MIAMI (AP) - Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman form one of the most feared trios in the National League.
The Florida Marlins are seeing exactly how dangerous they are this weekend.
Pujols hit a two-run homer in the first inning while Holliday and Berkman each doubled and singled Saturday night as the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Florida Marlins 2-1.
``Best lineup in the league, by far,' Marlins starter Ricky Nolasco said. ``Not to knock anyone else's lineup, but when you have to face those three guys back-to-back-to back and possibly with runners on, there's no doubt that's the best three, four, five in the league.'
In the first three games of the series, all Cardinals wins, the trio has combined to hit .432 (16 of 37) with four home runs, 10 extra-base hits and eight RBIs.
``We all understand that you got three guys in that lineup that can beat you,' Marlins manager Jack McKeon said. ``You've got to use your head out there.'
The Cardinals took advantage in the first inning when Rafael Furcal hit a leadoff single to start the game, though replays seemed to show right fielder Mike Stanton caught the ball before it hit the ground.
``There's no question about it, we all thought he caught it,' McKeon said.
Two batters later, Pujols hit his 26th home run and second in his last three games. Chris Carpenter and the St. Louis bullpen made it stand up.
``Although you might have success against a pitcher, you don't want to take anything for granted,' Pujols said. ``I'll take him on my team any time. He's a good quality pitcher. He's going to give you some innings. Even though he made that mistake against me that gave us our two runs, he kept us off balance the rest of the night.'
Nolasco (8-8) gave up 10 hits in seven innings.
Carpenter (7-8) gave up five hits over 6 2-3 innings as the Cardinals won for the fourth time in five games.
``Our goal is to try to win every series,' Pujols said. ``We won the series hopefully (Sunday) we can take the fourth game.'
Fernando Salas, the fifth Cardinals pitcher, worked a scoreless ninth for his 21st save in 24 chances.
Daniel Descalso had three hits of the 14 hits for the Cardinals, who held on for the win despite leaving 12 men on base. They were 1 for 14 with runners in scoring position.
``That's part of the game,' Pujols said.
Carpenter struck out seven and walked two. He's won six of his last seven decisions and defeated the Marlins for the first time since August 29, 2005.
``You want to make pitches, that's what you're supposed to do as a starter,' Carpenter said. ``You're trying to execute the whole game until your job is over and the manager comes out to take the ball from you. I was able to make pitches when I had to.'
The Marlins made it 2-1 in the fourth when Dewayne Wise was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. Nolasco grounded into a double play to end the Marlins threat.
``That was a big part of the game,' Carpenter said. ``From that point on, I executed and made pitches.'
NOTES: Marlins INF Alfredo Amezaga went 1 for 4 in his first game back with the team after they acquired him in a trade with the Rockies before the game. Amezaga said it was ``like a dream come true again' to return to the club that he played with for four seasons (2006-09). ... Mired in a 1-for-17 slump, Cardinals OF Jon Jay singled in the eighth. ... Stanton notched his ninth outfield assist throwing out Berkman at second in the ninth. His nine assists are tied for second in the National League. ... LHP Jaime Garcia will start Sunday's game as the Cardinals look to complete the sweep. Garcia is 5-1 with a 1.54 ERA in 11 starts against NL East teams. The Marlins will counter with RHP Javier Vazquez, who is 4-2 with a 2.13 ERA in his last eight starts.
The Associated Press News Service
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