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Redbirds hoist La Russa to No. 4 on career wins list
St. Louis upped its lead to 8 1/2 games with a 5-2 victory over Tampa Bay.
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Tony La Russa is focused on trying to take the Cardinals back to the World Series, not any personal milestones he could be in line to pass along the way.
The long-time manager tied Bucky Harris for fourth on the career wins list with a 5-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays on Saturday night, however he was more interested in talking about why it's so much fun to work with the defending NL champions.
Albert Pujols homered to help Matt Morris (8-0) remain unbeaten, and the Cardinals hiked their lead in the NL Central to a season-high 8 1/2 games over the Chicago Cubs with La Russa's 2,157th victory.
"Career win total is not 2005's priority. I'd rather be consistent with our players. We're not talking about anything but the chance to get back to October, and I'm definitely not going to disappoint them," La Russa said.
Morris allowed two runs and five hits in eight innings and retired 15 of the last 16 batters he faced. The Devil Rays had one hit off the right-hander -- Carl Crawford's eighth-inning triple -- after the third.
Pujols snapped a 2-2 tie with a two-run homer off Mark Hendrickson (2-4) in the fifth. Scott Seabol had an RBI single in the fourth, and So Taguchi tied it with an RBI single before scoring on Pujols' drive into the right-field seats.
"One reason this club is fun to be around is that there's a couple of areas that are not real moneymakers that players nowadays don't concentrate on as much -- baserunning and defense," La Russa said.
"Our guys, they like running the bases and they like playing defense, and that counts for a lot. ... Our guys really work at the complete game, and it's a tribute to them."
Julio Lugo and Jorge Cantu had run-scoring singles off Morris in the third, but Tampa Bay didn't have another hit until Crawford's triple with one out in the eighth. Morris retired 13 straight before the hit, then got out of the jam by getting Lugo and Aubrey Huff to fly out.
Morris struck out six and walked none. Jason Isringhausen pitched the ninth for his 20th save in 21 chances.
Travis Lee singled and Jonny Gomes doubled with one in the ninth for Tampa Bay, but Isringhausen struck out Reggie Taylor and pinch-hitter Alex Gonzalez to end the game.
"We had some chances. We just didn't take advantage of them there at the end," Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella said.
"Our advance scout said they're the most complete club we've seen all year. You can see that they don't beat themselves. They're veteran. They know how to play, their pitchers throw strikes, they make contact and they've got have some power. I think that covers all the bases."
Scott Rolen returned to the Cardinals' lineup after missing 33 games with a left shoulder strain. The third baseman went 1-for-4 with two strikeouts and committed a fielding error on Travis Lee's ground ball in the fourth.
Pujols' opposite-field homer was his 17th of the season. The Cardinals' slugger was 0-for-6 in the series up to that point, and the 371-foot shot brought most of the largely red-clad crowd of 20,416 to its feet.
Yadier Molina made it 5-2 with an RBI single in the sixth off Hendrickson, who allowed five runs and 10 hits in eight innings.
St. Louis starting pitchers lead the majors with 38 wins. Morris, Chris Carpenter, Jason Marquis and Mark Mulder, who beat Tampa Bay in the series opener Friday night, have all won at least eight.
"You get the lead in any game, you don't want to give it up," Morris said. "I went out there with a little more aggression and just tried to make pitches."
Notes: The Cardinals wore replica blue road uniforms from their 1982 world championship season, while the Devil Rays wore replica jerseys that Piniella wore when he played at the University of Tampa in the early 1960s. ... The Devil Rays have led in 25 of their last 32 games, yet are 10-22 during the stretch. ... To make room on the roster for Rolen, who was hurt May 10 when he collided with Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman Hee-Seop Choi, the Cardinals optioned OF Skip Schumaker to Triple-A Memphis.