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Early heroics from Pujols

First-inning home run lifts Cardinals to 3-1 win over Astros

St. Louis Cardinals' David Freese is congratulated by teammates in the dugout after hitting a solo home run during the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Houston Astros on Tuesday, July 26, 2011, in St. Louis.

St. Louis Cardinals' David Freese is congratulated by teammates in the dugout after hitting a solo home run during the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Houston Astros on Tuesday, July 26, 2011, in St. Louis. Photo by The Associated Press.

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Albert Pujols got the St. Louis Cardinals off to a quick start with a two-run first inning homer, and starter Jake Westbrook made it hold up with six innings of one-run ball as the Cardinals defeated the slumping Houston Astros 3-1 on Tuesday.

Pujols hit the first pitch he saw from Houston starter Brett Myers on a line to left center field. The ball appeared to hit the top of the wall, but was ruled a home run by third base umpire Mike DiMuro. Houston center fielder Michael Bourn and left fielder Carlos Lee rushed in to dispute the call, which was subsequently reviewed by replay and upheld for Pujols’ 23rd homer.

It was the third time in the last six games Pujols has homered in the first inning.

David Freese later cleared the fence with ease on an opposite field shot for the Cardinals, who have won five of six.

The Astros are going in the other direction. Houston fell to 0-5 on its season-long, 10-game road trip and 0-4 at Busch Stadium.

Lee had an RBI single in the third for Houston’s only run. He drove in Bourn, who had doubled to extend his hitting streak to 11 games.

Houston had plenty of chances against Westbrook (9-4), who allowed seven hits and a walk in his six innings. But the Astros went 2-for-17 with runners on base and 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position.

Fernando Salas struck out the side in the ninth for his 19th save in 22 opportunities.

Myers (3-11) settled down after the Pujols’ blast, allowing just Freese’s solo shot with two-out in the sixth. He gave up 11 hits but just the three runs with no walks and four strikeouts in eight innings of work while falling to 0-4 in the month of July.

Notes: Schumaker is batting .368 in July (21-for-57). . . . Houston’s Jose Altuve reached on an infield single in the first. Altuve has now hit safely in his first six Major League games, one shy of Russ Johnson’s team record of seven games to start a career set in 1997. . . . Cardinals outfielder Lance Berkman was back in the lineup after missing a game to rest a sore shoulder, but left before the start of the fifth inning after going 0-for-2 to snap an eight-game hitting streak. . . . Bourn has been one bright spot on the trip. He stole his Major League leading 38th base Tuesday and is 10-for-23 in his last five games (.476).

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