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Pujols’ 2 HRs lead Cardinals past Braves, 7-3
Atlanta falls behind Philadelphia in NL East
ATLANTA — Tony La Russa savored a souvenir, and Albert Pujols savored a milestone.
Pujols hit two home runs to power the St. Louis Cardinals past Atlanta 7-3 on Sunday night, dropping the Braves out of first place in the NL East.
Atlanta fell one game behind the Philadelphia Phillies, who beat the New York Mets 3-0 behind Roy Oswalt.
Pujols passed Hall of Famer Stan Musial for the most multihomer games in Cardinals history with 38, including five this season.
"It's pretty special to be named with that legend," Pujols said.
Barring a playoff matchup, it was the last time La Russa will manage against Atlanta's Bobby Cox, who is retiring after the season.
La Russa beamed when looking at a baseball and lineup card that Cox signed. Each sat on La Russa's desk after the game.
"That's a keeper," said La Russa, holding the lineup card. "That's not going anywhere."
La Russa said Cox "has had the best managerial career of anybody I've been around. ... He's done it exactly the right way, which is most important."
"I hope he gets to the postseason. I hope they get to the postseason."
La Russa is third in career regular-season wins. Cox ranks fourth. The two managed against each other in 161 regular-season games in a rivalry that began in 1982 when Cox was with Toronto and La Russa managed the Chicago White Sox. Cox finished with a 94-67 advantage.
A ball signed by La Russa sat on Cox's desk.
"I like Tony a lot," Cox said. "I've been going at it with Tony a long, long time."
Kyle Lohse (3-7) allowed nine hits but only two runs in 5 1-3 innings to beat Tim Hudson (15-8), who gave up six runs in five innings in his third straight loss.
"I was keeping the ball up a little more than I wanted, falling behind a little more than I wanted, having to give in and throw a little more over the plate than I would have liked," Hudson said. "It just wasn't a good night for me."
The second-place Cardinals gained a game in the NL Central but still trail Cincinnati by six. With a split of the four-game set, St. Louis won the season series 6-2.
Nate McLouth had a homer and a double for Atlanta. Cardinals center fielder Colby Rasmus robbed McLouth of another possible homer with a leaping catch at the wall in the fourth.
Pujols had three RBIs on Saturday, giving him 10 straight seasons with more than 100. He leads the NL with 39 homers and 104 RBIs. He also hit a homer Thursday in the opening game of the four-game series.
La Russa said Pujols plays "in a different home run climate than when Stan played."
"Because Albert did it in 10 years, I don't want to take anything away from him, but I don't want to take anything away from Stan," La Russa said.
La Russa said before the game that Pujols has had difficulty with his left elbow. La Russa said Pujols landed on the elbow while making a catch in Pittsburgh late last month and hurt the elbow again a few days later.
La Russa said Pujols is feeling better and is better able to follow through on his swing. Pujols said after the game he is still having problems.
"There is no DL in September," he said. "You have to keep pushing and try to put us in a good spot."
Pujols gave the Cardinals a 1-0 lead with a homer over the 400-foot mark in center in the first inning and added a line-drive shot to left in the fifth.
His second homer cleared the wall so quickly that left fielder Melky Cabrera barely moved as he turned to watch it land in the seats.
Yadier Molina had a run-scoring single in the third. The Cardinals added four runs in the fifth. After Pujols' second homer, Lohse had an RBI single and Brendan Ryan added a two-run triple.
Jason Heyward had doubles in each of his first two at-bats for Atlanta and scored on Martin Prado's single in the third. Alex Gonzalez had three hits, including a single in the sixth to drive in McLouth.
McLouth added a homer in the eighth off Blake Hawksworth.
Notes:Braves rookie 1B Freddie Freeman turned 21 on Sunday. He was selected as the club's minor league player of the year before the game. He entered in the seventh. ... Hudson has allowed a combined total of 13 runs in his three straight losses, increasing his ERA from 2.24 to 2.62.
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