Nationals 8, Cardinals 3

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ST. LOUIS (AP) – Albert Pujols tied the major league record with his 13th home run in April, but Nick Johnson and Ryan Zimmerman homered in the first inning to help the Washington Nationals beat the St. Louis Cardinals 8-3 on Friday night.

Pujols’ drive in the eighth inning came off a 2-0 pitch from Felix Rodriguez and matched the mark shared by Ken Griffey Jr. in 1997 with Seattle and Luis Gonzalez in 2001 with Arizona. It was Pujols’ first homer in four games and left him with two games this month to break the record.

He also had an RBI single in the fifth and leads the majors with 31 RBIs to go with a .351 average.

Tony Armas (2-2) worked six solid innings for Washington, which ended a five-game losing streak. The Nationals totaled 10 runs during their skid. Johnson also had an RBI single in the second to raise his average to an NL-best .373, and Royce Clayton doubled twice and scored.

Skip Schumaker snapped an 0-for-19 slump with an RBI double in the second, but it wasn’t nearly enough to overcome a shaky outing from Jason Marquis.

The Cardinals played their fourth straight game without third baseman Scott Rolen, who remained at home with an upper respiratory ailment. St. Louis fell to 6-2 with two games left in a 10-game homestand and 10-4 at new Busch Stadium, every game a sellout.

Both of the losses on the homestand have gone to Marquis (3-2), who got Alfonso Soriano to pop up for the game’s first out, but struggled thereafter. Johnson hit his sixth homer and Zimmerman his third for a 4-0 lead, the Nationals made it 5-0 on Johnson’s RBI single in the second and 7-1 in the third on Soriano’s two-run single.

Brian Schneider added a run-scoring single off Josh Hancock in the seventh.

Armas allowed two runs and four hits with five strikeouts and three walks. Marquis labored throughout in his worst start of the season, surrendering seven runs and eight hits with four walks and three strikeouts.

Zimmerman, whose first career error at third base came one at-bat before Jim Edmonds’ first-inning three-run homer on Thursday, also made the defensive play of the game. Zimmerman made a leaping catch of Yadier Molina’s liner down the line, then tossed to first to double off John Rodriguez.

Notes: In his first four starts, Marquis allowed three homers in 25 1-3 innings. … The Nationals’ losing streak ended one shy of a season-worst six-game skid from April 9-14. … Armas is 1-2 with a 5.13 ERA against the Cardinals. … For the first time in five games, the Cardinals failed to score in the first, leaving two runners on when Scott Spiezio took a called third strike for the third out. … Nationals CF Ryan Church left the game after five innings, suffering from flu-like symptoms.

AP-ES-04-28-06 2302EDT

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