ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals got everything they could have asked for out of their new face on Friday night, and the one thing they were hoping for out of an old favorite.
As for the two players in question, they were just happy not to have to face each other anymore. New teammates Albert Pujols and Edwin Jackson shared marquee billing as the Cardinals thumped the Cubs, 9-2, at Busch Stadium.
Jackson, acquired in a trade from Toronto on Wednesday, pitched seven excellent innings for the win. Meanwhile, Pujols recorded his 2,000th Major League base hit with an eighth-inning RBI double that helped salt away the victory.
In discussing his milestone, Pujols actually said he regretted that his milestone would take some of the spotlight away from Jackson's impressive debut.
"He did unbelievable for his first game with us," Pujols said. "He was able to get us a win, give us a little boost."
Jackson showcased the power arm that the Cardinals coveted when they acquired him, mowing down a Chicago team that lost its fourth straight game. He outshone the Cubs' prized trade acquisition from the previous offseason, right-hander Matt Garza, in a matchup of former Tampa Bay teammates.
Pujols doubled and scored in the fourth and doubled in a run in the eighth. He became the 263rd player in Major League history to reach the 2,000-hit plateau and the fifth to record that many hits as a member of the Cardinals. Eleven players hit that mark in fewer games than Pujols, who needed 1,650 to get there.
"Hats off to him," Jackson said. "It's a great accomplishment. Two thousand hits, there's not many guys that have a chance to accomplish that."
Jackson rarely cruised but never seemed truly taxed in allowing seven hits over seven innings. He struck out four against two walks and threw nearly 70 percent of his pitches for strikes. His fastball hit 97 mph, highlighting the different look that he brings to a Cardinals rotation heavy on sinker-throwing, ground-ball pitchers.
Still, Jackson wasn't inefficient or wasteful with his offerings, needing a fairly tidy 95 pitches to get his 21 outs. In a nice bit of symmetry, he gave way to the man he replaced in the rotation, with Kyle McClellan taking the ball to start the eighth inning.
"Just going out there and trying to make a nice debut and be aggressive," Jackson said. "I didn't start off the way I wanted to, with a leadoff walk, but I was just trying to find a groove right after that. Continued to pound the zone and let these guys play great defense behind me, which they did all night."
The Cards provided Jackson plenty of offense, scoring more than three runs for only the second time in six games. David Freese's three-run homer in the fourth set the pace, following Pujols' first double and Matt Holliday's infield single.
Two frames later the Cards put together more of a long-form rally, compiling two doubles, a single and two walks in a three-run sixth. Ryan Theriot's pinch-hit two-run double was the big blow in the outburst.
Garza had allowed two or fewer runs in each of his past three starts. On Friday, however, he wasn't quite at his best.
"He wasn't quite as sharp tonight," Cubs manager Mike Quade said. "We haven't given him run support, and it's been so difficult for us to score runs, especially lately, that it's tough. He threw the ball well enough to win a game if you could score a run for him."
The Redbirds defense made some sparking plays, including two from right field. The Cards doubled up Geovany Soto attempting to take third base on Tyler Colvin's second-inning sacrifice fly to Corey Patterson, changing the look of an inning that threatened to get scary. In the seventh, Skip Schumaker gunned down Colvin as he tried to score from second on a single.
The Cardinals remained 1 1/2 games behind the first-place Brewers, who beat Houston, in the National League Central. However, they're now alone in second place, a game ahead of Pittsburgh, thanks to the Pirates' loss at Philadelphia.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.