Albert Pujols leads St. Louis over Arizona with two homers


The fire from Monday night’s wild win was still burning Tuesday as the Cardinals torched the Diamondbacks with their offensive firepower for an 8-0 win. The excitement Monday had an element of surprise to it. Tony La Russa was ejected for the first time this season and St. Louis scored three runs thanks to two errors in the ninth to shock Arizona. Tuesday, there was no such surprise. […]

With the Fourth of July less than a week away, the Busch faithful was treated to an early fireworks display. It was one seen by the people of St. Louis and by opponents many times over the last decade. And like picnics and sparklers on Independence Day, it never seems to get old.

Albert Pujols provided the spark for the Cards easy win with a pair of two-run blasts in the third and the fifth, each driving home Felipe Lopez. Pujols brought Lopez around the bases again in the sixth with a double. He finished the night 3-for-4 with five RBIs and three runs scored. He scored on a wild pitch after reaching third on an error in another sloppy performance by Arizona. Lopez was 4-for-5 on the night and Matt Holliday was 2-for-2.

Adam Wainwright kept Arizona at bay to get the win. Waino fired for 6 1/3 scoreless innings and struck out seven for his 11th win of the season. He is a surefire All-Star selection this season and could move into the Cy Young discussion with a big second half. His ERA sits at 2.34 and 20 wins are within reach this year. He has his work cut out for him if Ubaldo Jimenez continues his historic dominance. Wainwright is right there, though, and he has proven he is an elite pitcher who is going to remain in the elite for years to come. After barely missing out on 20 wins last year, he’ll be hungry to reach the mark in 2010.

As for Arizona, the road hasn’t treated them well. The Diamondbacks fall to 12-30 when they’re the visitor compared to 18-18 at home. Arizona just doesn’t have the players to get the job done as they seem to be stuck in the rebuilding phase.

Dontrelle Willis has been trying to rebuild his career since he made a splash in Florida with his wacky leg kick and infectious smile. That all seems like another lifetime for the lefty who has struggled to find the strike zone for years now. Without his control, his effectiveness and his smile have also disappeared. He walked six and gave up seven hits and five runs in only four innings of work. The road back to the old days for Willis seems longer than ever. Right now, it looks like he’ll never find it.

The Cardinals are hoping to parlay their success into a bigger run in the second half. It has been somewhat of a roller coaster ride for the Redbirds, but they sit a half game ahead of Cincinnati for first place in the NL Central. St. Louis got some help from an injury-riddled Philadelphia team tonight. Without Placido Polanco and Chase Utley, the Phils pulled out a win behind their bench guys. Brian Schneider and Wilson Valdez led the way with their three-run homers to put the Phillies up 6-3 heading into the ninth. Brad Lidge made things interesting and the Reds tied the game on Joey Votto’s three-run blast into deep right center. The Phillies recovered with a big tenth inning to secure the win.

The Cards are in good position coming up on the All-Star break and they have more experience than the rival Reds which should play in their favor during the pressure-packed games in August and September. The Reds have depended on a young group of starters to carry them to this point. Can they keep it up or will they level off in the twilight of summer.

Only time will tell. And for now, the summer is only heating up as we head into July.

It always helps to have Albert Pujols on your side when things get tough.