PITTSBURGH (AP) — Albert Pujols has always been more concerned with pennant races than personal chases during his stellar 10-year career. Fittingly, he didn’t sound all that excited about hitting 40 home runs in a season for the sixth time Thursday.
Pujols launched his 40th and 41st homers and Matt Holliday made it to the 100-RBI mark, leading the slumping St. Louis Cardinals to a 9-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates.
"You’ve got to be able to play every day to hit 40 home runs or reach a lot of milestones," Pujols said.
"It would be nice to hit 40 home runs and be in the pennant race but that’s the way the season goes for us this year," he said. "We put ourselves in a tough situation."
The Cardinals snapped a three-game losing streak and won for just the 13th time in 38 games since Aug. 14, the last day they were in first place in the NL Central.
St. Louis’ chances of defending its division title remain slim. The Cardinals trail idle Cincinnati by 7 1/2 games with only 10 games left.
Pittsburgh had its season-high five-game winning streak come to an end. The Pirates are one defeat short of their first 100-loss season since 2001.
Pujols got three hits, drove in three runs and scored three times. Cardinals rookie Daniel Descalso had four hits, including a double, in his second major league start. Holliday and Nick Stavinoha each had two of the Cardinals’ 15 hits.
"Any time you look in the boxscore and see four hits next to your name, it’s a good feeling," Descalso said. "To do it in my first week in the major leagues makes it really special."
Jeff Suppan (2-7) won for just the second time in 13 starts this season, allowing one run and four hits in five innings. Both of Suppan’s victories have come against the Pirates and he is 16-3 against them in his career, including winning his last nine decisions.
"He’s a pitcher," La Russa said. "He just made pitches. He didn’t leave anything over the heart of the plate because he refused to give in."
Brian Burres (3-4) was tagged for four runs and six hits in 2 1-3 innings. He had been 2-0 with a 1.80 ERA in three starts since moving from the bullpen into the rotation to replace injured Jeff Karstens.
"I was not even close to doing what I wanted to do," Burres said. "I couldn’t execute my pitches."
Pujols hit a two-run homer into the left-field bleachers in a four-run third inning.
"He just takes care of business every day and the numbers add up," La Russa said. "It’s a good formula."
Holliday, Stavinoha and Descalso followed with consecutive doubles to produce two runs and chase Burres.
Holiday drove in his 100th run with a single in the fourth, then Pujols scored on a wild pitch by Chan Ho Park to make it 6-0. Holliday has had three 100-RBI seasons in his seven-year career.
"It’s a nice benchmark," Holliday said.
Skip Schumaker hit an RBI single in the fifth. The Pirates got their lone run off Suppan in the bottom half when Pedro Alvarez doubled off the right-center field fence.
Pujols led off the sixth with an opposite-field shot to right. He has 39 career multihomer games, six of them this season.
Andrew McCutchen hit a sacrifice fly for Pittsburgh in the seventh. Neil Walker and Ronny Cedeno both had two hits for the Pirates.