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Pujols homers in Cardinals' win over Pirates

Jul 23, 2011 - 4:54 AM Pittsburgh, PA (Sports Network) - Albert Pujols and David Freese each hit two- run homers and Chris Carpenter tossed eight innings to lift the St. Louis Cardinals to a 6-4 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates in the opener of an important three-game series at a rainy PNC Park.

Yadier Molina went 3-for-4 with a solo home run for the Cardinals, who along with the Pirates are one game behind the first-place Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central. The Brewers won in San Francisco Friday night.

Pujols finished 4-for-5 for the Cardinals, who have won back-to-back tilts on the heels of a three-game slide. Carpenter (6-7) earned the victory after allowing four runs on 10 hits and he also went 2-for-4 with an RBI at the plate.

"That was a nice win," said Carpenter. "We scored runs early and I was able to do what I needed to do to get deep in the game and give us a chance."

Fernando Salas allowed one hit in a scoreless ninth inning to record his 18th save.

Paul Maholm (6-10) was charged with the loss, surrendering five runs on 10 hits in six innings. It was just the third loss in eight decisions for Maholm, who had an RBI single in the setback.

"Early in the game he was leaving the rubber a little bit early. He wasn't quite getting the ball down as much as he wanted to," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said of Maholm's performance.

Michael McKenry had three hits for the Pirates, while Garrett Jones was 2-for-4 with two RBI. Ronny Cedeno, who was activated from the disabled list prior to the game, finished 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored.

The Pirates have dropped two in a row following a three-game winning streak.

After a 32-minute rain delay halted the start of the game, the Cardinals jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first. Jon Jay tripled with one out and came around on Pujols' 22nd home run of the season. Freese added another two-run homer after a Lance Berkman double to stake St. Louis to the early four-run advantage.

"Unfortunately, I made two bad pitches in the first," Maholm said.

Pittsburgh cut the deficit in half with two runs in the second. Jones started things with a two-out double and scored on Cedeno's single. Cedeno would later score on a single by Maholm to make it a 4-2 game.

Not to be outdone by Maholm, Carpenter pushed his club's lead to 5-2 with an RBI single of his own in the third.

The Pirates then scored a pair of runs in the sixth inning to make it a 5-4 game. Andrew McCutchen singled with one out and moved to third on a double by Lyle Overbay. Both runners would score on Jones' bloop single to left. Pittsburgh had a chance to tie the game with runners on first and third with two outs, but pinch-hitter Xavier Paul grounded out to end the threat.

Molina gave St. Louis an insurance run in the eighth, belting a solo homer to center to give the Cards a 6-4 advantage.

McKenry singled with one out in the ninth for Pittsburgh, but Salas struck out pinch-hitter Matt Diaz and got Alex Presley to line out to second to end the game.

Game Notes

Maholm was 4-0 with a 1.04 earned run average in his previous four home starts...Pujols has more home runs (27) at PNC Park than any other road stadium...Cedeno and fellow Pirates infielder Steve Pearce were activated from the disabled list today. To make room for the returning players, Pittsburgh optioned infielders Josh Harrison and Pedro Ciriaco to Triple-A Indianapolis on Thursday...Relief pitcher Jason Grilli was signed by the Bucs on Thursday and made his debut for the club by tossing a scoreless ninth. Grilli, who missed the entire 2010 season recovering from right knee surgery, was making his first MLB appearance since October 3. 2009...The Pirates are 24-15 against NL Central opponents this season, while St. Louis is 20-16 within the division.