Offense finds rhythm, whips Mariners 9-3

Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Cardinals outfielder Ryan Ludwick, right, is congratulated by teammates Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday after Ludwick's three-run home run during the first inning Monday in St. Louis. (BILL BOYCE ~ Associated Press)

ST. LOUIS -- Albert Pujols has a souvenir from the St. Louis Cardinals' latest victory: a good-sized welt on the left side of his neck.

The three-time NL MVP took one off the noggin on a perfect day at the plate, stand-in cleanup hitter Ryan Ludwick homered and the Cardinals beat the Seattle Mariners 9-3 on Monday night behind a reworked batting order.

"You could have written that group any way you wanted to and we would have had some runs," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said.

Pujols singled three times and walked twice as the Cardinals bounced back after totaling 19 runs during a 1-5 West Coast swing that dropped them out of the NL Central lead. Plus he stayed in the game after a throw to the plate struck him near the left ear flap in the fifth.

"Took it like a champ," Ludwick said in admiration.

Cardinals base runner Matt Holliday scores past the tag of Mariners catcher Rob Johnson during the third inning Monday in St. Louis. (BILL BOYCE ~ Associated Press)

Although Pujols' ear flap absorbed some of the impact, La Russa said the team initially was worried.

"We kept asking, 'Are you dizzy, do you have a headache or anything? And he said, 'No, no, no,'" La Russa said. "He's a tough guy. He's proven that over and over again."

Pujols said simply: "I'm all right."

Ludwick finished with four RBIs and Adam Wainwright (9-4) pitched into the eighth after a shaky start. Matt Holliday also was a success batting second for the first time in his career, getting two hits and scoring twice.

"Listen, bro, he's the head of this organization and he's the one that drives the ship," Pujols said of La Russa's batting order. "As a player, I'm happy just to be in the lineup. It doesn't matter where he puts us, you've got to perform.

"We know that we have to get it going."

The Mariners have lost six of seven, fizzling after Ichiro Suzuki hit the second pitch of the game for his 31st career leadoff homer.

"I've heard he could win the home run derby if he wanted to," Wainwright said. "Everybody knows he has power, especially on the pitch I threw him."

Luke French (0-1) replaced struggling Ian Snell in Seattle's rotation and allowed four runs in four innings.

Colby Rasmus homered in a four-run fifth off Snell, one of the runs scoring when Pujols broke for the plate on David Freese's chopper to third and was struck by Jose Lopez's errant throw.

Pujols was helped off the field by teammate Yadier Molina after receiving treatment from a trainer, but just moments later was chatting with teammates in the dugout.

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