DETROIT (AP) – With the right rookie on the mound, it was the scrappy St. Louis Cardinals who looked sharp in the World Series.

Even with a week off, the Detroit Tigers were ragged.

Anthony Reyes pitched brilliantly into the ninth inning, Albert Pujols made Detroit pay for pitching to him, and Scott Rolen also homered to help St. Louis cruise past the Tigers 7-2 in the Series opener Saturday night.

“I don’t know if I can top this,” Reyes said.

Game 2 is Sunday night, with Kenny Rogers pitching for Detroit against ex-Tiger Jeff Weaver.

With the Tigers hosting their first World Series game in 22 years, fans showed up hoping to see rookie Justin Verlander buzz through a St. Louis team that scraped its way past the New York Mets in a seven-game NL championship series that had wrapped up less than 48 hours earlier.

But instead, Reyes easily outpitched Verlander in the first Game 1 matchup between rookies, taking the crowd out of it early and ending Detroit’s seven-game postseason winning streak.

“We didn’t play well,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said.

Reyes retired 17 consecutive batters before Carlos Guillen’s seventh-inning single and was lifted after Craig Monroe’s homer on the first pitch of the ninth.

“He doesn’t scare, he’s got great composure – and when he gets it rolling he’s got great weapons,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said.

Braden Looper finished off St. Louis’ first World Series victory since 1987, stopping an eight-game Series losing streak for NL teams.

Carrying only two players with World Series experience, the young Tigers appeared a little jittery, making wild throws and key mistakes.

St. Louis showed that rest can be overrated – and maybe all those hard-throwing Tigers aces aren’t so tough after all.

Detroit was supposed to have the edge on the mound in Game 1. Verlander is a leading candidate for AL Rookie of the Year, while Reyes went 5-8 with a 5.06 ERA in 17 regular-season starts.

In fact, the Cardinals only turned to him in the opener because none of their three top pitchers was ready to go.

Reyes had the fewest wins of any Game 1 starter in World Series history and was the first in 33 years with a losing regular-season record. The right-hander wasn’t even on the Cardinals’ roster for their first-round series against San Diego.

But he pitched like a poised pro.

Peering from under a starch-stiff cap and with his red-and-white socks pulled high, Reyes allowed only four hits and one walk.

“That style is … not that attractive,” La Russa said. “I don’t think it’s going to be copied widely by the kids of America.”

Soon after, Reyes explained.

“The hat helps me see a little bit, gets more light in. I can see the signs a little better,” he said.

Reyes’ performance wasn’t as dominant as Bob Gibson’s 17-strikeout effort for St. Louis in Game 1 of the 1968 World Series against the Tigers, but it was just as effective.

“I was just trying to be as focused as I can,” Reyes said.

La Russa applauded when Leyland was introduced before the game. Close friends for decades, they hugged at home plate and kept chatting for a minute.

Rolen tied the score at 1 with a solo shot in the second, a no-doubt drive to left that proved his swing really is coming around – just as he’s been saying.

Playing with soreness and fatigue in his surgically repaired left shoulder, the All-Star third baseman began the night batting .188 without an RBI this postseason. His first trip to the World Series was no fun at all – he went 0-for-15 against Boston two years ago.

Yadier Molina, the home run hero in Game 7 of the NL championship series, got St. Louis going again in the third with a leadoff single. He scored on Chris Duncan’s two-out double, leaving first base open when Pujols came to the plate.

But the Tigers pitched to Pujols, and Verlander challenged him right away with a 93 mph fastball that the big slugger drove over the right-field fence for a 4-1 lead.

“I pitched to him and obviously he burned us,” Leyland said. “I’ll take the heat for that.”

As for the pitch itself, it was a costly mistake by a 23-year-old, and Verlander smiled for some reason right after Pujols teed off.

Verlander walked Pujols leading off the sixth – not such a good idea in that situation, and three innings too late anyway.

The right-hander then threw away a pickoff attempt, and Pujols hustled to third on his ailing right hamstring.

Jim Edmonds singled to make it 5-1, and Rolen’s double deep into the right-field corner chased Verlander.

The rookie flashed his outstanding stuff all night, striking out eight in five-plus innings. But he also showed his inexperience, throwing too many fastballs in the middle of the plate while giving up seven runs – six earned – and six hits.

Jason Grilli relieved, and Juan Encarnacion hit a grounder that kicked up off third baseman Brandon Inge, who then threw wildly past the plate.

Rolen rounded third and crashed into Inge in foul territory, tumbling to the ground in a heap. Rolen was ruled safe at the plate because of obstruction, making it 7-1, and both players appeared fine.

Inge was charged with two errors on the play.

Detroit got on the board early in its first World Series game since 1984, momentarily delighting the crowd of 42,479. Monroe, an unheralded player showing off a wealth of skills this postseason, doubled in the first inning and scored on Guillen’s two-out single.

B>Notes:P> Verlander has allowed five homers in three postseason starts. … Reyes’ string of setting down 17 straight batters was the longest in a World Series game since Cincinnati’s Jose Rijo retired 20 in a row in Game 4 against oakland in 1990. … It was Reyes’ longest outing since June 22, when he allowed one hit – a home run to Jim Thome – in eight innings of a 1-0 loss to the Chicago White Sox. Since then, Reyes’ longest start was 6 1-3 innings. … The Cardinals had lost six straight Series games since 1987, and eight in a row on the road dating to ’85.

AP-ES-10-21-06 2342EDT

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