SAN DIEGO (AP) - Hours after shaking up their lineup by demoting light-hitting leadoff batter Will Venable, the San Diego Padres went out and lost again with little offense.
Albert Pujols hit his first homer in 106 at_bats to end the longest drought of his career and the St. Louis Cardinals scored two runs off Heath Bell in the ninth to beat the struggling Padres 3-1 on Monday night.
The Padres have lost six of seven, and their 8-19 home record is the worst in the NL.
Through the first six games of an eight-game homestand, the Padres have scored only six runs, with 35 hits and 59 strikeouts.
``I think our guys come to play every day,' manager Bud Black said. ``They come expecting to win. No, I don't think the cumulative effect will have an impact on us tomorrow.'
The NL Central-leading Cardinals won for the seventh time in eight games.
Pujols came into the game without a homer in 103 at_bats. He flied out to the warning track in center field in his first at-bat, then flied out to right-center in his second at-bat.
He didn't miss in his next at-bat, driving a 1-2 pitch from Dustin Moseley into the first row in left field over a desperation leap by former teammate Ryan Ludwick for a 1-0 lead with one out in the sixth. It was his eighth.
Pujols has seven homers in 88 at_bats at Petco Park and five homers in his last 11 games in San Diego.
St. Louis' Colby Rasmus made a great leaping grab to rob Ludwick of a home run to straightaway center field for the final out of the first. Ludwick rounded second and stared at Rasmus, his former St. Louis teammate, as if to say, ``Are you kidding?'
Cardinals manager Tony La Russa was ejected by plate umpire Jim Joyce after Pujols took a called third strike for the second out of the eighth inning.
Pujols took a step toward first base after Mike Adams' 3-2 pitch at the knees, then turned and jumped in frustration after Joyce punched him out. La Russa came out to get the slugger and as he turned toward the dugout, said something to Joyce and was ejected.
``It's not even worth talking about,' La Russa said. ``I just went out there to save Albert. We need him in the game. I ran out there. I said to him, 'Hey, you're better than that.' I've known Jim a long time. He said, 'You're out of here; you can't say anything.' I said, 'That's pretty tame.' He's the umpire. If I was the umpire, I probably would have ejected me, too.'
It was La Russa's eighth game back since missing six games to be treated for shingles.
The Padres pitched to Pujols with first base open after Jon Jay hit a one-out double.
Padres pinch-hitter Jorge Cantu hit a sacrifice fly to tie the game at 1 in the seventh. San Diego had runners on first and third and no outs after Chase Headley hit a leadoff double and advanced on Cameron Maybin's bunt for a single. Orlando Hudson grounded to Pujols, who threw home to catch Headley in a rundown, which moved Maybin to third.
The Cardinals broke through against Bell (2-1) in the ninth. Skip Schumaker hit a one-out double to right and scored on Daniel Descalso's single to medium right. Chris Denorfia's throw was up the first-base line. Ryan Theriot hit a two-out single to bring in Descalso.
``I don't think there is a frustration level for the ballclub,' Bell said. ``For me, for not doing my job, the frustration level is high. The other 24 guys on the team did their job.'
Kyle Lohse (6-2) held the Padres to one run and five hits in eight innings, struck out five and walked one. Fernando Salas got the final two outs for his eighth save in as many chances.
Moseley allowed one run and five hits in seven innings, struck out three and walked three.
NOTES: Denorfia moved into Venable's starting spot in RF. To take Venable's spot on the 25-man roster, the Padres purchased the contract of Blake Tekotte from Double-A San Antonio. RHP Samuel Deduno was designated for assignment to open a spot on the 40-man roster for Tekotte. ... Pujols has 20 homers and 63 RBIs in 69 career games against San Diego.
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