Pujols homers off Smoltz in eighth to win game

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- It all happened so quickly, even Braves

shortstop Rafael Furcal wasn't sure what he accomplished.

Furcal turned the 12th unassisted triple play in major league

history, but the St. Louis Cardinals beat Atlanta 3-2 Sunday night

on Albert Pujols' tiebreaking homer off John Smoltz in the eighth


Furcal single-handedly snuffed out a Cardinals rally in the

fifth for the first unassisted triple play in the majors since

Oakland second baseman Randy Velarde did it against the New York

Yankees on May 29, 2000.

"I didn't know right away," Furcal said. "I wasn't thinking

of trying to get three outs by myself, I was just trying to get


With runners on first and second, Furcal made a leaping grab of

pitcher Woody Williams' liner. The runners were going on a 1-1

pitch, and Furcal stepped on second base to double up Mike Matheny

before tagging out Orlando Palmeiro as he made a futile attempt to

scamper back to first.

Furcal said he was once involved in a triple play in the minors.

"But it wasn't all by myself," he added.

Williams is one of the best hitting pitchers in the majors, with

a .250 batting average and seven RBI.

"That's amazing," he said. "I told myself to just hit the

ball on the ground and all of a sudden it's there, and I reach for

it off the end of the bat. It's a nice play on Furcal's part."

Gary Sheffield homered and hit a sacrifice fly for the Braves,

who took a 2-1 lead into the eighth. But Eduardo Perez homered off

Horacio Ramirez with two outs and Pujols followed with his 31st of

the season on a 1-0 pitch from Smoltz (0-2).

"You don't want to face that guy in that situation," Pujols

said. "He's the best guy. I guess I got lucky and won the


The home run extended Pujols' hitting streak to 24 games. The

Cardinals took two of three from the NL's top team and manager Tony

La Russa said it gets better "only in October."

"That's one of those 'wow' victories," La Russa said. "You

watch Eduardo tie it up and you go 'wow, wow,' and then Smoltz

comes in and you think 'Man, I wonder how long we're going to play.

"Then Albert does what he does and it's beyond 'wow."

Pujols is 36-for-94 during the streak (.383) and is hitting a

major league-best .368 overall.

Sheffield was 3-for-3, extending his hitting streak to 15 games.

Smoltz has given up only two homers in 57 2-3 innings.

"I'm used to coming in when we're ahead," Smoltz said. "I

tried to blow it by him obviously, and it didn't work. I'm not

disgusted with myself, just the result."

Cal Eldred (5-4) worked a hitless eighth for the win, and Jason

Isringhausen got three straight outs for his 11th save in 12


The Cardinals scored only 14 runs on 34 hits during a 3-3

homestand, going 5-for-36 with runners in scoring position.

Matheny singled to start the fifth and Palmeiro reached when

Ramirez threw late to second on his sacrifice bunt. Williams tried

to bunt earlier in the at-bat, but was allowed to swing away.

The Cardinals have hit into two triple plays this season, also

doing it April 10 at Colorado.

One of the 12 unassisted triple plays in the modern era (since

1900) came in the 1920 World Series, when Indians second baseman

Bill Wambsganss did it in the fifth inning of Game 5 against


Ramirez allowed five hits in 7 2-3 innings, including Matheny's

second-inning homer.

Sheffield is 24-for-56 (.429) during his hitting streak with

five homers and 15 RBI. His seventh-inning sacrifice fly gave the

Braves a 2-1 lead. He also reached on an infield single in the

first, hit his 29th homer leading off the fourth and singled in the


Williams, among the league leaders with 14 wins, lasted seven

innings. He allowed two runs and eight hits.

Game notes
RF Perez saved a run with his diving catch of Vinny

Castilla's sinking drive to end the fourth. ... The Braves won the

season series 4-2. ... Pujols' hitting streak is the longest for

the Cardinals since Joe McEwing hit in 25 straight games in 1999.

... Matheny hit his fifth homer, and first since June 21. ...

Sheffield is 10-for-27 lifetime against Williams with five homers

and 10 RBI. ... It was the first unassisted triple play in Atlanta

history -- Ernie Padgett of the Boston Braves turned one on Oct. 6,

1923. ... The Cardinals have hit into two unassisted triple plays.

On May 7, 1925, Pittsburgh shortstop Glenn Wright caught Jim

Bottomley's ninth-inning line drive, stepped on second to retire

Jimmy Cooney and tagged Rogers Hornsby coming from first to end the