ST. LOUIS -- Albert Pujols volunteered to play third base last week and got turned down.
In Tony La Russa's first game back, the manager told Pujols yes.The St. Louis Cardinals snapped a three-game losing streak in La Russa's return from illness, capitalizing on Cliff Lee's career-high six walks and succeeding with the manager's novel lineup ploy behind Jake Westbrook in a 3-1 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies on Monday night."He said, 'Are you sure?' " Pujols remembered La Russa saying. "If I don't think I can play third, you know what, I would never bring that up. It would be stupid for me to go out and embarrass myself."Westbrook (3-3) allowed a run in a season-high seven innings to outpitch Lee (2-4), who's winless in six starts since throwing a three-hit shutout at Washington on April 14 and departed after 122 pitches in 6 1/3 innings. Ryan Theriot, Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman walked twice apiece off Lee, helping the Cardinals rebound after getting swept at Cincinnati."It was a special night," La Russa said. "A lot to feel good about in this game."The Phillies totaled four hits and had only three runners in scoring position against Westbrook (3-3), who went only 2 1/3 innings in his last start but got his sinker back on track."Incredible. I mean, he was spot on," Berkman said. "We absolutely needed a game like that."Fernando Salas worked the ninth for his fourth save in four chances.Jimmy Rollins had two of the Phillies' five hits. The Phillies (25-15) have the best record in the NL, but injuries are mounting and they've scored six runs in a three-game losing streak."We couldn't get nothing going," manager Charlie Manuel said. "That's what we usually do when we're banged up. That's what we've got to do."The Phillies fielded a lineup lacking punch, minus Shane Victorino and Placido Polanco. Plus, Lee complained that he got squeezed by home plate umpire Gerry Davis."I felt like I threw a lot of strikes that were called balls, but whatever it is, it is," Lee said. "I'm the pitcher, he's the umpire. Its his job to calls balls and strikes and he felt like they were balls, I guess."It is what it is."The 66-year-old La Russa was back on the job after missing a six-game trip while getting treated for shingles, during which St. Louis went 2-4. His first lineup card, revised a couple of hours before game-time for better defense against a team that has four left-handed hitters, featured Pujols at third base for the first time since Sept. 23, 2002.Four players changed positions and Pujols said the biggest change was Allen Craig moving from second base, where he has very little experience, to right field.Pujols started 89 games at third base in 2001-02, his first two seasons, but this was his first start other than first base or designated hitter since 2004. He bobbled a potential double play ball in the second and the Phillies ended up scoring on Ben Francisco's RBI single, but otherwise looked comfortable and started a double play on John Mayberry Jr.'s grounder in the sixth."You catch the ball, try and make the routine play and don't try to be too cute," Pujols said. "Hopefully it doesn't happen too many times but whenever he needs me I'll be ready."Lee entered averaging 1.2 walks per nine innings, best in the National League, and walked no more than two in any of his previous eight starts this year. He wasn't hit hard, allowing six singles that were well-placed, and the Cardinals left the bases loaded in the first and fourth.Holliday and Berkman drew full-count walks to start the fourth and both scored on singles by Nick Punto and Theriot, the latter for a 2-1 lead. Jon Jay's RBI single chased Lee in the seventh.
Holliday misjudged Punto's single on a flare to right with the bases loaded in the fourth and narrowly beat a throw to the plate on a potential force. ... Victorino missed his second straight game and Polanco didn't start due to a 4 for 22 slump, then struck out looking as a pinch hitter in the eighth and finished at 3B. ... Ryan Howard walked his first three at-bats. ... Theriot was 2 for 2 with two walks against Lee. He entered 2 for 11 against the lefty.