Albert Pujols had another frustrating day at the plate. His Cardinals teammates picked up the slack.
Daniel Descalso hit his first career home run, a go-ahead three-run shot in the seventh inning, to lead St. Louis to a 7-5 victory over the Florida Marlins on Tuesday night.
"I'm not a big home run guy," said Descalso, who had 27 homers in 1,596 career minor league at-bats. "I just go up there and try to put a line-drive swing on it, and every once in a while they jump out of the park. Tonight was one of those times."
Matt Holliday hit a two-run homer in the first and had two hits, dropping his National League-leading average one point to .409. Lance Berkman tied his career best with three walks before leaving after seven innings with leg tightness after getting thrown out in a rundown.
Berkman believed he'd be able to play Wednesday.
"It was cold and it was more just having trouble staying loose," Berkman said. "I didn't want to not get to a ball that somebody could get to and cost us the game."
Pujols was 0 for 5 with his league-leading 10th double-play ball and stranded six runners his first three at-bats, dropping his average to .231. Pujols is mired in a 4-for-25 slump (.160) and hasn't had an extra base hit in nine games — already the second time that's happened this season. The three-time NL MVP hadn't had a similar stretch since going 10 games without extra bases from July 18-28, 2009.
"As long as he doesn't get discouraged," La Russa said. "He'll be fine because he's smart and tough-minded. He won't allow himself to be less than his best."
Gaby Sanchez had four singles, matching his career best for hits, one of them off Fernando Salas (1-0) in the top of the seventh to put Florida ahead 5-4.
"We had a chance all the way," Marlins manager Edwin Rodriguez said. "We had a chance, they had a chance. Somebody had to win. Hensley hung that breaking ball, and Descalso took care of it."
Marlins starter Anibal Sanchez had a season-high six walks in 4 1-3 innings, but Florida kept it close by limiting St. Louis to one run in bases-loaded opportunities in the second and fifth innings.
"He made way too many pitches in the first three innings so his pitch count was way up there," Rodriguez said. "They don't swing at bad pitches. They make you throw strikes and your pitch count goes up."
Descalso is getting regular playing time with third baseman David Freese and second baseman Skip Schumaker each on the 15-day disabled list. He's batting just .237 but pulled an 0-1 pitch from Clay Hensley over the right field wall with one out in the seventh.
Rookie Eduardo Sanchez allowed a hit and a walk in the ninth before finishing for his second save in two chances. Ryan Webb (0-3) gave up a hit and walk in the seventh for Florida, his second inning.
Ramirez singled with one out in the seventh for his first hit of the series, stole second and went to third on a wild pitch. Sanchez followed with his fourth straight hit to put the Marlins ahead.
Anibal Sanchez left with the bases loaded and one out in the fifth, his shortest outing of the season, but reliever Edward Mujica turned pinch-hitter Jon Jay's comebacker into a double play.
The Marlins scored twice without a hit off Kyle McClellan in the third, parlaying walks to John Buck and Emilio Bonafacio, a failed bunt defense play to load them on Sanchez' comebacker, a wild pitch and Chris Coghlan's run-scoring groundout.
Florida opened a two-run fourth with four straight singles. Buck had two RBIs and Greg Dobbs one.
"It was just frustrating, a bunch of broken-bat hits and balls that weren't hit real hard," McClellan said. "You break a bunch of bats, you like your chances."
Holliday's fourth homer put the Cardinals up 2-0 after one inning for the second straight game, but they missed a shot to break it open in the third with the bases loaded when Pujols grounded into a forceout at the plate and Holliday fouled out to first.
Notes: Marlins OF Logan Morrison, on the DL with a foot injury, may be close to a rehab assignment. Manager Edwin Rodriguez said Morrison is scheduled to take batting practice and perhaps shag some fly balls Wednesday. ... Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said SS Ryan Theriot, who led the majors with eight errors but was batting .306, has been a "significant plus" overall. ... The Cardinals have grounded into a major league-high 41 double plays. ... McClellan allowed four runs in five innings, his shortest outing in his first year in the rotation.