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Must C Clutch: Schumaker launches a walk-off homer

ST. LOUIS -- Once again, the Cardinals' resilience was tested on Sunday. Once again, they answered the test with flying colors.

One half-inning after losing a late lead, and 3 1/2 innings after losing their superstar first baseman to an injury, the Cardinals pulled out a hard-earned 5-4 win over the Royals at Busch Stadium. Skip Schumaker's walk-off home run against lefty Tim Collins was the final blow in a truly memorable game.

"I'm not sure there's a better feeling than hitting a home run, a walk-off, it doesn't happen too often," Schumaker said. "I'll take it when I can get them."

Albert Pujols collected three hits and scored two runs, including a solo home run in the fifth, before leaving the game with a sprained left wrist that will be examined further on Monday.

The inning after his homer gave the Cardinals a 3-2 lead, Pujols collided with Wilson Betemit on a play at first base after Betemit hit a slow roller up the middle. Pete Kozma fielded the ball and made a hurried throw that tailed away from first base towards the infield grass. When Pujols lurched for the ball, he made contact with a charging Betemit.

"He hit me in the wrist and shoulder and kind of jammed it back," Pujols said. "As a first baseman it's one of the toughest plays to make, it's almost a bang-bang play and you can't let the ball go. You risk it and, hopefully, don't get hurt."

But Pujols got hurt, and as the slugger went to the ground in obvious pain, an eerie hush fell over the crowd.

"Basically, he ran the mitt into me," Betemit said. "I didn't know where he was going. I was running hard and the ball got there at the same time I got to the base. I couldn't do anything, it just happened."

Betemit came around to score the tying run, but the game didn't remain deadlocked for long.

Rookie Andrew Brown led off the sixth with a single. Daniel Descalso sacrificed him to second, and Schumaker singled to left to put the Cardinals ahead. That appeared to be the game-winner until the ninth, when the Royals' Alcides Escobar went deep against closer Fernando Salas.

However, Schumaker got Salas off the hook with his second career walk-off home run. It was the first home run against a left-handed pitcher in Schumaker's Major League career.

"I hit a few in the Minors, but not many. They don't come too often so it was a good time to hit it," he said.

Schumaker's 404-foot blast was the third walk-off home run for the Cardinals in their past four wins at Busch III, with all four victories coming in the Cards' final turn at the plate. Pujols hit successive walk-off shots against the Cubs over the first weekend in June, preceding a lengthy road trip, and Matt Holliday hit a long homer on Saturday in the bottom of the eighth inning.

Schumaker, who is usually the first one out of the dugout to mob a teammate who hits a winning shot, experienced a role reversal as he met his teammates waiting for him at home.

"I'm one of the guys that likes to beat up guys in the pile, and they decided that it was my turn. I'll take it any day, though, don't get me wrong," Schumaker said. "There's definitely some marks on the body for sure. Right now, I'm pretty sore."

But not everyone got the chance to partake in the celebration at home plate.

"I was disappointed that I was out of the game, and I didn't get to punch Schumaker in the ribs," Pujols said.

Cardinals starter Jaime Garcia was effective but inefficient. Garcia lasted 5 1/3 innings, allowing two earned runs on seven hits while striking out five.

"It wasn't the best but I was just battling and trying to stay in the game for as long as possible and give us a chance," Garcia said.

Danny Duffy started for the Royals and was cruising until he departed in the fourth inning with cramping in his left calf. Duffy struck out nine in 3 2/3 innings and fanned seven of the final 10 batters he faced.

The Cards won back-to-back games after losing seven in a row, and they pulled back into a first-place tie in the National League Central. Milwaukee lost to the Red Sox at Fenway Park on Sunday afternoon.

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