ST. LOUIS (AP) — Albert Pujols took one off the noggin for his team on a perfect day at the plate and stand-in cleanup hitter Ryan Ludwick homered to help the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Seattle Mariners 9-3 on Monday night.
Pujols singled three times and walked twice as the Cardinals bounced back after totaling 19 runs during a 1-5 West Coast swing that dropped them out of the NL Central lead. Plus, he stayed in the game after a throw to the plate glanced off his helmet ear flap in the fifth.
Ludwick finished with four RBIs and Adam Wainwright (9-4) pitched into the eighth after a shaky start. Matt Holliday also was a success batting second for the first time in his career, getting two hits and scoring twice.
The Mariners have lost six of seven, fizzling after Ichiro Suzuki hit the second pitch of the game for his 31st career leadoff homer — tying Chuck Knoblauch for 10th place. Suzuki also doubled in the eighth for his major league-leading 31st multihit game.
Luke French (0-1) replaced struggling Ian Snell in the rotation and allowed four runs in four innings.
Colby Rasmus homered in a four-run fifth off Snell, one of the runs scoring when Pujols broke for the plate on David Freese's chopper to third and was struck by Jose Lopez's errant throw.
Pujols was helped off the field by teammate Yadier Molina after receiving treatment from a trainer, but just moments later was chatting with teammates in the dugout.
The Mariners had two runs on three hits in the first against Wainwright (9-4), and no runs and one hit over the next six innings. It was Wainwright's 21st consecutive home start with three or fewer runs on his line, the longest streak in major league history, according to research by the Elias Sports Bureau.
Ludwick batted fourth in place of Holliday, coming off a 3-for-22 trip. Ludwick hit a three-run homer in the first, a sacrifice fly in the third and doubled and scored in the fifth.
NOTES: The Mariners are 15-17 at home and 9-23 on the road. ... Entering the game, Ludwick had a single and no RBIs in 13 career at-bats against Seattle.