Cards cruise to seventh straight win

Cards cruise to seventh straight win

ST. LOUIS -- In the midst of their longest winning streak since 2004, the Cardinals offense on Sunday embodied the adjective that best characterized that season's 105-win club: relentless.

St. Louis hitters smacked 15 base hits, four of them by Albert Pujols, in an 11-3 drilling of the Dodgers at Busch Stadium. The Cardinals scored more than once in four separate innings, hitting Dodgers starter Brad Penny and the Los Angeles relief corps hard and often. The 11 runs were the most by the Cardinals since a 13-5 Opening Day win over Philadelphia.

Every St. Louis starter except pitcher Anthony Reyes had at least one hit, and nine different Cardinals either drove in or scored a run (or both). The Cardinals have won seven in a row, their longest streak since Aug. 27-Sept. 5, 2004. The run immediately followed a stretch in which the club lost 13 of 16.

At 3-2 in the third inning, the Cardinals had seized the lead for good, although that certainly wasn't evident at the time. With a 6-2 advantage after five, the game was well in hand. Yet the bats kept assaulting Dodgers pitching, with three runs in the seventh and two more in the eighth. That completed the first four-game sweep of the Dodgers by the Cardinals since July 1987.

"We go about our business the same way no matter what the score is," said Scott Spiezio, who singled, scored and drove in a run. "We want to go up and have good at-bats and try to drive in as many runs as we can. Get on base, do whatever it takes. We've been getting great starting pitching, and today we just kept going up there and having quality at-bats."

The offensive outburst helped Reyes (3-3) secure the third win of his big league career, and his first since a spot start on May 20. Reyes allowed two runs over five capable innings, striking out five and allowing one walk. He gave up a 1-0 lead with a two-run second, but was unscathed after that.

Reyes' solid showing continued a fine run by Cardinals' starters. Over the winning streak, the St. Louis starter has allowed two or fewer runs in five of seven games. After Reyes was handed a second lead, he retired six of his last seven batters and did not permit another base hit.

"It definitely helps," he said of the runs. "It gives me something to work with. When I gave up those runs, I knew I couldn't give up any more. So I just tried to do my best to keep the ball down and try to keep guys off base."

Pujols and Duncan paired up to produce the early runs, and their mates took it from there. In the first, the two men rapped back-to-back doubles to take the initial lead. Singles by David Eckstein and Duncan set up Pujols for a game-tying single in the third, and Jim Edmonds put the Cards ahead with an RBI groundout. Duncan singled in the fifth to start another rally, scoring on a Pujols double that made it 4-2. Yadier Molina's double that inning made it 6-2.

"We've got so many good players," said Duncan, who is 6-for-his-last-9. "When you go out there and you get a chance to see some of these guys, it's pretty amazing. Watching Albert hit with guys in scoring position, guys on base, is pretty unbelievable. He's such a clutch hitter. We've got a lot of other guys that are coming through, and it's real fun to watch."

Pujols beat out an infield hit to open the seventh, and then the bottom half of the order came through. Three straight base hits and an RBI groundout stretched the advantage. John Rodriguez's homer in the eighth, making it 13 straight games that the Cardinals have gone deep, capped the scoring.

"That's the way we try to play," Edmonds said. "We always try to score some runs no matter what the score is, just because you never know. This is the big leagues and there are some talented teams out there. When you're four or five runs up, any team can come back pretty quickly. So we just tried to put some distance between us and the other team, and hopefully our pitching will keep them down."

The hurlers assuredly did that. Josh Hancock pitched one-plus scoreless inning, and Tyler Johnson offered two impressive shutout frames. Josh Kinney allowed a run in the ninth that ended a 20-inning shutout streak for St. Louis' bullpen, but it hardly mattered.

"We pitched really well," said manager Tony La Russa, "and it's especially significant, because we pitched against a very good offense."

With wins by St. Louis and Cincinnati and another loss by Houston, the National League Central is threatening to become a two-team race. The Cardinals lead the Reds by four games, with the third-place Astros a full eight games out.

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