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Cards crush Cubs
CHICAGO -- Albert Pujols' third homer on a testy Tuesday at Wrigley Field brought the St. Louis Cardinals all the way back and sent the Chicago Cubs to a crushing defeat.
"It was the first time I've hit three home runs and it came at the right time," Pujols said after his shot in the ninth helped the Cardinals to an 11-8 comeback victory.
"It's one of those days you never forget."
Pujols went 5-for-5 with a double and five RBIs, helping St. Louis rally from a six-run deficit in the final meeting of the season between the heated rivals. The Cardinals left town with a 10-game lead over the third-place Cubs in the NL Central.
"I take every game like it's the last game of the World Series, but this is extra special right here," Pujols said. "You're playing against your rival. I don't think we ever thought we were going to have a lead like this."
A day after the teams nearly scuffled, there was more trouble. St. Louis starter Matt Morris threw a fastball behind Corey Patterson in the first, prompting a warning to both benches from plate umpire Tim Tschida.
Cubs reliever LaTroy Hawkins, who gave up Pujols' go-ahead homer, was ejected after he started yelling at Tschida as he walked toward the dugout in the middle of the ninth.
An angry Hawkins had to be restrained by manager Dusty Baker and several Cubs coaches from going at Tschida before he was finally forced into the Chicago dugout.
"Do I regret it? No," Hawkins said, adding that he and Tschida had a feud dating back two years.
"I talked to him like a man at first and it didn't work. You think I'm going to hit him? I'm not going to hit him."
In 2002 when Hawkins was with the Twins, Tschida ejected him from a game in a disagreement over the positioning of the reliever's chair in the bullpen.
"I didn't curse at him, didn't yell at him. I just asked him a question plain and simple," Hawkins said of Tuesday's run-in.
Tschida said the previous disagreement had no bearing on their argument Tuesday over the location of pitches in the ninth.
"I would say his imagination is a little fertile," Tschida said.
"I never in my life felt threatened or scared on the field and today is no exception."
After Pujols hit a two-run drive off Hawkins (2-2) on a hit-and-run play, Reggie Sanders added a solo shot in the three-run ninth as St. Louis roared back after trailing 7-1.
"The best thing about Albert in a very long list of great things is that he plays the game to win," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "That's what I admire most. Nothing else is a close second."
Jason Isringhausen got three outs for his 24th save in 28 chances, retiring Aramis Ramirez on a shallow fly with the bases loaded to end it.
"It's a very devastating and tough loss," Baker said. "We're not conceding. ... Yeah, we're frustrated."
Pujols had an RBI double in the first, hit his 25th homer in the third, No. 26 in the seventh off Kyle Farnsworth and then his 27th in the ninth. It was his first three-homer game.
Cleveland's Travis Hafner also hit three homers Tuesday at Anaheim. The last time two major league players hit three home runs on the same day was Aug. 10, 2002, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. That day, Sammy Sosa connected three times for the Chicago Cubs at Coors Field, and Philadelphia's Mike Lieberthal did it in Los Angeles.
So Taguchi's homer off Farnsworth in the eighth tied the game at 8.
St. Louis, now 13-2 in July, captured the season series with the Cubs 11-8. Ray King (3-0) got the win with a scoreless eighth.
Chicago jumped on Morris for seven second-inning runs but couldn't hold it.
The benches emptied Monday night when a fiery Cubs starter Carlos Zambrano hit the Cardinals' Jim Edmonds with pitches twice and was ejected.
So Morris sent an early message to the Cubs with his pitch behind Patterson.
"A lot of stuff happened last night. I had to stick up for my team, get the warning out early," Morris said. "It was a little bit of a slip, but I didn't let it slip too far."
Cubs starter Glendon Rusch left in the sixth after Pujols, Scott Rolen and Edmonds hit consecutive singles to pull the Cardinals to 8-3.
Reliever Francis Beltran walked the first two batters he faced, forcing in a run, and Taguchi's infield single off Beltran's glove made it 8-5. Pinch-hitter Ray Lankford hit a sacrifice fly off Kent Mercker to cut it to two.
Derrek Lee's two-run homer in the second got the Cubs going against Morris.
Ramirez doubled to right-center and Michael Barrett -- who had been jawing with the Cardinals' dugout and had to be restrained Monday night -- followed with another two-run homer to right.
Patterson had a two-run double and later scored on Alou's single that finished Morris.
Ramirez homered off Cal Eldred in the third to make it 8-2.
Morris gave up six hits and seven runs in 1 2-3 innings, including the two homers that ran his NL-leading total to 26.
Notes: Cardinals LF Taguchi also made a leaping catch against the ivy to rob Patterson of a hit in the seventh. ... Mark Prior threw a five-inning simulated game without pain in his elbow and hopes to rejoin the rotation Sunday in Philadelphia.