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St. Louis Cardinals Stop Pittsburgh Pirates, Briefly Restore NL Central order

It took an especially stereotypical St. Louis Cardinals victory to break up the Pittsburgh Pirates' monopolization of the National League Central news cycle Friday night--Chris Carpenter went eight innings for the win backed by Albert Pujols's first-inning home run, his 22nd of the season. David Freese and Yadier Molina also hit the stands for the Cardinals, who needed every last bit of scoring on their way to the 6-4 win. With the victory the Cardinals improve to 51-47, one game back of the Pirates and Milwaukee Brewers for first place in the crowded, average division.

The Pirates had 11 hits of their own, including doubles from Garrett Jones and Lyle Overbay, but Carpenter allowed just one walk in his eight innings and kept the Pirates' punchless lineup in the park. The Pirates also got a worrisome look at what might happen when Paul Maholm--and the rest of their rotation--has to deal with league-average BAbip and HR/FB numbers; Maholm's batting average against on balls in play was just .264 heading into Friday's action, but he allowed ten hits and two home runs in his six innings.

Jaime Garcia and Kevin Correia will get Saturday night's start, while Kyle Lohse--dealing with apparent inflammation on his pitching hand--was nevertheless cleared to get Sunday's gig for the Cardinals.