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Pujols puts on a show

His third HR lifts Cardinals in ninth

ST. LOUIS -- Albert Pujols hit three home runs, including a winning drive that erased a ninth-inning deficit and put an exclamation point on the Cardinals' first homestand at new Busch Stadium.

Then he did a little dance a few steps in front of home plate before his teammates mobbed him.

''Hey, you get a walkoff home run, you get to do whatever you want," Pujols said after his two-run drive gave St. Louis an 8-7 win over the Cincinnati Reds yesterday. ''You don't get too many of those, so you need to enjoy them when they come."

Pujols's eighth homer of the season came on a 1-2 fastball from David Weathers (0-1) and traveled an estimated 441 feet, ending a game that had five lead changes. His second career three-homer game and sixth game-ending homer capped a 4-2 opening homestand at the $365 million ballpark. He matched career highs with five RBIs and four runs.

''There's a new memory for new Busch," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. ''It'll be tough to top that one."

Pitcher Jason Marquis led off the ninth with a pinch-hit single. The only doubt on Pujols's blast was whether it would stay fair, and it ended up about 10 feet fair and in the second deck in left.

Rich Aurilia's two-run double in the eighth, one batter after right fielder Juan Encarnacion dropped a fly ball, had put the Reds in front. Aurilia had three hits, and Adam Dunn and Austin Kearns homered on consecutive at-bats in the fifth for Cincinnati, which lost consecutive games for the first time this season.

Pujols and Scott Rolen connected on consecutive at-bats in the fifth against Reds starter Bronson Arroyo. Pujols has 14 multihomer games, including two this season -- he slugged a pair Opening Day in Philadelphia. Pujols also went deep three times in a spring training game March 31.

Weathers, who had been 3 for 3 in save opportunities, said Pujols hit a pitch that wasn't inside enough.

''He's a great hitter, but if you make your pitch, you can get a double play," said Weathers. ''It was just a bad pitch and he hammered it."

Dunn hit a two-run shot on a full count with two outs in the fifth for his seventh homer. Kearns also connected on a full count for his fourth homer and a 4-2 lead for Cincinnati.

Pujols's second homer, a solo shot off Rick White, gave the Cardinals a 6-4 lead in the seventh.

The Reds rallied in the eighth, pulling within a run on pinch hitter Quinton McCracken's leadoff homer off Adam Wainwright and jumping ahead on Aurilia's double off Braden Looper (1-0).

John Rodriguez added a two-run triple for St. Louis in the first.

Mark Mulder and Arroyo, pitchers who have combined to hit three homers this season, gave up two long balls apiece and failed to get the ball out of the infield in their at-bats. Both labored through five shaky innings -- Mulder allowed 10 hits and four earned runs; Arroyo gave up five runs on six hits and three walks.

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