million in attendance for the fifth straight year and the 10th time in 11. The Cardinals are the fifth team in the major leagues to top 3 million, following the Yankees, Mets, Dodgers and Cubs.After the game, Pujols said he hadn't seen his bobblehead. Manager Tony La Russa said the pregame event was definitely the bigger deal."He's amazing," La Russa said. "Those kids inspire him. He's inspired by them, and he should be."Thousands of fans lined up hours before the game to make sure they got the Pujols keepsake. Pujols didn't disappoint them, hammering a 2-2 pitch from Josh Johnson (4-1) over the wall in left-center for a 2-0 lead."It's tough, because you can't stay in one spot, you've got to locate on both sides of the plate the entire at-bat," Johnson said. "You can't make a mistake or he's going to hammer it."Pujols also hit a two-run homer in the first inning of Saturday's 5-3 win and leads the NL with a .359 average.Mike Jacobs hit his 30th homer leading off the second, his second of the series after homering for the first time in 70 career at-bats against the Cardinals on Friday. The Marlins need a homer from Hanley Ramirez to give them three 30-homer players for the first time in franchise history. Dan Uggla is also at 30 on the year."I think anytime you hit 30 home runs in a year, it's pretty big," Jacobs said. "Guys aren't hitting 60 or 70 anymore."Wainwright (9-3) allowed six hits and struck out six, with one walk, to beat the Marlins for the first time in four career appearances, including two starts. The only NL teams he has not beaten are the Mets and Padres.Wainwright is 3-0 with a 1.78 ERA, 19 strikeouts and four walks in 25 1/3 innings over four starts since recovering from an injury to the middle finger on his pitching hand that sidelined him for two months. His only shaky sequence came in the second, when Uggla followed Jacobs' homer with a drive that center fielder Skip Schumaker ran down at the wall."It just proves to me and to everyone else that I'm back ready to be out there pitching until they take the ball from me," Wainwright said. "Hopefully after this game everybody has confidence to let me go as long as I can."Perez wasn't used on Saturday, when Ryan Franklin got his 15th save. Kyle McClellan was warming up after Uggla greeted Perez with a single and La Russa said he would have made a change if Josh Willingham, who flied out for the final out, had kept the Marlins alive.Johnson allowed three runs and seven hits in 6 2/3 innings and took the loss for the first time since June 29, 2007 against the Braves. All four of his wins had come after a Marlins loss, and Florida fell to 9-3 in his starts.
Rhodes hasn't allowed a run in 16 appearances with the Marlins since arriving on the trade deadline from the Mariners, but allowed his second inherited runner out of 10 to score when he gave up two hits and retired no one in the seventh. ... Felipe Lopez got his second start at 3B and made an outstanding play on Ramirez' grounder down the line to open the game. ... The Cardinals are 18-8 the last four seasons against the Marlins.