Albert Pujols, the Cardinals' No. 3 hitter for the last seven years, became a cleanup hitter Monday night for the first time since May 30, 2003 -- a period of 1,046 games -- as manager Tony La Russa sought to jump-start Matt Holliday by moving him ahead of Pujols.
Holliday had a walk and flied to deep center but finished 0-for-3. Pujols behaved more a like a leadoff man, getting three singles and a walk. He scored two runs, including getting a good break and dashing home from third on an infield out in a two-run eighth inning that wrapped up the game.
Pujols also ended the game with a brilliant defensive play at first base, an inning after right fielder Ryan Ludwick made one of the Cardinals' catches of the season, laying out to his left after a long run to corral Ryan Zimmerman's shot headed for the right field corner.
When Ludwick came to the Cardinals in spring training of 2007 as a non-roster player, he came with the reputation of being a below-average defensive player. But he has belied that and more.
"He's been spectacular, really," La Russa said. "He does this for another 4 1/2 months, he's a Gold Glover."
The Cardinals, who have been straining to manufacture runs lately, put together a walk and four straight hits for four runs in the first inning and used three singles, a sacrifice bunt and an infield out for two runs in the eighth.
But La Russa said the new-look lineup had nothing to do with Monday's outcome.
"It's who plays and how they play," he said.
Right-hander Kyle Lohse, pitching one of his strongest games of the season, worked six solid innings, giving up two runs and gaining his first win of the year. Lohse has won just four games since April 23, 2009.
CARDINALS 6, NATIONALS 2: After losing nine of 12 games recently, with just three of them at home, the Cardinals returned to Busch Stadium, where they are 11-6 this season. 3B David Freese's two-run triple capped a four-run first inning and the Cardinals never trailed.
NOTES AND QUOTES
RF Ryan Ludwick was hit by a pitch on his left hand for the second time in 10 days. The pitch again struck meat, rather than bone, and he stayed in the game. "He was hit in exactly the same place," manager Tony La Russa said. "It was really upsetting and scary. We caught another break."
The Cardinals' new-look lineup, with LF Matt Holliday batting third and 1B Albert Pujols fourth, went 4-for-8 with men in scoring position, although neither of the big stars had a hit with men in scoring position. Holliday was 0-for-2 in those spots, dropping him to 8-for-49 with runners in scoring position this year.
"The lineup is one of those neat things that you discuss and the fans have a great time with it, and I think it's one of the charming things about baseball," manager Tony La Russa said, "but the importance of the lineup is overplayed."
With the activation of INF Felipe Lopez from the 15-day disabled list, INF Tyler Greene was sent back to Class AAA Memphis. Greene, who played a big part in one recent victory, hit .231 with a home run in 26 at-bats. Lopez played nine innings at shortstop Monday and went 0-for-4 but made one good play in the field.
LHP Trever Miller and RHP Jason Motte recorded three outs in the seventh inning when the Nationals had the tying runs on base. Miller retired PH Mike Morse on a popup with runners at second and third, and Motte threw a 97 mph fastball past PH Adam Dunn for strike three and the third out. "That was 'max' pressure right there," manager Tony La Russa said. Miller has permitted just one of 14 inherited runners to score.
Manager Tony La Russa did not leave Motte in to pitch the eighth, but he allowed Motte to try to sacrifice a runner over in the bottom of the seventh. Motte failed, fanning on three bunt attempts, and La Russa admitted he should have used either a starting pitcher, or preferably, a position player. He said he wanted to save his players. "It was wrong," La Russa said. "But I thought Motte could do it."
C Yadier Molina threw out his eighth runner in 15 steal attempts. Overall, the Cardinals have caught 11 of 19 would-be thieves.
3B David Freese has
accounted for 19 of his 24 RBI in his first plate appearance in a game. Freese
is second in the National League to
By The Numbers:
9—Games the Cardinals went without a home run before they hit two on May 14. That was their longest dry spell since they had 10 homerless games in May 2007.
Quote To Note:
"I stopped worrying about where my body was, where my hands were… I went back to just trying to see the baseball."
—RF Ryan Ludwick, who had slipped into the .250s before going on a recent eight-game hitting streak.
INF Felipe Lopez (strained right elbow) went on the 15-day disabled list April 26. He was activated May 17.