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Pujols hits 2 HRs; Cardinals beat Reds 11-6

Monday, April 5, 2010 | 4:49 p.m. CDT; updated 5:25 p.m. CDT, Monday, April 5, 2010
The St. Louis Cardinals' Albert Pujols, right, is congratulated by Jason LaRue. Pujols had just scored a home run against Cincinnati Reds pitcher Aaron Harang in the first inning of the Cards' season opener in Cincinnati on Monday.

CINCINNATI — Albert Pujols and his St. Louis Cardinals didn't need much help from Big Mac.

The National League's MVP went 4 for 5 and hit two of a team-record four homers on opening day Monday, sending St. Louis to an 11-6 victory over the Cincinnati Reds on an unseasonably warm afternoon that belonged to the power hitters.

Yadier Molina completed the Cardinals' first four-homer opening game with a grand slam in the ninth. Only two other Cardinals have hit slams in season openers — Scott Rolen and Mark McGwire.

Big Mac has returned to baseball as the Cardinals' batting instructor this season, acknowledging that he used steroids when he broke the home run record in 1998. The crowd of 42,493 — fifth-largest in Great American Ball Park history — had little reaction when he jogged onto the field with the rest of the Cardinals coaches pregame.

It was almost as though the fans didn't realize he was there.

They couldn't ignore Pujols.

He got the loudest boos during pregame introductions, then put on a show.

On his second swing of the season, Pujols drove a 2-2 pitch from Aaron Harang (0-1) into the Reds' bullpen area in left-center, a collective "Oh!" rising from the crowd as the ball took flight. He added a two-run shot off Mike Lincoln in the seventh, a line drive that barely cleared the wall.

Pujols also singled twice, tying the club record for most hits on opening day.

Pujols won his third NL MVP award — and his second in a row — after batting .327 with 47 homers despite a chronically sore right elbow last year. He had six bone spurs removed from the elbow in the offseason, and didn't waste time showing he might be even better now.

Chris Carpenter (1-0) had only one shaky inning out of his six on a sunny, 78-degree afternoon. Joey Votto and Rolen hit solo homers in the fourth off Carpenter, who gave up only seven homers last season, when he led the NL with a 2.24 ERA.

Carpenter has won his last six starts against the Reds, going 4-0 last year. The last time Carpenter pitched in Cincinnati, he had a career day — at the plate, of all things. He hit a grand slam for his first career homer and drove in six runs — a Cardinals record for a pitcher — during a 13-0 win on Oct. 1.

Colby Rasmus, the Cardinals' top hitter in spring training, also had a solo homer off Harang and caught Rolen's fly by the top of the outfield fence in the sixth inning. He added a run-scoring single as the Cardinals pulled away in the ninth.

NOTES: Pujols has 34 career multihomer games. He was the last Cardinals player to hit two homers on opening day, in 2006 at Philadelphia. ... Pujols' 17 homers at Great American are the second-most by a visiting player, trailing Houston's Lance Berkman (21). ... As planned, the Reds designated INF Aaron Miles and OF Wladimir Balentien for assignment to the minors and added INF Miguel Cairo and OF Laynce Nix to the roster. ... Former Bengals TE Ben Utecht got a loud ovation and handshakes from Reds manager Dusty Baker and Cardinals manager Tony La Russa after he sang the national anthem.

 


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