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09/01/08 9:42 PM ET
Cards lose wild slugfest to D-backs
Pujols reaches 30 homers in first eight big league seasons
By Mike Ritter / MLB.com
PHOENIX -- Four home runs weren't enough for the Cardinals to top the D-backs on Monday afternoon at Chase Field. The Cardinals' bullpen faltered in the sixth and seventh innings, as the D-backs came back from a four-run deficit to defeat St. Louis, 8-6, in front of 35,075. The Cardinals lost their fourth game in a row -- all on the road -- and have guaranteed themselves just their second losing road trip of the season, with just two games remaining in Phoenix. It was a game that featured eight home runs, 24 hits, 12 pitchers and a cycle between the two teams. But with all four of the Cardinals' homers coming in the second and third innings off Randy Johnson, it looked like all starting pitcher Joel Pineiro had to do was coast. Instead, the D-backs clubbed three home runs of their own off Pineiro. The right-hander left the game with a 5-4 lead, but relievers Ron Villone and Kyle McClellan gave up four runs though 1 1/3 innings as the D-backs stayed ahead for good. After a scoreless first, Cardinals pitchers allowed runs to score in every inning but the eighth. "The offense did all they could do," Pineiro said. "We need to come through as pitchers. We didn't do our job. It's a bad time to have a funk like this. After getting that good of run support and that big of a lead, I wasn't able to put them away. Sometimes you've got to tip your cap to the hitters, but I still have to make a better pitch to finish them off. The put-away pitch was just not there today." Catcher Yadier Molina led off the second with a solo home run. Two batters later, outfielder Joe Mather hit another solo homer to give the Cards a two-run lead. In the third, Albert Pujols clubbed a 1-1 fastball 416 feet over the left-field wall. It was his 30th home run, meaning he has hit at least 30 homers in each of his first eight big league seasons. Felipe Lopez added another homer in the third. The four homers allowed tied a career high for the Big Unit, done two other times in his career. Pineiro allowed four runs on three homers by Adam Dunn, Stephen Drew and Mark Reynolds. "I should have never put the relievers in that situation, but I did," Pineiro said. "I've still got to go out there and make better pitches." D-backs shortstop Drew hit for the cycle -- the first in Chase Field history -- and had five hits overall. David Eckstein made his debut for the D-backs and went 2-for-4 with two RBIs against his former team. "You come some place new and you want to go out there and do something for them," Eckstein said. "The first thing I did was check out who we would be playing and it was St. Louis. I was like, 'Hey that's pretty interesting.' I enjoyed playing there. The fans, the organization, I just had a great time. I think it helped me out with positioning because I kind of knew guys." Eckstein, acquired on Sunday from the Blue Jays, had a sacrifice fly and two singles after grounding into a double play in the first. "If you can get the lead on Randy Johnson, you like that and you try and pull it out, but it's just another loss," Mather said. Mather left the game with a sprained left wrist while trying to check his swing. Mather will see a hand specialist on Tuesday to determine the extent of the injury, but Cardinals manager Tony La Russa was not optimistic Mather would be able to finish the season. Mather was replaced in center field by Skip Schumaker in the fourth. Mather's injury just adds to the Cardinals' misery. The team with the second-best road record in the National League has lost its first four on its trip and is quickly fading out of playoff contention with just 24 games remaining. "You can't lose a game like this," La Russa said. "Every time we put a ball where we shouldn't have, they hit it out of the park. We made too many mistakes to win a game like this. We could have scored some more." Added Pineiro: "It's a very odd road trip. We have to get out of this funk."
Mike Ritter is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.