ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Albert Pujols homered in support of Matt Morris, helping the St. Louis right-hander remain unbeaten with a 5-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays on Saturday night.

Morris (8-0) allowed two runs and five hits in eight innings and retired 15 of the last 16 batters he faced. The Devil Rays had one hit – Carl Crawford’s eighth-inning triple – after the third.

The victory hiked the Cardinals’ lead in the NL Central to a season-high 8 games over the Chicago Cubs. It also moved Tony La Russa into a tie with Bucky Harris for fourth-place on managerial career wins list with 2,157.

Pujols snapped a 2-2 tie with a two-run homer off Mark Hendrickson (2-4) in the fifth. Scott Seabol had an RBI single in the fourth, and So Taguchi tied it with an RBI single before scoring on Pujols’ drive into the right-field seats.

Julio Lugo and Jorge Cantu had run-scoring singles off Morris in the third, but Tampa Bay didn’t have another hit until Crawford tripled with one out in the eighth. Morris retired 13 straight before the hit, then got out of the jam by getting Lugo and Aubrey Huff to fly out.

Morris struck out six and walked none. Jason Isringhausen pitched the ninth for his 20th save in 21 chances.

Scott Rolen returned to the Cardinals’ lineup after missing 33 games with a left shoulder strain. The third baseman went 1-for-4 with two strikeouts and committed a fielding error on Travis Lee’s ground ball in the fourth.

Pujols’ opposite-field homer was his 17th of the season. The Cardinals’ slugger was 0-for-6 in the series up to that point, and the 371-foot shot brought most of the largely red-clad crowd of 20,416 to its feet.

Yadier Molina made it 5-2 with an RBI single in the sixth off Hendrickson, who allowed five runs and 10 hits in eight innings.

St. Louis starting pitchers lead the majors with 38 wins. Morris, Chris Carpenter, Jason Marquis and Mark Mulder, who beat Tampa Bay in the series opener Friday night, have all won at least eight.

Notes: The Cardinals wore replica blue road uniforms from their 1982 world championship season, while the Devil Rays wore replica jerseys that manager Lou Piniella wore when he played at the University of Tampa in the early 1960s. … The Devil Rays have led in 25 of their last 32 games, yet are 10-22 during the stretch. … To make room on the roster for Rolen, who was hurt 10 when he collided with Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman Hee-Seop Choi, the Cardinals optioned OF Skip Schumaker to Triple-A Memphis.

AP-ES-06-18-05 2041EDT

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