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Pujols' third homer in ninth lifts Cards past Reds

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Albert Pujols hit three home runs, including a
winning drive that erased a ninth-inning deficit and put an
exclamation point on the St. Louis Cardinals' first homestand at
new Busch Stadium.

Then he did a little dance a few steps in front of home plate
before teammates mobbed him.

"Hey, you get a walkoff home run, you get to do whatever you
want," Pujols said after his two-run drive Sunday gave St. Louis
an 8-7 win over the Cincinnati Reds. "You need to be excited about
it. You don't get too many of those, so you need to enjoy them when
they come."

Pujols' eighth homer came on a 1-2 fastball from David Weathers
(0-1) and traveled an estimated 441 feet, ending a game that had
five lead changes. His second career three-homer game and sixth
game-ending homer topped off a 4-2 opening homestand at the $365
million ballpark. He matched career highs with five RBI and four
runs.

"There's a new memory for new Busch," manager Tony La Russa
said. "It'll be tough to top that one."

Pitcher Jason Marquis, who hit .310 last year with a homer and
10 RBI, got a chance to pinch hit because of Jim Edmonds' sore
shoulder, and he led off the ninth with a pinch single. The only
doubt on Pujols' blast was whether it would stay fair, and it ended
up about 10 feet fair and in the second deck.

Pujols relished the moment, although he wasn't interested in
comparing this game to his other three-homer game, at Chicago on
July 20, 2004.

"It doesn't remind me because that was two years ago," he
said. "I hit three in spring training and I don't even care.
Hopefully, tomorrow I hit three more and forget about today. Who
knows?"

Rich Aurilia's two-run double in the eighth, one batter after
right fielder Juan Encarnacion botched a potential double-play
flyout when he dropped the ball, had put the Reds in front. Aurilia
had three hits, and Adam Dunn and Austin Kearns homered on
consecutive at-bats in the fifth for Cincinnati, which lost
consecutive games for the first time this season.

Pujols and Scott Rolen connected on consecutive at-bats in the
bottom of the fifth for the Cardinals. Pujols has 14 multihomer
games, including two this season -- on opening day at Philadelphia.

Encarnacion was relieved that Pujols had a third homer in him.

"I just dropped it, no excuses," Encarnacion said. "He made
me feel much better."

Weathers, who had been 3-for-3 in save opportunities, said
Pujols hit a pitch that wasn't inside enough. He refused to work
the NL MVP carefully.

"Not at all, not at all, I don't pitch that way," Weathers
said. "He's a great hitter, but if you make your pitch, you can
get a double play. It was just a bad pitch and he hammered it."

Mark Mulder and Bronson Arroyo, pitchers who have combined to
hit three homers this season, gave up two long balls apiece and
failed to get the ball out of the infield in their at-bats. Both
labored through five shaky innings.

John Rodriguez added a two-run triple for the Cardinals.

Dunn hit a two-run shot on a full count with two outs in the
fifth for his seventh homer. He had five hits on the Reds' trip,
all of them homers, going 5-for-21 with 10 strikeouts. Kearns, who
is 8-for-17 in his last four games with two homers and seven RBI,
also connected on a full count for his fourth homer and a 4-2 lead
for the Reds.

The Reds victimized three pitchers in the eighth, with Quinton
McCracken's leadoff pinch homer coming off Adam Wainwright and
Aurilia's double coming against Braden Looper (1-0).

Both teams were again without their starting center fielders.
Edmonds missed his second game with right shoulder soreness after
receiving a cortisone shot on Friday night, and Ken Griffey Jr.
missed his fourth straight start for the Reds with stiffness behind
his right knee.

Both could return to the lineup on Monday. Reds manager Jerry
Narron said Griffey had been available to pinch hit.

Arroyo, the first pitcher in major league history to hit a homer
and earn a victory in each of his first two starts, labored for 94
pitches and is 0-2 with an 8.55 ERA in six career appearances
against St. Louis. He allowed five runs, six hits and three walks
with three strikeouts and was hitless in two at-bats.

Game notes
Dunn and Kearns were the last duo to hit consecutive homers
against the Cardinals, doing it in the regular-season finale at old
Busch Stadium on Oct. 2, 2005. ... The last time the Cardinals hit
consecutive homers also came in that game, by Reggie Sanders and
Chris Duncan. ... Mulder was struck below the right knee on a
comebacker in the fourth and limped around for a few minutes before
resuming. He doesn't expect it to affect his next start.