ST. LOUIS (AP) - Albert Pujols cut off contract negotiations at the start of spring training. His bat was equally silent on opening day.
The three-time NL MVP Pujols grounded into a career-worst three double plays while going 0 for 5 in the St. Louis Cardinals' 5-3, 11-inning loss to the San Diego Padres on Thursday.
Just a coincidence, he insisted, that free agency looms this fall.
``I don't think about that, man. I flip the page and play the game,' Pujols said. ``It's about playing baseball right now. Not about what I said a month ago, or what the fans are saying.'
Pujols shared a big hug with Tony La Russa during player introductions, and as the manager anticipated, heard nothing but cheers from a sellout red-clad crowd. Then he endured an awful start to what could be his 11th and final season in St. Louis.
``Hitting into three ground-ball double plays, that kills a rally a lot,' Pujols said. ``It's the first game of the year and you have 161 games left.
``I'm glad this is over. Now, we need to refresh and come back on Saturday and hopefully even up the series and try to win the series on Sunday.'
Cameron Maybin tied it with a two-out homer in the ninth inning and grounded a single that led to the go-ahead run in the 11th. The Padres managed just two hits the first seven innings but scored two runs, and finally capitalized on shortstop Ryan Theriot's fielding error.
``We fight, we claw, we hang around,' Maybin said. ``We find a way to do it.'
``Definitely we had our chances,' Pujols said. ``A couple times we had men in scoring position and I didn't do my job.'
Matt Holliday homered in the eighth and had three hits for St. Louis. The Cardinals played extra innings on opening day for the first time since a 4-2, 10-inning home loss to the Mets in 1992. The last Padres' opener that went extras was in 1996 during a 5-4 loss at Chicago.
It was 3-all when Chase Headley singled off Bryan Augenstein (0-1) with two outs in the 11th. Maybin followed with a single through the right side and Theriot bobbled right fielder Jon Jay's bounced relay back to the infield.
``You always want to be on your toes and see where the runner is,' Theriot said. ``It kicked away from me a little bit and the guy was able to score. It's a heads-up baserunning play.'
Headley kept running and made a headfirst slide to beat the throw home. Nick Hundley added an RBI single for the Padres.
``That's how we have to play,' Headley said. ``We're a team built to pitch, play defense, get timely hits and run the bases hard. We won a lot of games that way last year. Hopefully, we can continue to do that.
Pat Neshek (1-0) worked around two walks in the 10th and Heath Bell needed only 10 pitches for the save.
After paying tribute to six Hall of Famers including Stan Musial, the Cardinals let the game get away from them.
Maybin's solo home run came off a curveball from Ryan Franklin, who went 27 for 29 in save situations last season.
``A guy like him, he definitely likes to get ahead,' Maybin said. ``It was probably his version of a get-me-over pitch.'
Holliday hit a low liner that skimmed over the wall in right-center in the eighth, a solo homer that put St. Louis ahead 3-2.
Chris Carpenter made his fifth opening day start for St. Louis and worked seven stingy innings, allowing two runs on only two hits. Tim Stauffer, standing in for injured Mat Latos, allowed two runs on nine hits in six innings for San Diego.
The Cardinals outhit San Diego 10-2 the first six innings but hit into three double plays, two by Pujols, and were 2 for 9 with runners in scoring position. Three times they put the first two men on, but totaled one run.
The Padres erased their second one-run deficit on Hundley's two-out, RBI double in the fifth. The Cardinals almost made it out of the inning the previous at-bat when Maybin struck out with Ryan Ludwick running on a full count.
Ludwick looked like an easy out at second, but he rattled the ball out of second baseman Skip Schumaker's glove, what Schumaker called a ``perfect knockdown,' for a stolen base.
New Cardinals right fielder Lance Berkman, a regular outfielder for the first time since 2004, had two hits and didn't touch the ball in eight innings in the field.
NOTES: Jim Edmonds, who ditched a comeback bid in February after signing a minor league contract with the Cardinals, threw out the first pitch. ... Latos, who's on the 15-day DL, threw a bullpen session as scheduled prior to the game. ... Cardinals INF Nick Punto was placed on the 15-day DL retroactive to March 22 with a sports hernia. He's with the team and could play by May.
The Associated Press News Service
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