Pujols, Holliday lead St. Louis past Cincinnati again, 6-3

Published 2:43 am Thursday, April 8, 2010

CINCINNATI — Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday are in the middle of something really good.

Pujols singled home the tiebreaking run in the seventh inning and Holliday followed with a two-run double, sending the St. Louis Cardinals to a 6-3 victory over the Cincinnati Reds on Wednesday night.

Adam Wainwright (1-0) gave up only three hits in seven innings, including Orlando Cabrera’s two-run homer in the bottom of the sixth that tied it at 2. Then, an offense that has been awfully impressive in two games took this one over.

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“Oh, we have a great lineup,” said Wainwright, the only one in the batting order who failed to reach base. “We have some guys who have probably not made a name for themselves, but they’ll be known quick. It’s a good lineup. You have to grind all the way to the pitcher’s spot.”

The Cardinals started their winning rally off Daniel Ray Herrera (0-1). Pujols — 4 for 5 with two homers on opening day — singled off Logan Ondrusek for the lead. Holliday followed with a double off the base of the wall in center, turning it into a painful learning experience for the rookie reliever making his second big league appearance.

“I threw Pujols a cutter,” Ondrusek said. “He broke his bat, but he’s still strong enough to get it out there and score the run. Holliday the same thing — a cutter that caught too much of the plate. It’s something you’ve got to learn.”

The top five hitters in the Cardinals’ order scored, with Pujols — batting third — and Holliday doing the most damage.

“We’re getting what we’ve earned,” manager Tony La Russa said. “We’re really cranking out a lot of good at-bats.”

The Reds promoted the second game of the season as “opening night” and had several special attractions, including postgame fireworks. The first night game usually draws a small crowd — only 13,568 showed up to see the Mets last season. The Reds sold 28,132 tickets for Wednesday’s game, their biggest crowd for a second game since 1994.

The unusually large weeknight crowd saw another loss to the defending NL Central champions, who have the top two starters and the best 3-4 hitting combination in the division.

Both ends of the equation came through again.

Pujols drove in four runs and scored four more during an 11-6 win on Monday, one that featured four Cardinals homers — a club record for a season opener.

They stayed unbeaten with a little old-fashioned small ball.

Right-hander Johnny Cueto gave up only five hits in six innings, but the Cardinals managed to lump them together. David Freese singled home a run in the second with a soft liner over the head of second baseman Brandon Phillips, and Ryan Ludwick drove in another with a single through the left side of the infield in the third.

Cueto was locked in against Pujols, refusing to give him anything to hit. He walked Pujols on a full-count pitch in the first inning rather than throwing something in the strike zone. Cueto got him looking at a third strike in his next at-bat, a 94 mph fastball right at the knees, then retired him on routine fly.

Couldn’t keep him down all game.

Pujols singled on the first pitch from Ondrusek in the seventh. Pujols has won three NL MVP awards, including the last two, and is 5 for 9 in his first two games with four RBIs and five runs scored. After Holliday doubled home two more, Freese completed the four-run rally with another single.

“That’s what you hope to do as an offense,” Holliday said. “Adam was pitching so well and gave up that home run. As an offense, you’re looking to get him the lead back. When he’s pitching like that, he doesn’t need a lot.”

Wainwright, who led the league with 19 wins last season, faced only 17 batters in the first five innings. Cabrera hit his first homer off him in the sixth, and added a run-scoring double in the eighth off Kyle McClellan.

NOTES: Reds Hall of Famer Joe Morgan threw a ceremonial pitch. … The Cardinals’ best season-opening start was 7-0 in 1962. … La Russa switched his weekend pitching plans. Rookie LH Jaime Garcia will start on Saturday, a day earlier than planned. RH Chris Carpenter will get an extra day of rest and pitch in a nationally televised game Sunday night in Milwaukee. “It will be Garcia’s first start,” La Russa said. “I looked at it and just thought it was better.”