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Nationals strike early for 8-3 win
Albert Pujols hit his 13th home run in Friday's loss.
ST. LOUIS -- Albert Pujols' record-tying 13th home run in April did nothing to bolster the spirits of the St. Louis Cardinals.
Pujols' eighth-inning blast tied the major league record for the month, but Nick Johnson and Ryan Zimmerman hit two-run homers in the first inning in the Washington Nationals' 8-3 victory on Friday night.
"This is about the Cardinals playing the Nationals and we got beat, so it's a bad night," manager Tony La Russa said. "Now, individually that is historic. But that doesn't make it an OK night, it makes it a bad night with a real highlight."
Pujols' drive came off a 2-0 pitch from Felix Rodriguez and matched the mark shared by Ken Griffey Jr. in 1997 with Seattle and Luis Gonzalez in 2001 with Arizona. It was Pujols' first homer in four games and left him with two games this month to break the record.
"I don't care about the home run," Pujols said. "It would have been great if I would have hit it and we would have won.
"It's just another home run for me."
Nationals manager Frank Robinson, who hit 586 career homers, knew better.
"Yeah, I can appreciate it," Robinson said. "You just make a slight mistake with him and don't get the ball exactly where you want it, he makes you pay."
Pujols also had an RBI single in the fifth and leads the majors with 31 RBIs to go with a .351 average.
Tony Armas (2-2) worked six solid innings for Washington, which ended a five-game losing streak. The Nationals totaled 10 runs during their skid. Johnson also had an RBI single in the second to raise his average to an NL-best .373, and Royce Clayton doubled twice and scored.
"It was awesome," Armas said. "Everything came together: hitting, pitching, everything. It's great just to win a game and hopefully it's the beginning."
Skip Schumaker snapped an 0-for-19 slump with an RBI double in the second, but it wasn't nearly enough to overcome a shaky outing from Jason Marquis.
The Cardinals played their fourth straight game without third baseman Scott Rolen, who remained at home with an upper respiratory ailment. St. Louis fell to 6-2 with two games left in a 10-game homestand and 10-4 at new Busch Stadium, every game a sellout.
Both of the losses on the homestand have gone to Marquis (3-2), who got Alfonso Soriano to pop up for the game's first out, but struggled thereafter. Johnson hit his sixth homer and Zimmerman his third for a 4-0 lead, the Nationals made it 5-0 on Johnson's RBI single in the second and 7-1 in the third on Soriano's two-run single.
"It's nice to score a lot of runs, but that's a good team," Johnson said. "You've got to keep plugging and keep battling."
Brian Schneider added a run-scoring single off Josh Hancock in the seventh.
Armas allowed two runs and four hits with five strikeouts and three walks. Marquis labored throughout in his worst start of the season, surrendering seven runs and eight hits with four walks and three strikeouts.
"I put my team in a hole early and couldn't get out of it," Marquis said. "I just didn't do my job."
Zimmerman, whose first career error at third base came one at-bat before Jim Edmonds' first-inning three-run homer on Thursday, also made the defensive play of the game. Zimmerman made a leaping catch of Yadier Molina's liner down the line, then tossed to first to double off John Rodriguez.
Notes: In his first four starts, Marquis allowed three homers in 25 1-3 innings. ... The Nationals' losing streak ended one shy of a season-worst six-game skid from April 9-14. ... Armas is 1-2 with a 5.13 ERA against the Cardinals. ... For the first time in five games, the Cardinals failed to score in the first, leaving two runners on when Scott Spiezio took a called third strike for the third out. ... Nationals CF Ryan Church left the game after five innings, suffering from flu-like symptoms.