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Cards use brains to beat Royals
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06/26/2004  8:48 PM ET 
Cards use brains to beat Royals
Pujols' steal sets up game-winning hit

Albert Pujols is greeted by Reggie Sanders after scoring the Cardinals' first run. (Ed Zurga/AP)
• Matheny drives in a run:  56K | 350K

KANSAS CITY -- Albert Pujols is known for the long ball, but he played a little small ball Saturday night in crunch time to help the Cardinals dig out another road win.

It was a rare Pujols stolen base in the 10th inning that set up the go-ahead run as St. Louis recorded a 3-1 win over the Royals at Kauffman Stadium.

Whatever it takes. And what it took for the first-place Cardinals this time was for Pujols to get aggressive on the bases after he drew a leadoff walk in the 10th.

With Rudy Seanez on the mound and Scott Rolen at the plate, Pujols did his best Lou Brock imitation by timing Seanez's move and beating catcher John Buck's throw to second. Rolen moved the runner over with a ground ball and Edgar Renteria -- with the infield drawn in -- laced a liner over shortstop for what proved to be the game-winning hit.

The Cardinals got an insurance run on Mike Matheny's single, but the talk in the St. Louis clubhouse was about how Pujols had set up the two-run rally with just his third stolen base of the season.

"That's what you want to do, try to get on base and create something," Pujols said.

If the Royals were guessing that Pujols wouldn't run with Rolen at the plate, they guessed wrong.

"He [Seanez] wasn't looking at me," Pujols said. "I just took a chance on it."

Pujols had done his homework, offering the statistic that Seanez's time to the plate was 1.29 seconds.

"Smart," Pujols said. "I'm not a fast runner, but I know how to run the bases. I know when the right time is to do it. Right there, if they throw me out, I'm dumb. But I don't think you can get in trouble for being aggressive."

   Edgar Renteria  /   SS
Born: 08/07/75
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 200 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R

The Cardinals rally in the 10th came after St. Louis had a heavy dose of good luck come its way in the bottom of the ninth. With runners at first and second, right-hander Julian Tavarez fell behind Mike Sweeney 3-0. It was either give Sweeney something good to hit or put the winning run on third with only one out.

Sweeney hit a sizzling liner which happened to go right to the shortstop Renteria, who doubled David DeJesus off second.

"We caught a huge break," Cardinals' manager Tony La Russa said. "A lot of times in this game, it's better to be lucky than good. But in the 10th, we were good."

La Russa termed the Pujols' steal "a game-winning play." Rolen got the runner over and Renteria drove him home.

"In the 10th inning, we had three of the best winning players in the Major Leagues back to back to back," La Russa said. "They can find a way to win a game one way or another."

Renteria said he was just trying to hit a fly ball in the 10th with the lead run at third and one out.

"He threw me a hanging slider and I stayed back and hit it through the middle," Renteria said.

The high-powered Cardinals offense couldn't generate much against Kansas City starter Dennys Reyes through seven innings. St. Louis managed just one run on four hits against Reyes before left-hander Jaime Cerda came on for the eighth.

The Cardinals did manage to break on top in the fourth when Pujols blasted a leadoff double off the right-field wall. Pujols moved to third on Rolen's bouncer to second and scored when Renteria doubled to right-center.

St. Louis starter Woody Williams protected that 1-0 lead until the fifth, when the Royals scratched out the tying run. Angel Berroa led off with a bloop single to center, moved to second on Buck's sacrifice bunt and took third on a wild pitch. Williams fanned DeJesus, but Tony Graffanino picked up his teammate with a two-out RBI single to right.

Williams wound up going eight innings and allowing just that one run.

"I thought Woody was heroic," La Russa said.

At 25-12 away from Busch Stadium, the Cardinals are finding a lot of road heroes these days.

Robert Falkoff is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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