ST. LOUIS (AP) – Albert Pujols hit a grand slam in the seventh inning for his 200th career home run and Reggie Sanders’ two-run double snapped a sixth-inning tie, rescuing a pitching staff that surrendered 10 walks in the first six innings of the St. Louis Cardinals’ 12-6 victory over the Cincinnati Reds on Friday night.

David Eckstein matched his season high with four hits, drove in two runs and had a steal for the Cardinals, 4-8 since clinching the NL Central. St. Louis (98-62) needs to sweep the season-ending three-game series to reach 100 victories in consecutive seasons for only the second time in franchise history.

Pujols’ 40th homer, and first since Sept. 8, came off Matt Belisle in the seventh and put the Cardinals ahead 11-4. He has four career grand slams and this one made him, at 25 years and 257 days, the third-fastest player to reach 200 homers, behind only Hall of Famers Mel Ott and Eddie Mathews.

In terms of games played, he’s the second-fastest to 200 at 4 years and 181 days, trailing only Ralph Kiner, who did it in 4 years and 119 days.

Pujols added an RBI single in the fourth to tie his career best of five RBIs.

Mark Mulder, a 16-game winner who will start Game 2 of the playoffs, matched his career high with seven walks in his second straight shaky outing. He faced 21 batters in four innings, and only nine of them put the ball in play – he also had five strikeouts.

Mark McGwire made his first appearance at Busch Stadium this season as part of a final-weekend reunion at the 40-year-old ballpark. He participated in the stadium countdown, removing the number 3 from the right-field wall after the end of the fifth.

Felipe Lopez had two hits and two RBIs for the Reds, who have lost five of six. He also committed two errors on a grounder in the eighth, one for fielding and one for a wild throw that allowed Hector Luna to go to second.

Al Reyes (4-2) entered with none out and the bases loaded in the sixth and struck out the 4-5-6 hitters, Rich Aurilia, Jason LaRue and Austin Kearns, in succession.

Mulder gave up five hits and three runs, but none were earned as a result of his fielding error on Ryan Freel’s two-out bases-loaded grounder in the fourth that allowed the Reds’ first run to score. The next batter, Lopez, hit a two-run single that put Cincinnati ahead 3-2.

In his last two outings, Mulder has lasted 5 2-3 innings and surrendered 10 runs – seven earned. He loaded the bases on walks in the fourth, then had a chance to escape on consecutive forceouts at the plate before the error.

Sanders, who returned from a broken leg on Sept. 12, struggled with his timing for a while. But in his last four games he has two homers, two doubles and seven RBIs.

Sanders’ opposite-field two-run double with two outs off Luke Hudson (6-9) snapped a 4-all tie in the sixth.

Reds starter Randy Keisler lasted 3 1-3 innings and gave up four runs and nine hits. Cincinnati has lost five of six.

Notes: Cardinals reliever Ray King was ejected after walking Adam Dunn on a full count with the bases loaded in the sixth. Before leaving, King went to the plate to talk to plate umpire Travis Reininger. … McGwire had two entries on the list of top 10 memories at Busch Stadium as decided by on-line fan voting, No. 2 for his 62nd homer in 1998 and No. 10 for his 70th that year. The No. 1 memory was Ozzie Smith’s game-winning home run off the Dodgers’ Tom Niedenfuer in the 1985 playoffs. … Members of the 1985 team were honored before the game, arriving at home plate in convertibles. … Mark Grudzielanek got his 500th career RBI on an infield hit in the third.

AP-ES-09-30-05 2350EDT


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