Ankiel, Pujols finish off Mets

Friday, April 24, 2009
The Cardinals' Albert Pujols circles the bases after hitting his second home run of the game off Mets pitcher Livan Hernandez during the fifth inning Thursday at Busch Stadium. (JEFF ROBERSON ~ Associated Press)

The Cardinals completed a three-game sweep with a 12-8 victory Thursday.

ST. LOUIS -- Albert Pujols stroked line drives to all three fields. It was a bad omen for the New York Mets.

Pujols homered twice and Kyle Lohse lasted just long enough for another win after jamming his right knee as the St. Louis Cardinals completed a three-game sweep with a 12-8 victory over the Mets on Thursday.

"If my swing is good, I'm going to hit the ball hard everywhere," Pujols said. "My job is to try to see a pitch I can hit, and drive it."

Rick Ankiel homered and doubled twice and Skip Schumaker hit a pair of RBI doubles as the Cardinals punished Livan Hernandez and won their seventh in a row at home. The Mets lost their fourth straight.

St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Kyle Lohse, right, falls as he nearly collides with teammate Albert Pujols while covering first, allowing New York Mets' Jose Reyes to reach base on the play during the fifth inning of a baseball game Thursday, April 23, 2009, in St. Louis. Lohse landed on his knee but finished the inning and went on to get the win in the Cardinals' 12-8 victory. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

"I think we might have caught them on a little bit of a down slide, but that's the way it goes," Ankiel said. "Good for us."

St. Louis led 11-3 after six innings en route to sweeping the Mets in a three-game series at home for the first time since Aug. 6 to 8, 2004.

Carlos Beltran had three hits, including a three-run homer, after moving up two spots to the third slot in the Mets' batting order. Ryan Church hit a two-run homer and David Wright, who switched places with Beltran in the lineup, had two hits.

Mets starters allowed 16 earned runs in 14 2/3 innings in the series, a 9.82 ERA, and only retired one batter past the fifth inning. Hernandez (1-1) gave up all three homers and allowed seven runs and nine hits in 4 1/3 innings.

Before the Mets start a six-game homestand today with the first of three against the Nationals, manager Jerry Manuel anticipated a front-office meeting about the pitching woes. Manuel said he may add another arm, going with 13 pitchers this weekend, but would go through the rotation another time before considering any starting changes.

Cardinals center fielder Rick Ankiel makes a diving catch to rob the Mets' Gary Sheffield of an extra-base hit during the second inning Thursday at Busch Stadium. Ankiel, who had been mired in a hitting slump, also had a home run and two doubles. (JEFF ROBERSON ~ Associated Press)

"They're just going to have to pitch better," Manuel said. "If it doesn't get any better, then you have to make some adjustments. It's that simple."

Pujols hit a solo homer to right in the first inning, lined an infield hit off Wright's glove at third in the fourth and hit a two-run shot to center in the fifth. He has six homers this year and has 25 career multihomer games, including two this season.

Pujols also scored four times. He increased his NL-leading RBI total to 21, leaving him two shy of 1,000 in his career.

"Perfect player, in my opinion," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "We're lucky to have him, believe me."

Ankiel hit his first homer later in the fifth, making it 7-2 and chasing Hernandez.

St. Louis Cardinals' Albert Pujols, right, rounds the bases after hitting his second home run of the game off New York Mets starting pitcher Livan Hernandez, left, during the fifth inning of a baseball game, Thursday, April 23, 2009, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Lohse (3-0) is 11-2 in 21 starts at home over the last two seasons, although he barely qualified for this win. He escaped a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the fifth on Gary Sheffield's double-play ball and left with a 4-2 lead. Five relievers finished for the Cardinals.

Lohse was hurt when he reached back to try to corral a grounder by Jose Reyes that Pujols booted at first for an error to start the fifth. Lohse didn't believe it was anything serious, although he underwent an MRI exam.

Beltran singled and doubled in his first two at-bats, and is 20-for-37 (.541) with four homers and 12 RBIs against Lohse lifetime.

Lohse's first balk since July 29, 2006, and only the fourth of his career, allowed a run in the first.

Noteworthy

* Before Thursday, there had been three straight homerless games at Busch -- the first time that's happened since another three-game stretch in July 2007.

* Pujols is a career .317 hitter against the Mets with 17 homers and 51 RBIs in 205 at-bats.

* Cardinals starters totaled two strikeouts in the series.

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