Pujols' three-run double lifts Cardinals over Pirates

PITTSBURGH -- Willie Mays and Hank Aaron didn't drive in runs at the start of their careers like Albert Pujols has done. Stan Musial and Barry Bonds didn't, either.

Pujols hit a three-run double to reach the 100 RBIs mark for the ninth consecutive season and Adam Wainwright limited Pittsburgh to one run over 6 2/3 innings, leading the Cardinals past the Pirates 5-3 on Saturday night.

Pujols, who hits better in Pittsburgh than any other hitter, missed a chance to possibly break open the game when he grounded into a double play in the fifth with two on and none out. He made up for it an inning later with a bases-loaded double down the left field line that made it 5-0.

Pujols missed a chance for a sixth grand slam, but he rarely misses with the bases loaded. He is 8 for 10 with 27 RBIs with three runners on this season.

"It's an amazing run of production with the bases full," manager Tony La Russa said.

Teammates used similar adjectives to praise Pujols, the only National League player to begin his career with nine consecutive seasons of 100 or more RBIs. The only major league hitter with a longer streak is Hall of Famer Al Simmons, who had 11 consecutive seasons with the Philadelphia Athletics from 1924-34.

"It's very special," Pujols said. "It's pretty amazing, but you can't do it by yourself. It's not easy to do it for one year, to do it for nine years in a row is special."

Going into this season, Pujols was tied with Ted Williams at eight consecutive seasons, but now he's eclipsed Williams.

"Wow," Wainwright said when told of the Pujols' statistics. "He's unbelievable. He's been great all year. He's almost human. He's the best, period."

The Pirates probably agree. Pujols, who went 1 for 5, is hitting .429 against Pittsburgh this season with three homers and 11 RBIs in 11 games. He is career .380 hitter at PNC Park, where he has 64 RBIs in 67 career games.

Pujols insists he doesn't do anything differently at the plate with the bases loaded.

"I don't change my approach, It's nothing special with bases loaded -- it is special because I've come through so many times, but I haven't changed my approach at all," he said.

Wainwright (13-7) didn't need much support in dealing the Pirates their seventh consecutive loss, all at home. The Pirates' only run off the right-hander came on Delwyn Young's RBI single in the sixth, and Wainwright was pulled an inning later only because he threw 112 pitches, 83 for strikes.

Wainwright won his sixth in a row on the road -- he hasn't lost away from Busch Stadium since May 31 -- and is 9-1 in 11 road starts. He struck out six and didn't walk any as the Cardinals, back in first place in the NL Central, won for the eighth time in 11 games.

Ronny Cedeno hit a two-run homer with two out in the ninth against Jason Motte, but the Pirates still dropped their 12th in 14 games. They are 2-7 during a 10-game homestand that began July 31, when they finished up a series of trades that stripped their roster of five opening day starters.

The deals weakened a bullpen that has given up 26 runs in 29 innings since left-hander John Grabow was traded to the Cubs.

Pirates starter Charlie Morton (2-5) was effective, limiting the Cardinals to one run on Matt Holliday's RBI single in the fifth, but St. Louis scored four times in the sixth against right-hander Chris Bootcheck in his Pirates debut.

Bootcheck gave up Yadier Molina's single and walked Julio Lugo, Skip Schumaker and Colby Rasmus in a span of five batters to force in a run, and Pujols followed with his double.

"I got an opportunity to help my teammates but I missed (in the fifth), but I came through in the sixth and contributed big for my team," Pujols said.

Bootcheck walked only seven all season at Triple-A Indianapolis.

"Jittery, I don't know," manager John Russell said of the reliever, the 21st pitcher used by the Pirates this season. "He just nibbled at the plate."

After Cedeno homered, Ryan Franklin came on to get the final out and his 26th save in 28 attempts.

Game notes
The Cardinals have won three in a row in Pittsburgh after dropping five in a row there. ... St. Louis RHP Todd Wellemeyer will start Tuesday against Cincinnati after working out of the bullpen twice. ... RHP Kyle Lohse rejoined the Cardinals after attending a funeral. ... The crowd of 38,593 was the Pirates' largest at home this season.