ST. LOUIS — Albert Pujols homered for a career-best fifth consecutive game, leaving him three games shy of the major league record. But there's another milestone he has to himself.
The St. Louis slugger became the first player in major league history to hit 30 homers in his first seven seasons, leading the Cardinals to a 6-4 victory over the Florida Marlins on Wednesday night.
Last year, Pujols became the only player to do it in his first six seasons.
“I think since his rookie year he’s had us scratching our heads in amazement at the quality of his baseball, and not just his hitting,” said Cardinals manager Tony La Russa. “One way to measure how great a player is in our game is you can compare some of the numbers with history.
“This is consistency and it speaks to strength of mind, I think, and competitiveness more than talent.”
Pujols’ two-run homer in the first gave St. Louis an early lead and Jim Edmonds’ two-run, seventh-inning shot put the Cardinals ahead for good.
The record of eight consecutive games with a homer is shared by Dale Long (Pirates) in 1956, Don Mattingly (Yankees) in 1987 and Ken Griffey Jr. (Mariners) in 1993.
Yadier Molina also homered for the Cardinals, with all three of the long balls coming off Scott Olsen (9-11), sending the Marlins to their season-worst eighth straight loss. St. Louis has won three in a row overall and 10 of its last 12 against Florida.
The Marlins’ losing streak is their longest since another eight-game skid from July 7-18, 2002.
“We’ve got to get through that seventh inning,” manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “That was the inning and we had the opportunity, and we didn’t get it done.”
Miguel Olivo and Jeremy Hermida homered for Florida, with Hermida’s two-run drive off Ryan Franklin capping a three-run rally and putting Florida ahead 4-3 in the top of the seventh. Mike Jacobs’ RBI single greeted Franklin.
In the bottom half, doubles by Scott Rolen and Molina tied it before Edmonds hit his ninth homer over the center field wall.
“They jumped right back on us and that’s a sign of a good team,” Hermida said. “They’re the defending World Champions, and they’re that for a reason.”
The rally enabled La Russa to breath a sigh of relief. He second-guessed himself several times for not bringing in left-hander Tyler Johnson to face Jacobs instead of Franklin, a right-hander.
“I played that wrong and paid the price and fortunately it worked out OK,” La Russa said. “It wasn’t the dumbest thing I ever did, but it isn’t the best move.”
Pujols lined a two-run shot in the first into the Marlins bullpen in left field, a drive estimated at 382 feet, which extended his RBI streak to seven games. He has homered in six of the last seven games, totaling eight RBIs.
He has homered in four straight games on seven occasions, the last time from April 15-18, 2006, and is the first Cardinal to homer in five straight since Edmonds from July 6-11, 2004. He has 14 homers since the All-Star break, most in the NL.
Russ Springer (6-1) set down the top of the Marlins’ order in succession in the eighth and Jason Isringhausen pitched a perfect ninth for his 25th save in 27 chances.
Cardinals starter Braden Looper left after Josh Willingham doubled to start the seventh, allowing two runs and four hits.
Olsen lasted 6 1-3 innings and gave up six runs and 10 hits, and the three homers allowed matched his season high. He’s 2-7 with a 6.69 ERA on the road, and in three career starts against St. Louis he’s 1-2 with a 6.14 ERA.
“This is the worst I’ve felt after a loss,” Olsen said. “They gave me four runs and I shouldn’t lose.”