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Pujols extends hitting streak to 17 games

PHOENIX (AP) -- Albert Pujols doesn't talk about consistency. He
exemplifies it.

The St. Louis first baseman drove in two runs with three hits --
including a double and his 22nd homer -- to extend his hitting
streak to 17 games and lead the Cardinals to a 7-1 rout of the
Arizona Diamondbacks on Tuesday night.

Pujols, who had a 30-game hitting streak in 2003, also hit in 17
in a row as a rookie in 2001.

"I just try to do it on the road, I try to do it at home, but
the idea is not taking things for granted," he said. "Just battle
day in, day out, and give your best every at-bat."

So Taguchi had a solo homer and drove in two runs for the second
straight game, and Reggie Sanders, back in the lineup after missing
two games because of a strained right foot, drove in two runs for
the Cardinals.

Jeff Suppan (8-7) went 5 1/3 innings, allowing one run and five
hits to help the defending NL champions to their third straight win
and fourth in five games.

Suppan left with a 5-1 lead, but with Troy Glaus and Shawn Green
on first and third after a walk and single. Al Reyes got out of the
jam when he got Royce Clayton, his only batter, to ground into a
double play. Reyes and four more relievers combined for 3 2/3
scoreless innings.

"With a lead like that, I was really just trying to stay
focused," Suppan said. "Basically, tonight it was our offense and
our bullpen."

Shawn Estes (6-7) worked 6 1/3 innings, dropping to 2-4 in nine
starts since his only consecutive wins this season. Estes allowed
six runs and six hits, including Taguchi's leadoff homer in the
seventh.

Pujols made it 7-1 with his leadoff homer off Greg Aquino in the
eighth. His 3-for-4 night raised his batting average five points to
.346.

"He's a classic, high-average hitter," Cardinals manager Tony
La Russa said. "Every day, every at-bat. Relentless, talented."

Pujols made Estes pay for hitting Jim Edmonds with a pitch in
the first inning, doubling into the right-field corner and taking
third on the throw home. He scored on Sanders' grounder for a 2-0
lead.

"The two runs in the first, we got off to a little bit of a bad
theme there, and [Estes] struggled a little bit," Arizona manager
Bob Melvin said. "He probably thought he had a few strikes
[miscalled]. He was just a little frustrated out there, and we've
got to get him through that, because he's big for us."

Estes gave himself some support when he broke an 0-for-23
stretch at the plate by tripling in the third. He scored on Craig
Counsell's sacrifice fly.

Pujols led off the fourth with a single and scored on Sanders'
double that hit the center field wall on the fly.

"The good news is that we definitely don't rely on one person
every night," Sanders said. "Al is going to do his thing, and the
one night he doesn't do his thing, we have guys that can step up
and help out."

Scott Rolen hit an RBI double into the gap, making it 4-1 before
Estes got anyone out, and Taguchi made it a three-run inning with a
bloop single.

"They're a good team, and they don't miss many pitches," Estes
said.

Game notes
Estes' triple -- the second of his career -- was the first by
an Arizona pitcher since Elmer Dessens had one on July 26, 2003,
against the Dodgers. Estes tripled for Colorado at San Diego last
Sept. 4. ... Suppan improved to 3-4 in eight road starts. ...
Before the game, the Diamondbacks reacquired one of their first
players by signing RHP Vladimir Nunez to a minor league contract.
Nunez, a defector from Cuba, first signed with Arizona in 1996, two
years before the Diamondbacks played their first game. He had been
in the St. Louis organization, and the Cardinals released him
Saturday.