Pujols leads majors in home runs

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- After a slow start, the St. Louis Cardinals
are beating teams in the NL Central.

Albert Pujols hit his major league-leading 17th home run, Tony
Womack had four hits and Chris Carpenter struck out a season-high
nine as St. Louis won its third straight, 5-3 over the Pittsburgh
Pirates on Wednesday night.

St. Louis has won seven of its last 11 games against division
rivals, leaving its record against the NL Central at 14-14.

"In this division, no matter who you play, you have to go out
and perform every night," Pujols said. "You have to play your
best against your own division, and that's what we're doing."

St. Louis (29-23) has won six of seven overall and climbed to a
season-high six games over .500. The Cardinals are in the midst of
19 consecutive games against the NL Central.

"We're just trying to accumulate wins," manager Tony La Russa

The last of Womack's four consecutive singles came off reliever
Mike Johnston (0-2) in the sixth inning and drove in John Mabry,
who doubled home Edgar Renteria to break a 3-3 tie.

Womack went 4-for-5, his 14th career four-hit game and second
this season. He also had four hits April 9 at Arizona.

"My job is to get on base and create a little havoc," Womack
said. "These guys can play; they don't need my help. I'm just
trying to make it a little easier for them. It's kind of like pick
your poison. If you just come in and do what you're supposed to do,
everything will take care of itself."

Womack was forced out at second base after leading off the game
with a single to left field, but Pujols followed with a two-run
shot to left that gave him a home run in four of his last five

Pujols began the night tied with Arizona's Steve Finley for the
big league lead.

"We got some runs when we needed them, made some great plays
when we needed them and I made some pitches when I had to make
pitches," said Carpenter (6-1), who allowed three runs and seven
hits in seven-plus innings. "It was an all-around good game."

Jason Isringhausen got three straight outs for his 10th save in
13 chances.

Jason Kendall extended his hitting streak to 19 games for
Pittsburgh, which lost its fourth straight game.

Pirates starter Kip Wells, who has won one of his last eight
starts, allowed three runs and four hits in five innings. He came
out for the sixth and briefly warmed up before leaving with
irritation on the tip of his right middle finger.

"Throughout the course of the game ... it was kind of
annoying," Wells said. "It was affecting my ability to locate my
pitches, much less throw them all early in the game. I added some
pressure to my situation by walking some guys, but they're a
battling team."

The Pirates tied it at 3 with two runs in the fourth. Craig
Wilson and Rob Mackowiak opened the inning with singles, and Wilson
scored on Bobby Hill's single off the right-field wall, with Hill
going to second on right fielder Marlon Anderson's throwing error.

Randall Simon knocked in Mackowiak with a sacrifice fly before
Carpenter retired Jose Castillo on a fly ball and struck out Wells.

St. Louis took a 3-1 lead in the fourth inning without a hit.

Wells walked Jim Edmonds and Ray Lankford to open the inning,
and Lankford was forced at second base on Renteria's groundball.
Mabry hit a line drive to left field that a charging Wilson dropped
for an error, with Edmonds scoring and Renteria going to third.
Renteria was tagged out at home on Cody McKay's grounder to Wells,
and Carpenter was retired on a groundball.

The Pirates cut the lead to 2-1 in the first when Kendall scored
from second on Daryl Ward's sacrifice fly to deep left-center.
Lankford caught the ball but took several extra steps toward the
warning track before throwing to cutoff man Renteria. Kendall slid
home ahead of Mike Matheny's tag.

"Ray should have been ready to brace and fire it," La Russa
said. "It was a mistake."

Game notes
Matheny left with a muscle strain in his right side in the
fourth inning. ... Kendall's hitting streak is the longest current
streak in the majors. He had a career-best 23-game hitting streak
last season. ... St. Louis, the best road team in the majors, is in
the midst of a stretch that has it play 20 of 25 games on the road
... The Pirates are scheduled to play just one team (Seattle) with
a losing record in June, a month in which they have not produced a
winning record since 1996.