Pujols extends hit streak to 26 games with HR

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Albert Pujols frets and fusses before a game

if he doesn't feel right. He prefers to stay with a routine, get

everything down right and take that approach into his first at-bat.

Apparently, it's working.

Pujols and Tino Martinez hit three-run homers before Pittsburgh

retired a batter, and the St. Louis Cardinals rode the six-run

first inning to a 10-6 victory Tuesday night.

It was the second straight night Pujols has homered in the first

inning and his third straight game with a momentum-swinging homer.

His game-winning shot in the eighth off Braves bullpen ace John

Smoltz gave St. Louis a 3-2 win Sunday.

Pujols extended the Cardinals' longest hitting streak in 32

years to 26 games and tied Kenny Lofton and Nomar Garciaparra for

the longest streak in the majors this season.

"That's what you want to do -- do something right away," said

Pujols, who boosted his major league-leading average to .370. "If

you can score six runs right away, it's real big. The pitcher can

relax. You always want to score right away."

Pirates starter Josh Fogg (6-7), who has struggled since the

All-Star break, left without retiring any of the six batters he

faced. He gave up five hits -- three for extra bases -- and walked


Martinez drove in four runs for the Cardinals, whose two homers

gave them nine in three games -- all victories. St. Louis has won

four straight overall and seven of its last nine road games to

close within one game of NL Central-leading Houston, which lost 3-0

to the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday.

Fogg called it the worst start he's ever made. But Martinez

wasn't sure, even after Pujols' homer.

"With Albert, it's hard to judge -- he hits pitchers with good

stuff, so you have no idea," said Martinez, who hadn't homered

since July 4. "I always thought he (Fogg) had good stuff. It's

fortunate we jumped on him early."

The Pirates hit a season-high four homers off Cardinals starter

Brett Tomko (9-7), but all were solo shots. Tike Redman and Brian

Giles homered in a first inning that featured four homers, two by

each team. Reggie Sanders and Matt Stairs homered in succession to

start the sixth.

Tomko has allowed the most hits (198) and runs (100) in the NL,

yet is 7-2 since June 19 and has won four of five starts. Pitching

despite neck stiffness that threatened to push back his start,

Tomko lasted six innings, giving up eight hits.

"I'm going to give up homers," Tomko said. "I was trying to

stay with the game plan and be aggressive, but maybe I was trying

to be too aggressive."

Five relievers finished, including four in a ninth inning that

manager Tony La Russa said was beginning to make him uncomfortable.

Jason Simontacchi got the final out for his first save in 53 career


The Cardinals, who had hit 10 consecutive solo homers since Bo

Hart's grand slam Aug. 2 against the Mets, got a pair of three-run

shots within a span of four batters in the first.

Hart and Kerry Robinson singled ahead of Pujols, who hit his

33rd homer. Martinez's homer was his 11th and followed Jim Edmonds'

double and Scott Rolen's walk. Fogg was then replaced by Pat

Mahomes, who gave up Edgar Renteria's double before retiring the

next three batters.

Fogg has been roughed up for 23 earned runs and 35 hits in 21

1-3 innings while going 1-4 in his last six starts. He is 1-5 with

a 10.31 ERA in seven career starts against St. Louis and is 0-2

with a 12.60 ERA in three starts this season.

"It is becoming a concern," manager Lloyd McClendon said.

"He's not a power pitcher and he needs command of his pitches to

be successful. We need to find the problem and fix it and fix it


The Cardinals also scored three times in the fourth against

Mahomes on Robinson's run-scoring single and sacrifice flies by

Rolen and Martinez.

Game notes

Stairs had three hits for the Pirates, who left 22 runners

on base in the first two games of the four-game series. ... Pujols'

streak is the Cardinals' longest since Lou Brock's 26-game run in

1971. Rogers Hornsby holds the team record with a 33-game streak in

1922. ... Fogg was the first Pirates starter to be lifted without

getting an out since Esteban Loaiza gave up four runs in the first

against Florida on Aug. 6, 1997. ... Robinson is 12-for-21 (.571)

in his career at PNC Park. Pujols has 10 homers and 29 RBI in 22

career games in Pittsburgh. ... St. Louis is 4-1 in Pittsburgh this

season. ... The Cardinals are seven games over .500 (63-56) for the

first time since the final day of last season.