Ryan Ludwick homered twice, Adam Wainwright became the majors' first 17-game winner, and the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 14-7 on Friday night for their 10th win in 12 games.
Last-place Pittsburgh lost its eighth straight despite a six-run fifth that briefly gave it the lead after trailing 5-0 _ only to watch Albert Pujols give St. Louis the lead again the following half-inning with a three-run homer, his major league-leading 43rd.
Ludwick went 5 for 5 with five RBIs, Matt Holliday also homered and Mark DeRosa had three hits for St. Louis, which has won six of seven and 17 of 21 to extend its lead in the National League Central to 11 1/2 games over the Chicago Cubs.
Ludwick and Holliday hit back-to-back solo home runs off of Kevin Hart in the third extend the Cardinals' lead to 4-0, and Ludwick also hit a three-run shot in the eighth for his eighth career multihomer game, third this season.
NL Cy Young candidate Wainwright (17-7) cruised through the first four innings, allowing only four baserunners and holding a 5-0 lead until, with one out in the fifth, seven of eight Pirates batters reached to give them a 6-5 lead.
The six earned runs Wainwright allowed in that inning were as many as he allowed in both of the entire months of July and August _ when he made six starts each month, going 4-1 each time.
Wainwright was in line to earn a loss for only the second time in nine starts when left the game after five innings having been charged with six runs on nine hits and two walks, striking out five.
But Pujols' homer _ a line drive that cleared the left-field wall quickly _ was only the beginning of a nine-run Cardinals' outburst over the course of three innings to put away the game.
Hart (4-5) was charged with seven runs _ five earned _ on nine hits and three walks with three strikeouts in 5 2-3 innings. He fell to 1-4 with a 6.35 ERA in six starts with Pittsburgh since being acquired in a trade from the Chicago Cubs on July 30.
Ryan Doumit went 3 for 5, Lastings Milledge went 2 for 3 with a walk and Andy LaRoche and Brandon Moss each had two RBIs for the Pirates (53-80), who are two losses away from establishing the record for consecutive losing seasons by a North American professional sports team with their 17th.
NOTES: Wainwright had made 26 consecutive starts in which he lasted at least six innings. He hadn't allowed more than two runs in any of his past 12 outings. ... The Cardinals have won 14 of Wainwright's past 18 starts, including the last six. ... Despite the Pirates' losing streak, they had actually won seven of their previous nine home games. ... Holliday's homer was his 11th in 38 games with St. Louis _ as many as he hit with Oakland before a July 24 trade. ... Ludwick now has 20 home runs.