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Must C Crushed: Pujols sends a mammoth shot to left

ST. LOUIS -- Albert Pujols gave the Cardinals a much-needed jolt on Sunday night.

With the Cards trailing by two runs after the top of the first inning, Pujols belted the second pitch he saw into the left-field seats for a two-run homer that traveled an estimated 465 feet -- the longest ever at Busch Stadium III.

David Freese and Yadier Molina each contributed run-scoring two-out doubles in the first to cap the four-run outburst as the Cards went on to beat the Rockies, 6-2, to salvage a series win and remain five games behind the Brewers in the National League Central.

"It feels good to hit one like that, but as long as it goes over the wall that's all that matters," Pujols said. "To come back and tie the game right there and be able to take the lead with two outs is huge."

Pujols' NL-leading 29th home run of the season not only tied the game at 2, but it awakened a Cardinals club that at times seemed lifeless during its six-game homestand. The slugger's two-run shot broke teammate Lance Berkman's record; his was a 452-foot home run on July 5 against the Reds.

"Anytime you can put up a tie right away it changes the whole feel of the game," said manager Tony La Russa. "That's an Albert home run, that ball was really struck perfectly."

Edwin Jackson got off to a rough start in his fourth outing with the Cardinals and was touched for a pair of runs in the first. He gave up a home run to the second batter he faced and allowed four of the first five batters to reach base. Jackson loaded the bases with a two-out walk, but managed to escape the inning with a strikeout.

"It was just a battle from then on," Jackson said.

When all was said and done, Jackson needed 37 pitches to end the 21-minute frame.

"It seemed like it was a long time," Jackson said. "I had a hard time trying to find my rhythm early in the game. It's better if you can come out from the first pitch and have a rhythm."

After that, Jackson settled in and turned in a solid outing. He lasted 5 1/3 innings and gave up two runs on eight hits while striking out four against three walks. Jackson was erratic at times, but benefited from three double plays -- two of which ended innings.

Jackson, though, left the game with what the team called a right hamstring cramp. He fell behind 3-0 to Ty Wiggington and then headed to the dugout clutching his hamstring. Jason Motte relieved Jackson and battled back to induce a flyout.

"You've got to come in and throw strikes," Motte said. "I just went in there and tried to throw strikes and it ended up working out for me."

Jackson said it was only a minor cramp and would not force him to miss a start.

The Cardinals jumped on Colorado starter Esmil Rogers early, but the right-hander calmed down after the first and went five innings. Rogers pitched himself out of trouble all night, allowing four runs on six hits. He lacked command, though, and issued seven walks against five strikeouts.

The Redbirds heavily leaned on their bullpen to finish the game, and used three pitchers during a crucial seventh inning that had a chance to get ugly for the home team.

Kyle McClellan started the frame and gave up a pair of hits before being lifted in favor of Arthur Rhodes. Making his Cards debut, Rhodes walked Carlos Gonzalez on eight pitches to load the bases with one out.

Octavio Dotel relieved Rhodes, and promptly struck out two of the Rockies' most dangerous hitters -- Troy Tulowitzki and Todd Helton -- to end the threat.

"Dotel was incredible," La Russa said. "To escape Tulowitzki and Helton, that's better than big league, that's upper league. There was a lot riding on getting those outs."

With the game hanging in the balance, Dotel pitched with the poise of a 13-year veteran.

"You can't put in your mind, 'Oh my God, I've got to face those guys,'" Dotel said. "All you have to do is throw the ball over the plate and try to get ahead. In those situations I want to calm myself down and get the most relaxed I can. It makes me feel good because I saved the game at that moment."

Dotel fooled Tulowitzki with a curveball for his first strikeout, going with one of his secondary pitches to get the biggest out of the game.

"He's usually a hard slider guy," Tulowitzki said. "I think he just kind of felt like that was the pitch to get me out. That was a good pitch."

Molina and Skip Schumaker added RBI singles in the seventh to round out the scoring for St. Louis.

The Cardinals begin a three-game series at Pittsburgh on Monday as they look to keep pace with the Brewers.

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