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10/03/06 9:06 PM ET

Cardinals Short Hops: Game 1

Pujols propels Cards to huge victory over Padres

SAN DIEGO -- Fielding the Cardinals' Game 1 win over the Padres on a short hop ...

In < 25 words ...
Albert Pujols snapped a scoreless tie with a laser beam homer off Jake Peavy, and the Cardinals backed a solid Chris Carpenter.

Frozen moment
With a runner on in the fourth, Pujols at the bat and the teams locked in a scoreless tie, the burly Cards slugger popped a 1-1 pitch behind home plate. At first glance it appeared catcher Mike Piazza botched the play, a miss that loomed large when Pujols lined the eighth pitch of the at-bat for a two-run homer. But the super-slow, high-definition replays shown in the PETCO Park press box showed the baseball appeared to hit the netting before glancing off Piazza's glove. Foul ball either way.

Big number
Twenty. That's the average difference, in miles per hour, of Carpenter's fastball and his curveball once he got going. He touched 97 mph with a fastball to dangerous first baseman Adrian Gonzalez with two runners on and one out in the bottom of the fourth, when it appeared San Diego was poised to answer St. Louis' three-run outburst. But Gonzalez fouled off the next pitch, a 77-mph curveball, and couldn't check his swing on another as Carpenter scored a key strikeout.

Game balls
Chris Carpenter, five. Carpenter's curveball was unhittable when stacked next to a 95-97 mph fastball, and he kept the Padres off the board until they manufactured a run in the sixth.

Albert Pujols, four. The National League MVP candidate is known for being able to change a game with one swing. That's exactly what he did on Tuesday.

Jim Edmonds, four. Questionable coming in because of head and foot injuries, Edmonds looked 100 percent in his 45th career postseason game. He followed Pujols' homer with a single and scored the third run of the inning, and he added an RBI single in the fifth.

Sense of October
The laid-back San Diego crowd got surprisingly loud in the early going, but Carpenter didn't seem to notice. After Pujols' homer in the fourth inning snapped what had been a scoreless tie, the atmosphere was decidedly more muted. Maybe everyone made a mid-game run for fish tacos. When the Padres began showing signs of life in the sixth, the fans were back.

Lines of the Game
Albert Pujols
4 AB, 1 R, 2 H, HR, 2 RBIs
Comment: Broke up a pitcher's duel and sent the Cardinals to a series lead.

Adam Wainwright
1 1/3 IP, 2 K
Comment: Relieved Tyler Johnson with a runner at third and two outs in the eighth inning and doused whatever hope the Padres had left. He threw 11 of his 17 pitches for strikes and retired all four hitters he faced. With outings like that, the Cards won't miss injured closer Jason Isringhausen.

"I was playing back to the middle, but [coach Joe Pettini] moved me at the right time. The ball went over there, and in my mind I thought, 'I gotta get to the ball.' I dived for it, the ball came out of my glove, but I got it and threw to Pujols."
-- Ronnie Belliard, Cards second baseman, on his key defensive stop that bailed out the team from a seventh-inning Padres rally

Next step
After a day off Wednesday -- the Cards had yet to announce Tuesday whether they would work out or take a full day of rest -- the teams will meet again for Game 2 on Thursday, again at 3 p.m. CT. Road warrior Jeff Weaver (check these home-road splits as a Cardinal) gets the start for St. Louis.

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.