Pujols homers twice as Cardinals romp

Pujols homers twice as Cardinals romp

ST. LOUIS -- The heart of the Cardinals' order has been productive all year long. What they've needed is some help. On Tuesday, they got it in a big way.

Felipe Lopez rapped out four base hits, scoring three times in front of Albert Pujols, as the Cardinals rolled past the D-backs, 8-0, at Busch Stadium. Pujols brought the thunder, hitting two home runs to tie Stan Musial for the most multi-homer games in Cardinals history. Adam Wainwright delivered another fine start, pitching 6 1/3 innings with seven strikeouts. But Lopez was the biggest difference between this night, and games where the Cards' have been quiet.

Starting at third base in place of David Freese, who was placed on the disabled list earlier in the day, Lopez shined.

"It's a great example of his value," manager Tony La Russa said. "Because you can take somebody like Freese, and other spots, and there's Felipe. This guy is really a weapon."

Lopez had been slumping for much of June, entering Tuesday's game with a .211 average and .278 on-base percentage for the month. But he showed signs of coming around on Monday with two hits, a run and an RBI, and on Tuesday he broke out in a big way.

The super-utility man singled and stole a base in the first inning. In the third, he singled, advancing to second on an error on the play, and scored when Pujols went deep. He singled and scored on Pujols' homer in the fifth, and he singled and scored on Pujols' double in the sixth.

Four-for-five, and suddenly things look a lot brighter for Lopez.

"It means a lot," he said. "I've been hitting the ball hard at people for like a month now, battling and just staying with my approach. I just know, sooner or later, it's going to pay off, like tonight. I don't throw helmets. I don't get frustrated, because I believe in my abilities."

The victory moved the Cardinals back ahead of the Reds in the National League Central, a half-game in front of the Reds, who lost to the Phillies.

It started with Wainwright, who came out dealing. The right-hander struck out the first two Arizona batters of the game. He got into some trouble in the top of the fifth, when the Snakes loaded the bases with no outs, but escaped the jam with a strikeout, a force play at home and a soft liner to shortstop.

"You certainly have to, against Wainwright in a 2-0 game, come away with at least one to cut it in half, if not tie the game or go ahead," D-backs manager A.J. Hinch said.

In the next half-inning, the Cardinals made them pay. Lopez led off with a single and scored on Pujols' homer. Wainwright made it 5-0 with an RBI single, and Aaron Miles doubled in a run, and the game had been broken open. Arizona starter Dontrelle Willis, once one of the National League's best pitchers, struggled to a four-plus inning loss.

Cardinals hitters worked six walks off of Willis en route to the team's ninth win in 14 games.

"He was one of the toughest guys in the league, when he was here in the National League, to face," Pujols said. "Because of his delivery, it's tough to pick up the ball. I was just trying to -- whatever it was, since my first at-bat, when I struck out on the slider, I just thought to myself, 'Just see the ball back to the middle. Let the ball get deep and, hopefully, get something up to hit.'"

He certainly did that, and he kept it going in the sixth. Manager Tony La Russa was able to get Wainwright out of the game after 6 1/3 innings, rather than riding the big righty deeper into the game. Wainwright improved to 11-5 on the year.

"I never really had a big lead until the last couple innings I went out there," he said. "It was kind of a nail-biter. It was 2-0, I had bases loaded and no outs. That game could have been completely different if they had put a crooked number up there."

Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.