DENVER (AP) -- Success in hitting is mostly determined by
average, homers and RBI. Pitching, to a large degree, is about
wins. And the St. Louis Cardinals have a lot of them.
Albert Pujols hit his 46th homer to move within one of the major
league lead and Jason Marquis pitched seven strong innings to give
St. Louis its fourth 15-game winner, helping the Cardinals win
their fifth straight with a 9-3 victory over the Colorado Rockies
A strong rotation helped the Cardinals win their fourth NL
Central title in five years and has them 6½ games ahead of the New
York Yankees for the best record in baseball.
Marquis was considered at least the fourth-best pitcher on St.
Louis' staff after winning a combined 14 games his previous three
seasons, but proved he belongs with his better-known teammates.
The right-hander allowed three runs -- two earned and six in
seven innings against the Rockies, joining Jeff Suppan (16), Chris
Carpenter (15) and Matt Morris (15) to give St. Louis four 15-game
winners for the first time in 60 years.
"In 100 games, there hasn't been any part of the club that
hasn't done something special to describe it," Cardinals manager
Tony La Russa said. "The starting rotation, that (15 wins) would
be one way to do it."
Marquis (15-6) threw his first pitch of the game to the
backstop, but didn't allow a baserunner until Aaron Miles reached
on shortstop Hector Luna's throwing error at shortstop to lead off
the fourth inning. Todd Helton followed one batter later with his
32nd homer, a two-run shot halfway up the second deck in right that
cut the Cardinals' lead to 5-2.
Marquis also worked out of a couple of jams.
The Rockies got a run in the seventh on Miles' RBI single to
left and had the bases loaded, but Marquis got Helton to pop out to
end the inning.
"I didn't try to do anything different than what I did all
year," Marquis said. "I'm a sinkerball pitcher and that's what I
just try to stick with."
He got plenty of help.
Pujols was 4-for-5, had four RBI and scored three runs, and
Luna tied a career high with four of St. Louis' 16 hits. The
Cardinals sealed it in the ninth by adding four runs off Brian
Fuentes on Pujols' RBI double, run-scoring singles by Roger Cedeno
and John Mabry, and a wild pitch. Cal Eldred pitched the final two
innings for St. Louis to earn his first save of the season.
The Cardinals have the best record in baseball at 103-52 and
need three wins over the final week to set a team record for wins.
"There is a reason why they've won all those games," Rockies
manager Clint Hurdle said.
There's also a reason Colorado has lost 88 games: playing poorly
The Rockies finished 38-43 at home, their second losing season
at Coors Field. It was Colorado's second-worst home record in 12
years of existence behind a 25-32 mark during the strike-shortened
season of 1994.
"We just didn't play very good baseball at home over the long
course," Hurdle said. "You have to play better to win, you have
to play more consistent to win."
Consistency was something that hurt Chris Gissell (0-1) in his
first major league start. He opened the game with seven strikeouts
in the first three innings, but gave up four runs and seven hits in
Gissell didn't come out for the fifth after giving up five runs
and nine hits.
"There were a few fastballs that normally I would have had
better command with -- I would normally have gotten a strike with
them," Gissell said. "My offspeed stuff was there, just a few
fastballs is where I had trouble."
One was to Pujols in the first inning.
After Tony Womack led off the game with a single, Gissell left a
fastball up in the zone to Pujols. Big mistake. One of the leading
candidates for NL MVP launched the ball 456 feet to left center for
a two-run homer that moved him within one of Los Angeles' Adrian
In case that wasn't enough, Pujols followed Luna's RBI single in
the third inning with an RBI single in the fourth to put the
Cardinals 5-0. It was the 500th RBI for Pujols, who joined Ted
Williams and Joe DiMaggio as the only players to have that many
their first four seasons.
"That's great. If I could stay healthy, I'm pretty sure there's
going to be more," Pujols said.
St. Louis RF Larry Walker had his first hit against his
former team in the seventh, a single up the middle off Adam
Bernero. Walker was 1-for-8 in his first two games back in Denver
since being traded by the Rockies on Aug. 6. ... Helton has 155
career homers at Coors Field, passing Walker for most all-time. ...
St. Louis was 5-1 against Colorado this season. ... The last time
St. Louis had four 15-game winners in one season was 1944, when
Mort Cooper had 22, Ted Wilks 17, Max Lanier 17 and Harry Brecheen