New season, same Pujols

SPORTS NETWORK

, Last Updated: 8:44 PM ET

Cincinnati, OH - Albert Pujols hit a pair of home runs, knocked in three and scored four, and Yadier Molina belted a grand slam, as the reigning National League Central Division champion St. Louis Cardinals outslugged the Cincinnati Reds, 11-6, in the regular-season opener for both teams at Great American Ball Park.

Pujols, the two-time defending NL MVP turned in a 4-for-5 day, while Colby Rasmus went 2-for-4 with a solo homer and two RBI for the Cardinals, who finished the regular season with a 91-71 mark in 2009 before getting swept by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Division Series.

"The score is misleading. It was a tough game all around," Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa said. "We had to make a lot of good pitches, have a lot of outstanding at bats. It was a tough game."

Chris Carpenter (1-0) picked up the win after allowing two runs on five hits with three strikeouts over six frames. The right-hander went 17-4 with a 2.24 earned run average in 28 starts last season.

Joey Votto had three hits with a solo homer, while Scott Rolen added a solo shot for Cincinnati, which ended 2009 with a 78-84 record, 13 games behind St. Louis for the top spot in the Central Division.

"A team like the Cardinals we got to get on them early," Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips said. "We got to really stop the guy who's one of the best of all times, that's Pujols."

Aaron Harang (0-1) worked five innings, allowing four runs -- three earned -- on five hits with a pair of walks and as many strikeouts. The big righty, who went 6-14 with a 4.21 ERA in 26 starts last year, tied a franchise record with his fifth straight Opening Day start.

After Harang struck out the first two batters of the game, Pujols cracked a solo homer over the left-center field wall to get the Cards on the board. St. Louis was bidding for more in the second with runners on the corners and two away, but Carpenter flied out to center.

The Cardinals were able to pad their lead in the top of the fourth. Rasmus hit a one-out solo shot to right, then later in the inning, with runners on first and second, David Freese grounded a single to left to chase in another for a 3-0 St. Louis advantage.

Cincinnati answered with solo homers by Votto and Rolen in the home half to slice its deficit to one before the Cards got a gift run in the fifth when Harang's pickoff attempt sailed wide of Votto at first, allowing Pujols to score from third.

In the top of the seventh, Pujols lined a two-run homer that just cleared the right-field wall to put his squad ahead 6-2. Juan Francisco's pinch-hit RBI single in the bottom half got the Reds backs to within three.

Drew Stubbs' infield single in the eighth made it a 6-4 game. However, the Cardinals tacked on five insurance runs in the top of the ninth. Rasmus knocked one in with a single to left, then with the bases full two batters later, Molina hit a grand slam to right to give St. Louis an insurmountable 11-4 lead.

Phillips had a two-run double in the bottom half to account for the 11-6 final score.

Game Notes

St. Louis and Cincinnati split eight meetings last season, one year after the Cardinals took 10 of the 15 encounters between the teams...The Cardinals improved to 54-63-2 all-time on Opening Day and 20-32-2 on the road...The Reds dropped to 64-69-1 in home openers...The Cardinals set a team-record with four home runs on Opening Day...Carpenter has now won his last six starts against the Reds.


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